Where Shearer’s going wrong

I guess this is more a “what would I do if I was David Shearer” than anything else, but Shearer is doing a lot wrong right now, even with the media trying as hard as they can to play into his hands. I think it’s safe to say that National is at a buffet right now, with a third term as Government being the main course.

The first thing Shearer has done wrong is to do nothing. Other than very minor announcements, like killing the policy for a Capital Gains Tax, his entire time as leader has been pushing the point of the Mixed Ownership Model (though note he will always call it “asset sales”, playing on people’s fear from the 80s – something he’s done right), up until a few weeks ago when he made the Education policy announcement. That’s about 10 months where he’s done next to nothing.

What’s he doing now? He’s coming up with reasons that are easily negated as to why National Standards are bad. Today, he’s got a column on Stuff.co.nz, where he effectively says “National Standards are bad, because my old school gets a hard time in them.” He talks about Papatoetoe Central Primary. Apparently, that school has about 30% of students coming from migrant backgrounds. That means the school has to teach them the very basics of English, and as such, those kids are below what National Standards says they should be for most of their time at that school, skewing the school’s statistics.

That’s all fair, though I would wonder if this speaks more about immigration policy than education policy, but I’ll get to that soon. The fact is, the school has a legitimate reason for being lower on the league tables. Parents aren’t stupid. They can understand that a school who can, as Shearer said, make “eight years progress in the space of six” is a great school. What Shearer can’t answer for is how being ignorant to schools being at the lower end of the spectrum can be good. Parents deserve to know how their child’s school is doing compared with everyone else and they have the right to demand better if the school is falling behind without reason.

And that’s another place that Shearer is going wrong. Teachers don’t like league tables and National Standards. Teachers are, generally, habitual Labour voters. Instead of trying to get swing voters to vote Labour, he’s trying to make the stock-standard Labour supporters to like him. Admittedly, David Cunliffe is partially to blame for this. Cunliffe hasn’t managed to persuade his supporters that Shearer should be the head of the Labour Party. Having internal battles like that means Shearer has to prove to Labour voters that he’s the right man for the job, and that means he’s not getting swing voters to support, and as such, he’s handing National a third term on a plate.

Now, just quickly, back to my immigration point. I remember when one of the rules for coming to New Zealand had to be you have a minimum standard of the English language. I don’t know when that changed, or if it didn’t change but it’s just not being enforced any more, but it’s clear that one of the two is happening. If a child’s parents can speak English, they can teach their child English, and schools like Papatoetoe Central wouldn’t have these issues. Additionally, we wouldn’t have services like the 111 call centre having issues with people being unable to communicate with them. Just a thought.


About Daniel Farrell

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Posted on September 24, 2012, in New Zealand Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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