A recent opinion poll, conducted for the New Zealand Herald, indicated that 73 percent of people with school-age children supported national standards for primary and intermediate schools even though only 12 percent said they fully understood what national standards were.
What conclusions can be drawn from this? An obvious one is that New Zealanders are now so distrustful of the teachers’ unions that they simply choose not to believe their propaganda. They have switched off.
It’s probably not going too far to say the public has decided that if the NZEI opposes national standards, that’s reason enough for them to be implemented.
Even when people admit they are not in full possession of the facts, their instinct is to reject whatever the teachers’ unions are saying. This may not be good for informed debate, but it’s hardly surprising.
New Zealanders don’t like bullies, and for years they have watched the petulant teacher unions threaten and stamp their feet until weak governments meekly capitulated over issues such as bulk funding. The exception was during Labour’s nine years in office, when threats and foot-stamping weren’t necessary because the government benches were stacked with ex-teachers and former union officials.
The NZEI and PPTA have become the de facto controllers of primary and secondary education policy, refusing to countenance any initiative that threatened to upset the status quo. It was only a matter of time before parents and the public at large rebelled against this affront to democratic process, as they now appear to have done.
The NZEI may have sound reasons for opposing national standards, but it can only blame itself if people are no longer listening. The merits of national standards are no longer the issue; it’s all about control of the education system. The Herald's poll suggests the public has turned bloody-minded – it wants national standards even if their merits haven’t been proved. The phrase “poetic justice” comes to mind.