Dirty Politics, School and Voting.

I have started a new job this week, leading learning at a School that is just 10 years old.  A modern design, shared teaching spaces, 100 minute learning episodes.  I have to travel to get there just over 110 kilometers.  It is good to be back in the classroom again, it is stimulating work,planning and prepping, then engaging with learners.  There are no students at this school and no teachers, learners and learning leaders, engaged in learning episodes.  it is at the fore-front of modern pedagogy, inquiry learning, self directed learning.  No bells to signal the end of a learning episode, and a song at the start, move it from Madagascar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdcTmpvDO0I. However somethings never change.  Here like many schools in New Zealand, young people are engaged in the perennial battle royale, teachers want students to learn and most students are engaged in trying to avoid doing any work.  Add to that the posturing and jostling for alpha male positions, and the madness of hormonal charged young woman and men and you have a recipe for anarchy unless….

So we can change the way we help young people learn, change our meta language, our environment and the shape of our day however we like, it really doesn’t matter, many young people see school as a form of cruel and unusual punishment  (talk to some teachers and they may see it the same way for themselves).  Schools function essentially because they have rules, rules only work because they have consequences.  I often hear laments about the lack of respect in schools and society in general, bring back the cane, I hear, and on occasion you may have even heard it from my lips! However we  do not operate in a vacuum, our values arrive from somewhere and therefore so do our children’s values.

I have followed the dirty politics scandal, not closely, and certainly not bought the book.  I don’t need to because I can see that most of what is written there is true.  Here’s the rub, most people don’t care. the scandal is unlikely to cause much change in voting behavior and outcomes.  Most people vote on the basis of self interest, what is in it for me!  the rise of individualism and consumerism has as much to do with poor behavior in society and schools as the lack of what seems to be any meaningful consequences for young people.  The behavior that is modeled by our political leaders is worse than atrocious,question time at Parliament is just a bad joke, Cabinet Ministers routinely engage in bullying behaviors, both within the house and outside the house.

Publishing policy in newspapers and reporting it on television plays second fiddle to scandalous headlines  essentially because of two things, scandal sells and policy does not.  Discomforting issues such as violence, poverty and growing inequalities in every area of society are too hard and people do not want to engage in those debates because if they do so they may have to consider their positions  of privilege and relative power and be faced with a decision about responding to them.

Our elections have become presidential popularity contests with little real engagement with the issues that we see in classrooms every day.  It sickens me that people vote on the basis of style and appearance over substance.  Now I don’t write this blog form a neutral position, I am a center left kind of person I do however vote not on the basis of self interest but in what I consider is an ethical and considered way.  Whilst i don’t like some aspects of MMP http://www.elections.org.nz/voting-system/mmp-voting-system it is so much better than first past the post.  Sure it can lead to weird (if not scary) people getting into politics like Winston Peters and Colin Craig’s Conservatives  (aka an explosion in a stupidity factory)  if they have enough people voting for them then they are just as legitimate as the other larger parties.  They tend to dampen extreme swings.

We are allegedly sitting on the cusp of exciting new times, (yeah right), the biggest and most exciting thing that the current government has to offer us is maybe a tax cut in three years, the treasurer admits he has no new ideas to grow the economy.  We are working harder and longer for less money but it seems as long as people can get their fix of consumerism they don’t care.

In many african countries the last thing that they cut back  on in terms of consumer goods is alcohol or the means to make alcohol.  Legend has it that the people will revolt.  I wonder at times with a quiet kind of desperation what it will take  for the people to  revolt in New Zealand, to look away from debt laden lifestyles and recognise the social cost of the kind of living that we are doing.  I fear that I wonder in vain…

I wont tell you how to vote, I ask  merely that you think about it and that you vote.

Paul

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