Thursday, 10 November 2011

Alan Alach Hero

Anne Tolley NZ Minister of Education, Villain? 

Hero or Villain…local educator makes world news.

When did it become acceptable to publicly attack educators dedicated to fighting for the welfare of children? Isn’t this supposed to be our charge?
Yet, with the onslaught of corporate driven education policies, educators are now coerced into tossing the welfare of children aside in order to advocate for the well being of multi billion dollars companies and the legislators who front them. 

Alan Alach is a long standing educator in New Zealand who has also been an active contributing member to the United Opt Out movement . He advocated for our international outreach segment of the website. Why…because he sees the writing on the wall .
He sees the destructive nature of the educational policies being forced on educators in his own country. He and New Zealand are not alone. Back here in the good ‘ol USA, his story should resonate soundly with us.

Alan was “reprimanded” by the Education Ministry of New Zealand for his outspoken opposition to the standards being imposed upon students. Part of this attack was the accusation that he was using the school where he works as a "political soapbox." He is accused of spending time blogging when he should be attending to so-called day-to-day activities. We, the educators who advocate for opting out of high stakes testing understand that one of the key elements to bringing the public back into public education is changing the narrative that the corporate-led policy makers have so deftly co-opted. It would be negligible of Alan to act like so many others and simply stick his head in the sand. He is not writing about shoe shopping folks. He is researching and writing about education policy in an effort to advocate for his teachers and students.

Such accusations ignore the reality that all educational work is political-to ignore the fact that the standards and common core themselves are a huge political and economic football is either naïve, or worse, deliberate-why is when the left speak out its political but when the right wing free- marketeers push their agenda it’s just “business as usual?” Because that’s the nature of hegemony and dominant discourse-to makes one’s agenda “invisible.” Alan’s work exposes the education reform for what it is: Politics for the rich and powerful, as usual.

We all need to follow Alan’s courageous lead and to announce loudly that the Emperor has no clothes. The high stakes testing agenda and National Common Core being rolled out across America is grounded directly in the pockets of the corporate reformers who have much to gain politically and financially from the implementation of these policies.

Secretly behind closed doors, I hear teachers and teacher-educators alike expressing their opposition to new teacher evaluations, to new standards, to new testing policies; everything the latest reform measures have forced upon them. That’s because they see every day, on the frontlines, the negative effects these measures are having on their profession and the children they serve. But if you ask them publicly how they feel … you hear crickets.

Educators are understandably afraid. Why? Look what happened to Alan. But rather than reinforcing our collective silence, we should be uniting. Don’t let Alan’s courage be in vain. Phil Cullen of Australia (a Member of the Order of Australia- a sort of Aussie knighthood-for services to education) writes this letter to the editor in response to the article that led the attack on Alan’s work (shown in its entirety here):

The article by Jessica Button on 4 November suggested that the education minister was displeased with the principal of Hokowhitu School for alleged injudicious remarks on a blog site.  Mr Alach is an ebullient critic of national standards. He seems to think that they constitute a confining process that constricts and lowers overall curriculum standards; and which does nothing to promote purposeful achievements in reading, writing and mathematics. As a practicing school person, he is worried overall about the effects that politicking for corporate benediction has on children’s focus on learning.

Mind control of schooling and the use of officers to bring schools into line is pandemic. Mr Alach’s blog vocabulary indicates that he does not like it being used in New Zealand. Australia certainly uses forms of Gestapo-ism; but I will not be called to account for saying that.  When Joh was king in Queensland and I was a state director of education, in charge of about 1200 primary schools, I was sometimes called to account by school principals and nasty names were used. I felt aggrieved, of course. However, when at times I checked the accuser, it was often a principal who knew a thing or two. As far as school leadership was concerned, we did not have many Alachs. There were some, and although they doubted my parentage at times, I learned to give way, especially to the Alachs. On reflection I do wish that there were more Allan Alachs in our work-force; brave state-employed, good school operators unafraid to be critical; reminding superordinates that they don’t know everything.
Some advice for Ms Tolley: “Young lady, part of your job requirements is to eat crow. Do it and just spit out the feathers; not seek revenge.”
Phil Cullen A.M.
Former Q’ld State Director

Occupy the Department of Education in Washington DC March 30th-April 1st. It’s our time to stand up and speak out.

I am sorry, but the way in which Ms Tolley has insisted that National Standards be foisted on, slapped over, whacked into and shoved through our primary school curriculum leaves me in no doubt whatesoever that this is simply round one of a grueling fight to wrest Public Education from the embrace of Education Professionals and put it firmly in the grip of commercial interests.  
The support offered to schools? Think this: a man beats his wife then supports her by giving her an icepack and saying "Get on with it". 

Andrew Salisbury
BA, DipTch, PGDipEd

No comments: