Tag Archives: school

How could you not know?

One of the things that I’ve always questioned about my teenage years was how anyone could know about what was happening to me, the abuse that I was living through, and not do anything about it. There was one incident that I remember where the school administration were told about what was happening, and I will always feel like the follow up from that was completely inadequate, but in general I think there was a significant problem.

They didn’t know. These were people that I saw every day, and as I’ve got older I have questioned over and over again why they didn’t help me, and I’ve finally come to that conclusion. I didn’t often come to school with the marks of a beating on me, and so I wasn’t an obvious victim.

I think that many of them worked out things were not right when I was kicked out of home and then moved out into a boarding situation, but by then it was a bit late. I was sixteen and my more vulnerable brother was out of the country. He was safe, and I was surviving. What more could be done?

But for much of the rest of the time, I think that it just passed under the radar. My deteriorating mental health was a sign, but I don’t think it was recognised. The plain truth was, no-one helped me because no-one knew. No-one was looking for problems, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe they were and I was just not showing the signs that things were wrong.

How could they not know? Well, my own father missed the fact that I was so desperate to get out of my situation that I attempted suicide. Things just aren’t that obvious when you’re mentally distressed in the way I was. It wasn’t a lack of caring on their part. It was just hidden from view.

I used to ask over and over again why no-one helped. I think now I wonder why I didn’t ask for help over and over again until someone listened.

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Should boys be wearing skirts?

This is the reaction of New Zealand designer (and all-round nasty individual) Denise L’Estrange-Corbet has to the idea of gender-neutral uniform options being considered by schools.

Yes, Denise. If a boy wants to wear a skirt then there should be absolutely no problem with him doing so, because gendering clothing is unnecessary and ridiculous. A boy should be allowed to wear a skirt or a dress any time they wish, just as a girl should be allowed to wear shorts or trousers, or a kilt for that matter. Non-gender-conforming people should have no troubles with what they are allowed to wear, leaving them only the problem of choosing which of the options available to them they wish to select.

People like Denise-of-the-overpunctuated-surname and their sneering attitude toward what is a big deal for the minority of students who dress in ways that don’t necessarily conform to the norms of their birth gender are an impediment to the progress of society. Gender non-conformists are people too, with the right to be treated well, and without prejudice. If we stop making a big deal over gender norms, and start looking at people as people rather than categories, there are many who would live a better life because of it.

Little tricks to cut costs – that punish vulnerable students

Last year it was brought to light that to get funding for special assistance in exams, students needed to be assessed by an outside professional to establish their disability, at a cost of around $400-700 a pop – a serious disadvantage to poorer students. This year, the alternative of a free observation by a teacher was offered, and schools breathed a sigh of relief as this new innovation breathed equality into the Special Assessment Conditions system. Ha! Of course, that’s way too good to be true.

This year comes a new and crappy revelation about the system. It turns out that to qualify for a reader-writer, extra time, or a separate space to sit the exam, you must be achieving at the expected grade level for reading and writing. If, in addition to your disabilities or because of them, you’re not at the expected level for your age, then you simply don’t get assigned the extra help you need and should be entitled to.

This hits low-decile students harder than those at higher-decile schools, because the poorer schools do not have the same time and resources to devote to keeping their students of varying abilities up to speed with their peers. Poor schools just don’t have the money to throw at the problem of students with disabilities, and it shows in their ability to stay up at the level required of them by the state.

This policy takes the inequality that results from kids coming from a poor area, and underlines it with an artificial barrier to even attempting to achieve. What is it with this education system and trying to shaft underprivileged kids?

I can understand the argument that it might be a waste of resources, dedicating them to kids who will obviously not pass the exams anyway, but here we’re putting extra barriers in the way of kids that are struggling as is. Of course they’re not going to pass if, in addition to being behind, they’re deprived of the things that they need in order to even have a fighting chance at it. Reading and writing ability are also not the only determinants of how well a child will do in a science or maths exam! Students have to be seen as a good candidate before they can be put forward for NCEA, so these are not kids with no hope. They’re kids the schools have decided have a decent shot at succeeding.

What this is, is taking kids that have been tossed around by the education system, and giving them a good kicking to add to their woes. It creates disadvantaged, disillusioned young people with no respect for a system that screwed them over repeatedly. It’s perpetuating a cycle of disenfranchisement that needs to be broken by kids who are supported by their school to learn and achieve, so they can pass that sense of pride and achievement on to their kids

School funding reform or; Why I started making plans for Hekia Parata’s downfall

I spend a lot of time venting my anger at Paula Bennett, our charming and beloved Social Development minister. What I neglect to do is tell you all about our wonderful and exciting Education minister. I will endeavour to correct this oversight.

