My daughter has a friend who works in a Government Department. She’s not got her own office or a truckload of minions working below her, in point of fact she is probably as close to the bottom of the pecking order as matters, but she does a good job- she’s a librarian in their (you guessed it) reference library.

A few weeks ago she applied for leave to attend her grandfather’s 100th birthday celebrations in Christchurch. “Sorry, the other library person will be away, and we can’t spare you” (well I’m assuming they said “sorry” when they turned her down!) Obviously she was very disappointed to miss the celebrations and see her grand old grandfather again, but there you go…

This week her grandfather passed away.

I am now assuming they will grant her leave to attend the funeral, but it’s not quite the same thing, is it? Unfortunately her last ever opportunity to see her grandfather alive was lost because of a bureaucratic decision based on her (apparently) ‘indispensable’ role in the Ministry! What tosh!

I am prepared to bet there are no Ministry managers, department heads or other similar jobs that come with a private office who would not have been granted leave of a day or two to attend their grandfather’s 100th birthday celebrations, regardless of how ‘indispensable’ their role may seem to be. We are ALL dispensable! If I fall off the perch tomorrow the world will not stop, the jobs that I do will still get done even though, possible, someone may have to wait a day or so for a requested action to take place!

I doubt anybody can convince me that the library and this young lady and her co-worker are of such pivotal value to The Ministry that if they came down with the flu and had to stay in bed for a couple of days the Government would declare a national emergency and the wheels of power would grind to an earth-shuddering halt (as least as it relates to matters concerning that particular Ministry)!!

Is it little wonder that she doesn’t like her job, doesn’t experience job satisfaction and doesn’t particularly want to be there?

It’s always sad to lose a loved one but I think particularly so in this case because of a missed opportunity caused by a lack of flexibility and unfair and uncaring bureaucratic ‘rules’ that lose sight of the important things in life, one of the most notable being able to celebrate just that- LIFE, (and more particularly in this case, 100 years of it.)


Undervalued Public Education?

This article, written by Ross Henderson appeared in the Taranaki Daily News- 9/2/2013

“We are told that Novopay aside, teachers and the government are set on a collision course and that it’s a union versus management approach.

Let’s cut to the chase. Apart from the fact that most teachers belong to a union, exercising their freedom of choice and association in doing so, there is no union dimension to the political scraps on education policy. The claim that teacher unions run or ruin the education sector is a National Party mantra, consistent with that party’s life-long hatred of unions and dissenting voices.

Let’s face it, decisions made by politicians on education are by definition political, and usually reflect the bias of the political party in charge. When it comes to Labour and National, their decisions on education typically reflect their historical origins.

Labour sees education as the way to lift intellectual and practical knowledge and understanding, and as enhancing the individual for life, work and citizenship. On this basis Labour has usually tried to make sure that education is accessible to all, so that the influence of wealth or poverty on a person’s life chances is minimised.

National has typically seen education as the means to entrench advantage and privilege. They have always favoured private schooling, affordable to only a few. Last week I wrote about how this government bailed out Wanganui Collegiate, even though the school has been failing.

There was also the decision shortly after it came into government in 2008, to immediately grant an extra $38 million for private schools. State, or publicly- owned, schools got nothing extra. Two years ago they took $55 million out of trade training and are crowing about the fact they are about to put $12 million back in.

And did you notice how the hastily- abandoned policy on larger class sizes last year was for state schools, not private schools?

It’s not popular to say it at the moment, but the truth is that the present government is one of the most politically driven we’ve had in a long time; political in the sense of pursuing the interests of its political constituency above all else. So when National is challenged in its thinking on education, especially by teachers, it resorts to its time-honoured habit of attacking the messenger. Let’s remember that the idea of mass education – compulsory education of all children up to a specified age according to a standard curriculum – is a comparatively recent phenomenon. It only properly started last century.

New Zealand embraced the mass education system with enthusiasm. It fitted our traditionally egalitarian ambitions. But in a world where access to information is gained by a few mouse clicks, and the amount of information available is vast, the rote learning of our forebears is no longer fit for purpose. The most important skill today is critical thinking. This requires young people to be curious, to distinguish facts from assertions and to be able to draw conclusions based on facts. Young people need to be prepared for a world that is changing rapidly. Today we live in a world where learning will never stop.

One of the big realisations of modern education is that people learn in different ways and at different speeds. The challenge for mass education systems is to be responsive to each learner.

But that’s not all. We also know that coming to school hungry or unwell or worried about what is happening at home or feeling vulnerable amidst your peers, are obstacles to learning.

So teachers have to be alert to these factors. These are all factors beyond a teacher’s control, but we have a Government that wants to introduce performance pay as if teachers do control these things. My assessment is that being a teacher today is way more complex than it was when I was growing up. We expect a lot of our teachers. We entrust our children to them. We are right to expect they are properly trained and meet a good character test. Teaching is a profession that deserves respect and support. When it comes to changes in education and the running of the system, we should expect to hear from the profession doing the front-line work. If they speak with one voice through their union, so what?

In the world of work where I come from, the old style of management is top down, command and control. But good managers now accept they don’t know everything and there is a wealth of knowledge held by those in the front line. Good managers have no hesitation in engaging with those doing the work. It’s about making the best decision. National governments come from the old order – they are top down. They don’t respect the front line, never think of consulting with them and are intolerant of dissent.

If there is a clash of ideas in education between the government and teachers, let’s look at the ideas rather than who is saying them. And let’s show a bit of respect for teachers and the amazing work most do.”

I completely endorse Ross’ words.


In this article in a local newspaper the following confidence or ‘respect rankings’ based on the opinions New Zealand public were published, each position arrived at by their ranking determined out of a possible 10 points. It was constructed following a poll of 750 (supposedly random) people surveyed by telephone. Would you agree? And if you do, would you allocate the named groups (basically) the same numerical ranking number? (I ask this because I feel that one or two at the lower end of the list have rather too many ranking points than I would give them!! I understand, of course, that the ranking number is the survey result rather than a number given by those responding- that is, I may have given a number lower than that shown, but another respondee would have modified that number by allocating a higher one.)
It is a bit scary, though, that those holding the most lowly positions on this list are ALL involved in activities that others rely on for security and material comfort, and who have to be trusted by those relying on them, but who are clearly not trusted! We mistrust those who we believe are feathering their own nests at the expense of us who are just trying to make our own nests a wee bit more comfortable.

(I seem to remember a story that goes something like- ‘if a lawyer and a politician fall in the sea, which would drown first?…answer- who cares?’ Maybe it needs to be reviewed before being retold?)

International political cartoonists picture the Libyan leader (soon to be ex-leader?) in a variety of ways. Funny, none are complimentary!

And, of course there are the associated points of view!!
My thanks to the cartoonists of the world who are so insightful, clever and willing to take a stand.