Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

Sean Plunket had a very interesting interview this morning with a Christchurch BoT Chair by the name of Lyn Bates, whose students are protesting school closures in the city and its surrounds.

Have a listen to the whole thing, and make up your own mind:

We can understand that there is considerable anxiety about the school situation in Christchurch. And we reckon that the Ministry of Education's efforts in communicating the proposals deserve a failing grade.

But does that justify the use of children in a political debate? Were parents asked for consent for their children to be shown on national TV waving their placards and clenching and shaking their fists?

There is a pivotal moment in the interview; around the 1:35 mark. Plunket asks Ms Bates:

I'm wondering if this isn't more a case of the teachers wanting to get their point across, and using the kids.

The reply was telling:

OK; the teachers do want to get their story across. But they would not use the children to do that.

Oh really. Using the children seems to be EXACTLY what the teachers are doing; and it's even more obvious here. Roger Waters' immortal words which head this post seem especially appropriate today.


bsprout said...

The interview was with the BOT chair not the teachers concerned, so to me this was more of a community action than one driven by the teachers. While I agree that children shouldn't be used as political footballs the reality is that they are being kicked around by the government too and when children suffer from decisions should they not have a voice as well? The question is about how that voice should be expressed.

An Invercargill school were doing a science study on water and decided to look at the river that flowed passed the school. They discovered that it was one of the worst polluted rivers in Southland and was dangerous for them to have contact with, falling in or swimming in the river posed real health risks.

The children were naturally concerned and wanted to act on the information they had and being an Enviroschool they were encouraged not only to learn stuff but use that knowledge for a practical end. The children wanted to find out who was responsible for the health of the river and what would be the best way to voice their concerns.

With teacher and community support they found that the responsible authority was the regional council, Environment Southland. The children then ran a petition in the local community to show the level of concern at the quality of the river and organised a meeting with the council chair.

The council chair at the time (he has since moved on) met with the children, accepted the petition and explained how the council tries to improve and monitor water quality. Shortly afterwards the council chair wrote an opinion piece that praised the politeness of the children and their willingness to listen to what he had to say but also castigated the teachers and school for involving the children in politics.

But in actual fact isn't this what children should be learning? They had investigated and found out about their immediate environment, discovered something that did have an impact on their lives, Found out who they needed to talk to and influence and met with them to share their issues in a polite and reasonable way. It is learning about citizenship and how we can engage responsibly to create positive change.

You suggest that it was the teachers who instigated this protest but children are very aware of things that may affect them and the closure of a school would be traumatic for them. I'm not necessarily supporting what they did but their voices do need to be heard in some way. When the schools were reorganized in Invercargill it was recognized that the children's learning suffered through the change process and I'm sure this will happen in Christchurch.

Keeping Stock said...

The post makes it clear that Lyn Bates is a BoT chair bsprout. But check out the video here, of the teacher "training up" protesters -

Is this something which you, as a teacher would endorse, or is it over the top?

bsprout said...

I wouldn't take that approach myself but it does make me wonder about the culture shift that has occurred in New Zealand.

I remember taking part in a protest march against the 1981 Springbok tour in Invercargill and was one of two teachers from my school that did so. When the school community found out that we had taken part they thought it was an illegal activity and that we both should be sacked.

The political culture we have now makes people feel powerless, there is no real consultation with people or communities regarding policies that directly effect them . We have had more protests over the past few years than any time I can remember and it appears to be the only way that people feel that they can be heard.

The Christchurch schooling revue has been handled appallingly and although there is still the ability to make submissions people are aware that, given the Governments past record, little is likely to change unless they do something outside the formal processes. The fact that the community (I don't think you can lay the blame on the teaching profession) feel that making placards and protesting is a useful and legitimate way of presenting their views is a sad indictment of the current political climate.

I guess the other option is for the community to just accept the government's decision, abandon their school and tell the children that the government knows best and everything will turn out well.

Here are some links to information about a school that is the hub of the local community and is performing well, what possible reasons could there be to close it down?

It appears that having a range of school environments is no longer an option and we are heading towards large schools that are sited because of fiscal considerations rather than community needs and providing choice.

bsprout said...

Obviously "revue" above should be "review".