My daughter is a little bit special. She’s got some developmental delays, affecting her learning. She’s able to learn in a normal classroom environment, with a bit of extra help in various forms. But she’s falling off the bottom of the educational standards chart for her age, and it is likely that she always will. That’s ok, though, because she’s steadily progressing on her own little trajectory. She’s happy, healthy, and doing well. The school is happy with her progress, I’m happy with it, and all should be well, right?

Well, maybe. Parata unofficially announced that if National win another term, it is very likely that the way the government funds schools may change. Instead of the current system, which gives more money to schools in poorer areas to try and balance out the inequality between rich-kid schools and poor-kid schools. I’m pretty ok with the way it’s currently done, but then, I’m not a school teacher or principal. It may be that it’s fatally flawed but I don’t know about it. Anyway, instead of the decile system that we currently use, there may be a move to performance-based funding.

The performance-based model, already shown to be a disaster in the US, does exactly the reverse of its intentions. Kids that are struggling need more resources, not less. High-achievers need extra support as well, but giving them that at the expense of their underachieving counterparts is not the way to go.

Rich kids do better in school. They have more opportunities, and they also have some basic advantages. Things like having enough to eat, having a warm dry home so they don’t get sick, having the clothes to keep the weather out. It’s not that poorer kids are less intelligent, but they simply don’t have many of the things that are almost necessary for success. Like food. And clothes. They’re kind of a big deal. It’s hard to learn when you’re cold and hungry.

Aside: I feel somewhat ashamed that I support KidsCan, a New Zealand charity. Why? Because it is shameful that there has to be a charity providing Kiwi kids with food, clothes, and shoes. We’re a first world country. What the hell is wrong with us?!

Anyway. Rich schools will do better. Poor schools will do worse. The schools that need the support most will lose it. And my little girl becomes a liability to her school.

Why’s that? Because when you test her against her peers, she does poorly, and she’s not improving in leaps and bounds. She’s just coming on slowly. It pulls the entire school’s averages down. They’ve been amazing, helping her so much, and pouring so many extra resources into her. What happens when she becomes an expensive liability? I know her school would continue to support her. What about ones that can’t afford to?

Hekia Parata has floated around on my ‘politicians that need putting on the naughty step’ radar for a while, but this strikes too close to home. She may not turn my baby into a liability instead of a person.

Gentle media bigotry

Sometimes I look at our news opinion pieces and think, why do we let these people vomit their way into print? It’s making us all look bad. My shining example today is a piece by Mike Hosking, a radio DJ who probably has no business opining about anything even vaguely sensitive.

I’ve linked to the original article, but it has been artfully adjusted in a very Soviet Union kind of way. The editors removed an inflammatory comment made by Hosking, saying “This line has been removed so as to avoid future confusion.” Riiiight. This makes NewsTalk ZB, the publisher of the piece, look rather like they’re trying to make this all go away quietly, rather than having to own up to the blatant bigotry that their employee spouted.

The article was about a recent tussle between a primary school and some of its parents over their bible in schools programme, which is blatant proselytising intruding on school time. It’s not learning about religions, it’s not about learning morals and ethics, it’s about accepting Jesus as your personal saviour. A complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission over it all.

Mr Hosking, mulling over the nature of the complaint (this is lifted from another article, which was not willing to censor the DJ’s bigotry), stated that one of that parents who complained to the HRC was “Muslim, which indicates perhaps a lack of tolerance, tolerance perhaps being one of the virtues her kids might have learned in Christian studies.”

Digest that for a moment. He’s saying that her religion automatically makes her an intolerant person, and that the way to remedy that is by teaching her kids another religion (My religion’s better that yours! Join me in being intolerant to everyone else’s beliefs!). That kind of tar-brush bigotry does not have a place in my multicultural country. Hell, it has no place in any society, because it’s just so backwards.

Do you have to be Muslim in order to not want your child indoctrinated in a religion? Well, no, but if you’re Muslim then not wanting anyone else’s religion shoved down your kid’s throats is intolerant in Mr Hosking’s world. For shame. Will he next tell us that Indians are only good for owning dairies and running restaurants, or does blatant racism seem a step too far? Blatant bigotry of other kinds seems just fine.

Of course, this all turned out to be even more ridiculous in that the Muslim woman is actually a Buddhist man. He couldn’t even gets his facts vaguely straight.

Why do we let people like him publish anything that’s not related to sport or entertainment? It’s a minefield, and they stomp around in lead clown shoes. Maybe not even sport and entertainment are safe.