Last night TV3 screened a “special report”, “written, directed and produced” by Bryan Bruce, the veteran of dozens of documentaries over the years, many of which he has fronted with a familiar, bleakly beseeching on-camera presence.
This one was called World Class? Inside NZ Education – A Special Report, and was comfortably the most asinine of those I’ve seen from the man, a windy and handwringing collection of reckons and I thinks which saw him jet around the world to have confirmed for him what he had already decided – that our education system is fucked, and neoliberalism is to blame.
Pretty much every documentary from Bruce is the same – neoliberalism is to blame.
It was a rambling, incoherent mess of a product, at once disdainful of testing and reliant on it, dated in its construction, sloppily assembled and wilfully misrepresentative of both the intent and reality of the teaching systems it assessed.
And they were the highlights.
We see some kids getting on a train to go to school in Wellington, which he unaccountably finds offensive – choice is an enemy in his mind.
How dare parents and students have a choice of school.
Bruce went into this project with supreme self-righteousness and certainty of his perspective. He was driven by the powerful nostalgia so many of a certain age and gender experience for life before the fourth Labour government. He sought out people who would echo his opinions. Then he delivered us his findings from the mountain, and sat back waiting for the applause.
There’s a lot of people like Bruce. They think the 1970s were some magical utopia and they’re been railing against everything that has happened since 1984.
In the end the enduring image I’ll take away from this truly awful hour is the unedifying spectre of an old pākehā man, wandering slowly toward the camera and plaintively asking – certainly not for the first time – why the world has to change. I hope I never have to see him pose the same question again.
Sadly I suspect NZ on Air will continue to fund them. A quick search shows they have funded at least 17 documentaries from him which means he has received from the taxpayers over $1.7 million.