Class-sizes, pigs wearing lipstick, and State-enforced sterilisation
When National released it’s 2012 Budget on 24 May, it either over-looked the issue of increasing class-sizes and cutting of teacher numbers (which is what National’s “capping” actually is) – or woefully under-estimated the angry reaction from Middle Class New Zealand.
Teachers, Principals, Boards of Trustees, and Parents formed a United Front opposing National’s proposals. The public were no fools – after three and a half years they understand only to well was “capping” meant.
Regardless of whether they overlooked or under-estimated the reaction - Education Minister, Hekia Parata, was left looking like a possum in the middle of the road, with a Public Juggernaut bearing down on her.
As recently as 6 June, Ms Parata was adamant; there would be no backdown on the reforms,
Pressure on the Education Minister mounted. National was coming under concerted attack from Opposition parties; parents; schools; and the community itself. There was little doubt that John Key’s government had bitten off far more than it could chew, and had seriously underestimated the public mood on this issue.
By 6 June, John Key was giving Parata the message to “sort this sh*t out”, when he told her,
“It is important she engages with them…in the end the government’s got its policy but the administration of that policy happens through schools themselves and the unions play an important role in that. “
Though in reality, Key’s credibility itself was taking several serious hits. Firstly, the revelations that Key sent his children to private schools, which boasted smaller class sizes for bettering educational outcomes, did not go down well with the public. In fact, most folk probably detected more than a hint of strong stench of hypocrisy from Dear Leader,
“ Prime Minister John Key’s son attended King’s College in Otahuhu, which said on its website: “Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom”. “
Then Key’s let-them-eat-cake-comment further raised the ire of the public, when he said,
” In reality we are saying over the course of a three year period the maximum impact on any school can be two [full time equivalent teachers]. Now that that is not a dramatic impact.over all. ” – Source
To which, by now, the public were becoming more than a little bemused, and a “Screw you, mate!” hardening of attitude was started to fester.
Being paid $411,100 a year out of our taxes is one thing. But messing with our children’s education whilst sending your own offspring to private schools was going beyond public tolerance.
National’s party strategists soon began to pick up mounting public anger.
National MPs were being flooded with angry emails and other correspondence at their electorate offices.
National’s polling (no doubt with David Farrar’s able, tax-payer funded, assistance) began registering a seismic shift in public opinion – none of it positive for the Nats.
The shitski – as they say in Russia – was hitting the fanski. Time for Plan B:
Initiate Default Deflection Plan – Look over there!
Social Welfare Minister duly stepped into the glare of public attention with suggestions of the State forcibly removing children from unfit parents – which the State can already do, by the way, considering the number of children in CYFS care. But Bennett went further, with hints of forced sterilisation and court orders permanently banning “unfit parents” from reproducting.
(If these plans had included banning certain politicians from breeding… )
This deflection achieved only modest success. It failed to spark the raging public debate which Bennett created with her plans, last month, to “encourage” solo-mums (but never solo-dads) to go on contraception to prevent having further children.
That debate raged – but never went anywhere. It died a quiet ‘death’ and barely anyone remembers it now (oh, that public amnesia is getting worse). But it did it’s job, deflecting public attention from worsening economic stats and growing unemployment figures.
The purpose of Bennett’s political “hand grenade” was not to seriously force solo-mums (but never solo-dads) on to contraception. A cursory check of the dates of the report – Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc – shows it was a public issue at the same moment as Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ .
Public deflection, using highly controversial “dog whistle” politics – works every time. (That’s why they call it “dog whistle” politics!)
However, not this time. As Hekia Parata stood paralysed on the road, with the juggernaut of public opinion bearing down on her and her colleagues, one must always remember; in such situations, possums always come of second best,
As Mathew Mannine, one-time National-voter; Wellington father of three; and protestor against plans to increase classes, said on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint,
” Well, as they say, a pig’s a pig even if you put lipstick on it, and I think that’s what she was trying to do, and there was no way at all, from the parents I’ve spoken to, that this policy would’ve flown. “
Indeed. So saith Middle New Zealand – a lesson National has learnt the hard way.
Two further interesting points arise from this debacle.
Hekia Parata says that canning this policy will incur a cost,
” The changes to teacher:student funding ratios were to have saved the Government around $174 million over four years, of which $60 million was going to be invested in improving teaching quality and professional leadership. “
This is a rather candid admission that reducing teacher numbers and increasing class sizes was never about “teaching quality”.
Let us disabuse ourselves of that fantasy; this was about cost-cutting pure-and-simple, and talk of “improving teaching quality” was nothing more than a fiction. This was National engaging in window dressing, to cover up a blatant exercise in reducing spending in education.
Anyone who believes otherwise should contact this blogger – I have shares in Wellington Harbour bridge going very cheap.
Congratulations to National.
John Key, Bill English, Hekia Parata, et al, have succeeded in teaching our children their first lesson in politics. An entire generation of children have seen political machinations at work, first hand, and the “bad guys” were ministers from the National Party.
When our children learn about the Right Wing in politics, in such a personalised, in-your-face manner, the future of this country suddenly became a lot more rosy.
Future support for the Greens, Labour, and other centre-left Parties is all but assured.
Thank you, Ms Parata. You are a fine teacher for our young folk.
= fs =
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