So, after Anne Tolley in 2009 saying the government would make it really hard for schools’ National Standards data to be published in the form of league tables, today Stuff launched an entire new section of their site to … basically publish league tables.
(Oh no, John Hartevelt laments, they haven’t compiled league tables! They’ve just published all the raw data online so anyone with a modicum of Excel knowledge can easily sort the schools by their performance. It’s like publishing a list people’s salaries sorted alphabetically by surname then saying “Oh, we totally haven’t published a rich list, it’s not in order of salary!”)
And we have John Hartevelt to thank, people. He is our hero. Tirelessly combatting the bureaucracy and self-serving interests of those scum who dare call themselves “teachers”, he’s just reporting the facts and letting us decide. Take it away, John:
Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.
Many more gave up their school’s National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions,
But some people aren’t so certain that National Standards data is, well, any use at all to anyone for anything:
Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. …For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.
But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.
So why publish National Standards data at all?
Wait, no, that was also John Hartevelt, in the very next paragraph. Why indeed, John?
Well, let him tell us, people, it is not a business decision and they are not doing it to drum up pageviews, and mumble mumble something about Letting The People Decide.
Let the people decide what, John? You’ve acknowledged that the data is inconsistent across different schools. You’ve acknowledged that the data has no correlation to actual school quality, and cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions about, well, anything.
What debate are we meant to have with rubbish data as its foundation?
It’s like they’ve launched a new Science And Evolution section based entirely on spreadsheets of the Biblical genealogy of King David. “Look, we know that this is only one source which doesn’t accurately reflect any kind of scientific consensus,” John would trumpet, “but we have a duty to the people, and we trust them to weigh up the non-existent facts and baseless statements.”
Does John Hartevelt understand why journalists exist? There’s a reason that the mainstream media is still holding on despite the rise of parasite bloggers like myself – because people do assume that journalists have done the background work, they do assume there’s some kind of accountability and adherence to basic facts, and you know what, John, they kind of think you get paid to sort through the bullshit for them.
If we all had the time and expertise to play around with statistical data you wouldn’t have a job, John.
So please, let’s stop kidding each other. This is all about drumming up baseless stories to run down our teachers and keep pretending that poverty doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, that the gap between rich and poor is just about not being able to pre-order an iPhone 5, that Reading, Writing And Rithmetic is all you need to know because that’s what gets you a job.
And as a bonus, John Hartevelt gets to sell himself as our hero. Isn’t that nice?
Video at Sociological Images.
I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is…”, whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
Well, that’s my take on this piece of dogwhistling, anyway.
Oh, sure, it sounds nice and reasonable. We don’t want to waste Mah Taxpayer Dollars monitoring obviously good parents, right?
Until you think about how exactly you personally are defining “obviously good parents”, and perhaps figuring out that it might be the teensiest bit subjective. And also really mostly based on stereotypes about poor brown people bashing their kids to death because they’re inherently primitive.
Really, let’s just consider this supposedly-eminently-sensible list of criteria from one-man-lobby-group Bob McCoskrie:
“How many times in abuse cases have we heard ‘the family was known to CYF’? It is families where there is family breakdown and instability, drug and alcohol abuse, low maternal age, mental illness, previous family violence – all the risk factors highlighted in reports over the past decade on child abuse – who we should be closely monitoring.”
Totally sensible. But … you know what? Every single item on that list applies to my family. Divorces galore, alcoholism in spades, teenage pregnancies left right and centre, depression, anxiety, history of generational physical abuse …
All the risk factors.
But were we “known to CYFS”? Did anyone think shit, here’s a family we need to keep an eye on, because there’s clearly some big issues which could result in severe harm?
The family home being located in one of the richer streets of Epsom, and the family complexion ranging from “pasty” to “lightly tanned”, maaaaaaaay just have something to do with that.
But I guess as soon as we start listing other “risk factors” like lack of access to education and housing and healthcare and jobs, we might have to start wondering if maybe we as part of the wider society have a tiny weensy hand in this whole deprivation/poverty thing.
And then we wouldn’t be able to create a police state around the specific groups of people who we don’t like.
I have been inundated with Real Life things today, so in my usual vein here’s some other awesome women’s writing on the subject!
Fuck Politeness: Happy fucking International Women’s Day
stargazer at The Hand Mirror: poverty – why we should give a damn
The Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective have a series of posts up by members:
And on the political side of things (and it sure does warm my heart to see at least some of our elected representatives talking good shit on women’s issues):
Metiria Turei on the Welfare Wrecking Group and Depo-Provera