Monday, July 24, 2006



Stick them in a ghetto where we won't have to see them

One of the consistent strands of the National Party over the last two decades (and arguably longer) is that they advocate for taking from those who need, in order to give to those who have. It was apparent in their programme of vicious cuts to public services in order to fund tax cuts in the 90's, as well as their extravagent promises of tax cuts at the last election. And its apparent in the latest piece of education policy announced by Bill English over the weekend:

Education spokesman Bill English says National would wind back the policy of mainstreaming children with severe disabilities and of inclusion of students with behavioural problems.

He told the party's annual conference in Christchurch over the weekend that disruptive behaviour in classes made it difficult for teachers and was the biggest obstacle to children's learning.

And their solution to this "problem" is to stick those students in an educational ghetto, where they won't disrupt the learning of National voters' precious middle-class darlings. The educational chances of those in greatest need will be sacrificed for the benefit of a those who need it least.

Its even more obscene when you consider that, according to the Principal's Federation - people in a position to know, unlike Bill English - mainstreaming is "working reasonably well". But why pay attention to facts, when you can appeal to prejudice to attack some of the most vulnerable people in society?

11 comments:

C'mon I.S., this is an area fraught with complications, and is by no means as clear-cut as your post implies. Mainstreaming is still a legitimate area for debate in terms of effectiveness, and over questions of academic and social gains (for those being mainstreamed). It's also worth noting that an anecdotal phrase like "working reasonably well" is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Too many educational issues are approached in manner more suitable for religious-fundamentalists than for supposed academic scholars. Instead of people (on either side) insisting that theirs is the "one true way", why not simply allow for experimentation in the institutional arrangements (cost permitting of course).

M'lud

Posted by Anonymous : 7/24/2006 06:15:00 PM

If we are careful enough we can spread the kids with "behavioural problems" around so that every child in NZ can get his fair share of bashings from some antisocial kid with even less chance of getting anything done about it than they have now.

Besides that - various people are different ways of learning. The thug who spent much of play time slapping around people generally in my experience learns better with things he can touch and build.

Also studying in a class with people with very diverse learning speeds is probably both frustrating and humiliating depending on who you are.

The solution is to "stick those students in an educational ghetto" just to properly fund and design that "ghetto".

Posted by Genius : 7/24/2006 06:56:00 PM

M'Lud: What English is suggesting is a recipe for exclusion, both social and educational. Did the 60's pass them by? Don't they understand that "seperate but equal" isn't?

It will also be interesting to see how this fits with their "one law for all" principle - but its clear that that only applies to maori, and only when it disadvantages, rather than advantages them. When it comes to promoting inequality, National is perfectly happy to different laws and different standards of access to basic services for different people.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/24/2006 08:17:00 PM

Bill English is casting for votes from those who feel that their kids are not getting the best education possible from the current system where disruptive kids take up more then their fair share of attention and energy from the teachers. By having all kids irrespective of their wants and needs in one class room, satisfies socialist voters there must be a number of voters who think that their kids are better of learning under a different system. It is these voters that National is chasing.

Personally I would like to see school zones abolished, all schools to be funded to exactly the same level (including top up grants for those schools in poor areas where the parents cannot be as supportive of the kids school as those in rich areas). Parents can then make the decision which school suits their own kids particular needs best.

As in most things in life one size does not fit all.

Posted by Gerrit : 7/24/2006 09:10:00 PM

As in most things in life one size does not fit all.

Oh, I agree - its about meeting the needs of all children. And one of those needs is for social inclusion and to be part of society.

What English is arguing is that those who do not need it should have attention lavished on them, while those who do need attentiona nd help should be shoved in a corner. It's an education system which will perpetuate privilege, rather than give everyone (at least insofar as it is possible) an equal start in life.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/24/2006 09:46:00 PM

This is one of those areas in which it probably depends on each individual child. There is no "best solution". Some children will do better in a normal classroom, while others will do better in separate classes. There should be a situational/needs -based approach rather than a blanket approach.
And as genius states, the 'ghetto' will need to be funded properly, I simply add to that "for the kids which need it"

Posted by Frederick Aloysius Weld : 7/24/2006 09:52:00 PM

I think we are reading from the same script but getting different messages. You and I want all schools to be equally funded, staffed, and resourced irrespective of where they are situated. The only differnce being you dont want parents to have a choice where their kids go to school where as I do.

All kids will get an equal start in life.

