Varsity academic has overstepped his role

MICHAEL COX
Last updated 10:30 03/10/2011

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OPINION: I have never met Professor Roger Moltzen, the new Dean of Education at Waikato University. From his photo in the Waikato Times, he looks to be a "hail fellow, well met" sort of guy.

His record with gifted children holds him in good stead.

So I wondered why, in presumably one of his first press releases in his new role, he chose to attack the Government's national standards policy. This seems a strange stance for a person, given the huge responsibility for training teachers for the next decade or so.

What does this say to his students? Does it tell them that, as public servants, for that is what they will be, they can choose not to carry out the policy of the duly elected government? Does he encourage these soon to be teachers to rebel against the democratic authority of governance?

I can only suppose that his 40 years in the teaching profession and presumably as a member of their union has left him with the impression that it is OK to ride roughshod over policies that were mandated by the electorate at the last election. It is an extraordinary arrogant view of the professional role of teachers.

What would happen if other professionals in the state sector decided that they didn't much care for the government's policy and opted out? What if the prison staff decided to reject the policy on incarceration of convicted prisoners, deciding instead to let all of them home every weekend? What if Treasury officers found the going too tough in implementing some of the financial restrictions imposed by the Government and instead rewrote the budget to ease off on them? The police might decide to take it easy on crime in contravention of the government's of the day's policies of zero tolerance.

In the end, this sort of unprofessional behaviour can only lead to anarchy.

The teachers unions are probably the strongest in the country, which means they have a duty to use that power judiciously and not to abuse it.

I understand the rigours of teaching, coming from a family that boasts three qualified teachers and one soon to be so. My father was headmaster (that was the title given him in those days) of a primary school in the rougher part of Oxford, England. He actually resigned from the National Union of Teachers when he found that his head janitor was being paid more than him.

I also enjoyed my two-year stint in the profession as a lecturer in accountancy at a large polytechnic. So I am not anti-teacher, but people such as Prof Moltzen do them no favours by being so harshly critical of the policies of the Government, of whatever hue, he has served.

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I've avoided entering into the argument on the merits or not of the national standards policy, although I note that the professor thinks their introduction "is possibly the beginning of the slippery slide".

He didn't amplify that statement, but he is quoted as thinking that "compliance in the classroom is counter to creativity".

What bits of the national-standards policy does he disagree with? Is he opposed to determining the curriculum level a child in his teacher's care has reached? Is he against showing the rate of progress over a year that his students reach? Is he against identifying his students who are underachieving? Is he against reporting in "plain language" to parents at least twice a year? Surely, they have a right to know how well their children are being taught.

These seem to me to be the guts of this national standards policy that he believes will be the start of a slippery slide and will stop creativity.

I wonder whether he has had input into the Opposition's education policy, which, as its spokesperson has made clear, will "dump national standards". Strangely, we are also told "schools would not be bullied into ditching national standards if they believed they provide the best way to get results". Sounds like a bob both ways to me.

So Prof Moltzen may have to modify his opening remarks in his new role as Dean of Education at our university, as it appears that even the Opposition party's spokesperson is all at sixes and sevens with her policy.

- Waikato

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