Du Fresne on principal bullying


I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of the contemptible schoolyard bullying reported last week by TV3 political editor Duncan Garner. Presumably it was overtaken by the much bigger drama unfolding around David Garrett and ACT.

An agitated Witana, an executive member of the Principals’ Federation, then turned on an extraordinary performance in front of Garner, gesticulating and speaking directly to the TV3 camera, saying things like “Don’t make me look terrible Duncan” and “Don’t make me dislike you.” He looked so emotionally unstable that Garner could have been excused for feeling slightly threatened himself – just as parents with children under Witana’s care might have been excused for wondering whether he needed to take stress leave.

And it is no surprise that so few teachers, principals or schools will speak publicly in favour of . They know what will happen if they do.

Interviewed for TV3 News, Newman (whom Kiwiblog’s David Farrar reports is seeking the Labour Party nomination for Whangarei) tried to skew the issue, suggesting that principals and boards of trustees were not being allowed to question and criticise education policy.

I’m not aware of anyone trying to deny them that right. The issue here is one of intimidation and harassment of a colleague who dared dissent from the union line.

Intolerance of minority or opposing views can be a deeply unattractive aspect of trade union culture, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen evidence of it in the teaching unions. Attempts to introduce bulk funding in secondary schools in the 1990s were sabotaged by blatant teacher intimidation of elected school boards and the worst shame of it was that the Bolger government was too gutless to intervene.

School that took it up were threatened with black-listing, and that their schools may become ungovernable.

My lesson from this, is that National’s error was to make bulk funding a choice. It should just have been announced and implemented.

I’d love National to have a 2011 education policy that fully bulk funds all schools, allows parents maximum choice in schools, and brings in full performance pay for teachers.

Whatever the background factors, nothing excuses Witana and Newman for behaving like a couple of gang enforcers. It’s intolerable enough that teacher activists should arrogantly defy an elected government, and in so doing place themselves above the democratic process that other public servants submit to; but it becomes even more offensive when they collectively monster anyone brave or rash enough to defy them.

The irony, of course, is that schools are supposedly united in their determination to stamp out bullying. It’s officially not condoned in the playground, but a different standard seems to apply in staff rooms.

Footnote: Several of the anonymous comments attacking Donnelly on the TV3 website clearly came from teachers, some of whom displayed only a primitive grasp of grammar and spelling. Herein may lie one of the reasons for the almost hysterical resistance to national standards

Heh well spotted.

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