Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Flogging the Public Education System – Dead Horse Syndrome

 Flogging the Public Education System – Dead Horse Syndrome

Warning – content may cause angst and derisive snorts of frustration, and is satirical in nature. 

I think someone forgot to send the important people within G.E.R.M (those are the dark suits, white shirt brigade who like to intervene in educational policy and introduce reforms that ultimately undermine public education systems across the world) that flogging a dead horse will not make it get up and start running.  

It is an ‘oldie but a goodie’ piece of wisdom from the Dakota tribe, that the best way to ride a dead horse is to dismount.  Seems logical.   Logic and G.E.R.M don’t seem to mix too well. 

For quite sometime, New Zealand managed to avoid catching the G.E.R.M.  Public education, for the most part, was nicely inoculated and protected from the 5 key terrors of the G.E.R.M – Standardisation, Core Subject Focus (aka narrowed curriculum), Low Risk Programmes to Reach Learning Outcomes (more narrowing), Corporate Management Models, and Test-Based Accountability.  (no time to digress on these things today)

Then there was the SNEEZE!  And just like that, we caught the G.E.R.M. 

Here is where the dead horse comes in.  The G.E.R.M principles and its impact on educational systems across the world, are as useful as trying to ride a dead horse. 

Let me elaborate how we are currently being forced to ride a dead horse using some of the changes either implemented or about to be, within our current NZ system. 

When the logic to dismount the dead horse fails, the following options are useful: 

1.    We will buy a new whip – we will whip that dead horse harder and harder until by goodness, it stands up and starts to move.  The whip here is the relentless message to the public that 1 in 5 students are failing, NZ teachers are not doing enough, we must reform our dead horse and we will whip it until it preforms.  We will reform the Teachers Council so that it becomes EDUCANs, and that will be our main whip for ensuring the riders keep on riding that dead horse. 

2.    We will change the rider – enter the new and improved Executive or Change Rider aka Principal.  If those other principal riders can not make that dead horse move then by hook or by crook we will change the rider and pay the rider more to do so.  What could possibly go wrong with such sound policy?? Cough – the horse is dead – cough. 

3.    We will threaten to ‘sack’ the dead horse – and now that we have a new and improved Teachers Council called EDUCANs, we will be able to do this.  So listen up horse, stop being dead and start running. 

4.    If all else fails, we will appoint a committee to study the horse – take your pick, there are plenty of sector group working parties studying how to make this dead horse run.  This process works best when covertly hidden behind closed doors with short consultation timeframes and parameters, and in utter secrecy.  Transparency is the enemy in such processes. 

5.    We shall develop a training session to improve our riding ability – and for this we shall narrow the focus of what we shall provide training on and for whom, and we will ensure the Ministry for Dead Horses is the only keeper of the purse.  They shall tell which riding schools will be able to access what particular professional development, when and why, and at no point shall there be negotiation, choice or timely information. 

6.    Remind the education riding sector and populace that other countries ride this same kind of dead horse, and so too can we – on that, we shall use flawed research from failing systems to justify that our dead horse can rise again, and it too will be able to run races and win the annual PISA trots with ease.  All it takes is to copy another countries system.  Simple. 

7.    Sanction the riders that stand up and say ‘but wait – our horse is dead, we need to dismount’ and call them rebellious – for this we shall provide those riders with ‘special’ help from LSMs and Commissioners, who will be able to show them the light, or they will enact number 3 on this list.  This will ensure any other ‘rebellious’ riders will tow the stable line and stay on the dead horse.

8.    Lower the standard to ensure the dead horse fits in – enter Charter Stable Schools and the non-requirement for teacher riders to be trained.  The less trained a rider is the more chance the dead horse will rise again and run.  I can’t see where this would lead to an issue.  Dead horses do require old fashioned concepts after all.

9.    Arrange to visit other sites to see how well they ride their dead horses – a good place would be the countries where some of the policies that are designed to flog this dead horse have already failed, but where G.E.R.M is prevalent.  Looking to stables with innovative processes is pointless.  New horses cannot replace dead ones. 

10.  Change the laws to specify that ‘horses shall not die, they are merely living impaired’ – the best way to change a law is to rush it through parliament and avoid that messy consultation and transparency that comes from a long drawn out discussion on why the dead horse will remain dead. 

11. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed – if we introduce National Standard horse, tie that to Charter horse, and cobble up IES horses to improve efficiency, then there will be no stopping this speeding goliath of a PISA trot winner.  Move along folks, nothing to worry about here. 

12.  Provide additional funding to increase the horses performance – from out of thin air and a tight budget, produce 160 million dollars of NEW money and declare ‘this is an investment in you’ and it will be the saviour of ensuring the dead horse runs again. Simple – should have done this 3 years ago.  Imagine how fast this horse will fly now!

13.  Promote the dead horse to a supervisory role – Expert or Lead horse anyone?  Who is keen to be a Change or Executive Horse?   This will surely make the dead horse faster and more responsive.   Once again – there is nothing flawed with this proposal – all sounds perfectly sound bite like.  We thank the PR firms for their spin ability.    

14. Rename the horse ‘neo liberal paradigm shift’ and keep riding it – because really, all those naysayer riders out there just need to change their mindset and know that this new shift will make the horse faster. 

15. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all horses and their riders – enter National Standards, Charters, and EDUCANs.  Now all we need is an Executive or Change Principal Rider, and a few Lead or Expert Riders to ensure the new performance requirements are carried out…oh, hang on – we DO have that coming.  Whew.  Crisis averted. 

16.  Kill off the other horses so that that dead one does not stand out – the most simple of them all.  A big fire in the Public Education Stable should take care of most of that.  Carefully placed of course so as not to singe the dead horse. 

So folks – don’t you worry about that dead horse.  Just you wait until G.E.R.M has fully ensconced itself into the very DNA of the dead horse.  There is the 18 point plan on how to resurrect it, and by golly you watch that thing run. 

In summary, it would seem that one can, indeed, flog a dead horse. 


  1. You forgot to tell us what G.E.R.M. stands (or collapses) for Steph

  2. GERM - click on the link in the post, to find out more about Global Education Reform Movement.