As a skinny white kid from a poor immigrant family going to school in Mangere I can assure you we all got the same chance to learn. As a reasonable poor factory worker living in Manurewa my kids went to local schools were they got the same chance to learn as all the others kids.

Yet we all did good. As did most of the kids going to these schools.

Maybe it's an attitude thing that enables a financially poor immigrant like me go from the coalface to the boardroom.

Lets make all schools equally and start working on changing kids attitudes to life as that is where the real problem lies.

Posted by Gerrit : 7/25/2006 06:58:00 AM

put the disruptive kids in separate classes and shower them with attention. that works both ways. the slower disruptive kids do not hold back the rest of the class. That means they can achieve more with the same or less resource. That resource saving can be more effectively targeted at those kids who need the help. I have been massively impressed by the school my wife worked at in the UK. she was teacher aiding and responsible for helping one child learn to read better. everybody wins.

That child spent at least half of the day out of the classroom. by your logic they have been streamed out and that should not happen.

Please do not be so quick to judge

Posted by sagenz : 7/25/2006 10:17:00 AM

I'd wager I know more about this from personal experience than any of you, and the argument is not entirely straightforward.

Both my sons have Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, and they have both been "mainstreamed" - in part because there are no other options. In the case of the younger one (very bright, but prone to characteristic meltdowns and sometimes struggles with the human noise of a busy school), we'd have looked very seriously at an alternative.

But ... there's a great deal that's good about mainstreaming, especially as compared to the old ways of shipping off any kids who were different to special classes and special schools with low expectations. Both my kids have gained enormously from the socialisation involved in being in mainstream classes, and I also think that it's good for other kids to grow up with the knowledge that people are different.

We've been lucky to have some brilliantly supportive schools, including an intermediate where the older boy blossomed to the extent that he left with a prize dedicated to the special needs student who had contributed the most to the school. His brother is there now, along with kids in wheelchairs and all the other sorts shunned by the more fashionable and entrepreneurial schools. The teachers and the other kids there are amazing - for all the ignorant blathering about schools and "PC", they're better places than the schools I went to. As parents we also spend a lot of time there, making it work.

If I thought English was sincere or credible, I might give him the day of day, but I don't. There are ALREADY other schools for kids with severe behaviourial problems, several in Auckland, none of them remotely suitable for our kids.

His claim that dedicated alternatives could be funded from savings in winding back mainstreaming is nonsense - about as credible as the numbers behind National's corrections policy. The real alternative is very small classes with highly-skilled teachers; virtually one-on-one education, and even then I'd worry about losing some of the benefits of mainstreaming. Look at National's shadow education budget and tell me where that's coming from.

But I don't think that's what English is talking about. I/S is right - his message is to the parents of "normal" kids: we'll clear out all the cripples and strange children for you. I simply do not believe that the "greatest obstacle to education" is having the odd outlier in the classroom. It's bullshit. And it's just National's usual schtick: an appeal to the politics of resentment.

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 7/25/2006 11:01:00 AM

I have been massively impressed by the school my wife worked at in the UK. she was teacher aiding and responsible for helping one child learn to read better. everybody wins.

Should probably comment here too. The older boy reads pretty well - and that's entirely down to one-on-one attention in the form of the much-pilloried (but, actually, in the real world, bloody effective) Reading Recovery programme.

His little brother, OTOH, reads better than some adults (he credits online gaming) and is the only kid in his class who knew how to spell "attorney" in the spelling test at the start of the year ...

Cheers,
RB

Posted by Russell Brown : 7/25/2006 11:09:00 AM

I'm really uncomfortable with the conflation here of 'disabled' with 'disruptive'. They majority of children with disabilities who are in the mainstream simply AREN'T disruptive. Yes, they require more attention, that's why they get it in the form of itinerant assistance - they send in another teacher. That itinerant then ends up doing things like taking five or six children for reading, freeing up the 'mainstream' teacher to work with those poor neglected other students.

We already have options other than mainstreaming for our severely hearing-impaired daughter: Deaf units within mainstream schools, or specialist Deaf schools. I know it's terribly anecdotal, the stories of peopel actually involved always are, but mainstreaming is 'working reasonably well' for her. The other students in her classes also benefit from having her there: they get a talk about Deafness at the start of every year, get to play with the equipment, and they just lap it up. That's an educational opportunity that'd be denied if we went back to keeping Deaf kids out of sight.

Posted by Ghet : 7/25/2006 11:52:00 AM