The news and the talkbacks have been full of alarm about young secondary school students receiving graphic lessons in oral sex.
When I heard this I thought, "Where were all these girls when I was at school?"
And then I felt relieved at the rising national panic, because I have a daughter too rapidly approaching secondary school lessons and I would like to see this part of the curriculum delayed until, ohhh, say 30? 35.
As long as we can turn off the Internet as well, so they don't receive any instruction there.
Until we can implement these measures the solution is in our own hands, as it were.
What we need is for parents to decide the style of education in their local schools, which was the whole point of education reforms over 20 years ago. You can get on the board of trustees and turn your school into a hippie paradise or a Victorian grammar school if you want.
I feel the same about national standards. Why can't we have a system of national standards that school boards of trustees can opt into if they want to? Most probably would eventually - once they saw if it worked.
Instead, we have a debate where neither side is listening to parents.
One side is insisting that parents are wrong to want to know whether our kids are doing about as well as other kids their age, and the other side is imposing the standards whether parents want them or not.
Why do so many people in the education debate not hear what parents are anxious about?
A good education system is built around parent preferences.
Parents want to know whether our kids are doing as well as they can, or just coasting along in the pack. We want to know whether school is doing everything it can for our kids, and whether our local state school is the best option for them.
Phil Goff made an interesting comment on the weekend, when he said of families in his community, "Where do families in this neighbourhood send their kids to? To St Kent's, to King's College. They don't send them to the local school, and there's a reason they don't do that, because the peer group worry about the quality of their kids' education. I still actually believe that if we don't like the education, if we don't like what's happening in Struggle St down there, we should be doing something to change it - not simply accepting it and saying we're happy to have two New Zealands. I don't believe in two New Zealands."
Exactly. It's refreshing that he's not reflexively defending the way things are, because we can't achieve the school system we want until we accept that it's capable of improvement.
Most of us won't be able to spend twelve or sixteen thousand a year to send our kids to a private school, so we need to make sure parents have confidence in their local schools, and that requires a school system that's responsive to what parents want. Otherwise the wealthy kids can always go where they want, and you end up with a two-speed New Zealand where some have more opportunity than the neighbour's kids.
Parents want both standards of excellence and child-centred learning. We need to both teach the basics, and intervene to develop the talents of every child.
Parents need information and accountability from schools, but we need them used to improve schooling, not to cut teacher's pay and school resources.
How about giving parents what we want and need, and setting aside top-down decisions about what we're going to have? Have national standards, but let parents decide if they want their school to be part of it. Put sex education in the curriculum if you must, but let parents decide when is the right time to start.
And have an education system that trusts both teachers and parents, because they're both experts in what kids need.
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