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Fairfax stack the stats for Nats

August 17, 2011

Dom regurgitates innacurate Govt spin on national standards

Fresh from providing a virtually analysis-free platform for the Government’s controversial welfare reforms, today’s Dominion Post turned its one eye to education.

With barely two paragraphs of Opposition comment all week in response to National’s cold-hearted attacks on New Zealand’s struggling youth, Fairfax once again revealed their unswerving partisan loyalty to the National Party.  And today, they took things a step further with an editorial devoted entirely to discrediting overwhelming opposition to the Government’s national standards in education. 

The editorial is nothing more than a re-wording of Government propaganda, as the National Party’s mates at the Dom respond to the New Zealand Education Institute’s advertising campaign highlighting flaws in the standards.  Like other National Party policies, Fairfax Media have provided unquestioning support for national standards over recent years, and have aggressively attacked any groups – no matter how qualified – who have opposed them.  

Despite all the international evidence mounting against the success of national standards, New Zealand’s Government have pig-headedly rushed them into place, without any trial, and in absolute contempt of the strength, knowledge and experience of those opposing them.  And, Fairfax Media have been with them every step of the way.

So, it’s no surprise that today’s editorial attempts to discredit opponents of the standards by pointing out – once again – that the Labour Party is generally favoured over the National Party by employment unions.  It matters not to the Dom’s partisan editors that education unions are in fact professional associations who have long established histories of advocating for the education of students as well as the conditions of their members.  It also conveniently overlooks the fact that the National Party are largely favoured by groups such as the Business Roundtable, Federated Farmers, the Employers and Manufacturers Association, and large, wealthy, international corporations….like Fairfax Media.

So, rather than even entertaining the idea that there might be some merit to the NZEI’s collective research, data and frontline experience, the Dom’s editorial repeats the barely-factual, dogmatic ramblings of Anne Tolley, an Education Minister who has ZERO experience of the education sector, rarely even visits schools, and who is almost unanimously unpopular within the sector, not because of her political association, but because of her incomptence, arrogance and dangerous, dogmatic approach to educating children.  

Refering to opponents of national standards as a “noisy minority” is an outright lie in the face of figures showing that 96% of school boards are opposed to them.  The editorial also trots out the oft-quoted half-truth that Auckland University’s educational expert Dr John Hattie is an advocate for the standards.  What they don’t tell readers is that Dr Hattie was one of a group of senior academics – including Professor Martin Thrupp from Waikato University, and
Otago University’s Professor Terry Crooks and senior research fellow Lester Flockton, who wrote to the Minister highlighting ‘fundamental flaws’ in national standards.  Woops.

The truth is that national standards will provide some useful data for parents of students who have reasonable literacy and numeracy.  But, they will also fail the many students who have strengths in other areas of the curriculum.  Tolley’s grand plan is that, once teachers find out that a child is behind in literacy, they will be made to do more of the thing they know they’re no good at, therefore sewing the seeds of poor self-esteem and ensuring that that child fails completely as a student. 

It’s a simplistic, Eurocrentric, Victorian  attitude to education and flies in the face of generations of progressive data and practice.  National standards are about one thing only; inventing a crisis and then providing a populist “solution” for middle class parents who are being lied to by obliging media organisations like Fairfax.  International reports show New Zealand’s education system to be a world-beater, but National and Fairfax have gone out of their way to manufacture a crisis so that they can provide a solution.  The only crisis in education is the moral of teachers, suffering under a Ministry who have them over-worked, undervalued and highly stressed.

If National and Fairfax continue on the current path, they will be running league tables on schools and creating an exodus from low-decile schools by parents who have a choice.  This can only lead to ghetto schools in less well off areas and ensure that New Zealand’s rapidly growing cavern between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow into the next generation.   National standards are a national shame, a National shame, and a shame on these dogmatic media propagandists who have failed to provide parents with the facts once again.


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  1. Well done Neil. From Vancouver, at least one of my Kiwi news-sources is providing some balance – of course I refer to bomber – but this is good too 😉

  2. Just discovered your blog, appreciate your analysis of the National Standards debacle.

  3. Cheers Dave.

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