he said it right...

The best, without argument, TV series of all time is 'The West Wing' written by the very talented screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin.  I will often use quotes from the series, having watched it several times, to illustrate a point, (the heading of this post comes from the West Wing).  

Today I was reading a great article in the NZ Herald.  The headline caught my attention, "Education more vital the Poltics."  This I often think and I believe many of us do, however our reality does not seem to bear this out.  I am not sure of the authors background, however he does make some good points. On the topic of the misdirected focus on standards,

The National Party focused on numeracy and literacy in the lead up to last year's election. The appalling statistic they quoted was that 20 per cent, or one in five, kids are leaving school at the earliest opportunity, uneducated.

and

If you go to the Ministry of Education website all the attention is focused on the introduction of National Standards. The key objective is that from 2010 parents of children at primary or intermediate school will receive regular school reports showing how their child is doing against the national standards in reading, writing and maths.

Can the minister and Ministry of Education honestly represent that this will deal with the 20 per cent "failure tail" in education? I can see how this policy appeals to a political party at election time - it is promoting the prospect of better academic performance information to parents, even the prospect of better educational outcomes to middle New Zealand.

on teachers and teaching

We need teachers that can handle these dysfunctional classes and kids. The schools need to be properly resourced, including putting support staff alongside the teachers in dysfunctional classes. Teachers in low decile areas must be properly selected and remunerated for what is a hugely demanding task - but the remuneration must be based on performance, not on service.

on the cost to the taxpayer

To the naysayer that queries the cost, let's put that in a context. We must be spending at least $100,000 now on each and every one of these kids over their school years only for them to leave education at the earliest opportunity, uneducated.

All this got me to thinking about a quote from The West Wing.  Sam, (my favourite character) is stating his ultimate goal for education policy.

...education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet. 

Granted some hard choices need to be made, but Education is everything.

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