Saturday, 22 December 2018

Grand Claims; Vacuous Tinkering

Les Grande Jestures

According to one commentator, Labour Governments are habitually prone to "the grand gesture".  Going back into the Pike River Mine is one example.  The passing of a piece of legislation legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes is another.  

John Roughan is not impressed.
Labour governments have one habit that annoys me intensely. They love to trumpet big liberal social advances without doing the hard work. The last Labour Government made an art-form of this and the present one is shaping up to be just the same.

This week its Health Minister, David Clark, moved the final reading of the bill legalising medicinal cannabis and hailed it as "compassionate and progressive" legislation that would make a difference to people living in pain and nearing the end of their lives. You could almost hear the violins playing in Labour minds and see the wistful look in their eyes as they imagined this moment in a movie made for audiences susceptible to simplified social history.

You had to read the news reports carefully to notice that a great deal of work on the bill, now law, has still to be done. "Little" details such as, what cannabis products? How will people know they are effective? Who will be allowed to make them? How are you going to restrict them to people genuinely in pain or terminally ill? [NZ Herald]
We predict that another piece of vacuous legislation will be the "reforming" of government controlled schools.
 An independent task force has been set up, the recommendations of which are likely to end up in legislation.  If Roughan is right, it will trumpet much but deliver little.  Here is a summary of what the new fangle dangle report recommends.

What does the report recommend?

• Scrapping the 10 Ministry of Education regional offices and setting up 20 education hubs to each have oversight of about 125 schools.

• Hubs would oversee a more collaborative approach to benefit all students in the hub. It would handle property management (though this can be delegated back to schools), health and safety issues and HR, including hiring principals – though boards have veto power.

• Principals can be shared across schools within a hub.

• Hubs would provide professional teacher support for curriculum and assessment, and leadership advisers to work with principals.

• Hubs would decide student suspensions and also deal with complaints from student and parents, who often feel powerless in the current model.

• Hubs would also provide smaller schools with services that they often lack, including IT, accounting and procurement advice.

• Look at a national kaupapa Maori hub  [Tomorrow's Schools Review]
One critic hastened to condemn the proposals.  His cynical dismissal amounts to, "We've seen it all before.  It didn't work then.  It likely won't work now."
The Department of Education was founded in 1877. It set teaching standards and funded 12 elected regional education boards. These hubs defined school districts and administered the school system and its teachers, with each school having a committee of local residents.

Fast forward 140 years, zipping past a truckload of various reforms such as Tomorrow's Schools et al, and a new Education Workforce Strategy has just been released. This calls for the creation of a network of Crown agencies — or Education Hubs — to oversee groups of schools and take over many jobs now done by the boards of trustees, which in effect are committees of local residents.

Gee, the latest scenario sounds a lot like the original one. Maybe it would have saved a lot of trouble and money if we hadn't bothered with all the bits in between.  [NZ Herald]
We can be sure of one thing: the left wing Labour functionaries will be patting themselves on the back, telling each other what a fantastic job they have done on these  matters.  In reality, however, the heavy lifting ain't yet done.  Not by a long shot.

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