Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Disposition Testing for Teachers? WTF?

Edit: Labour-leaning blog The Standard has a semi-serious, slightly less paranoid article on the same topic.

So I was going to try and hammer out another "alignment system" post but I feel that I've left it too late for that; they require a bit of work and I've left it a bit late in the day. So, instead, I'd like to talk about a few different things, starting with National's recently released education policy. Which includes setting personality tests for teachers.

Uh-huh. Yeah. That's not going to lead anywhere bad.

Who is number One? You are Number Six.

The claim is that a "disposition to teach" is a fundamental requirement for good teachers. I wouldn't argue that. Teaching colleges are already using discretion when it comes to admitting students, Anne Tolley says, in one of the rare instances of listening to teachers. She says she'd just like to have a clear set of tests people can take before signing up to be a teacher.

(Of course, if you're a tradesperson, you don't have to take that test; you can be fast-tracked into teaching, and we'll worry about whether you're doing a good job later on. Thinking back, I think that would explain the perverted metalwork teacher we had who would play Benny Hill clips to class in lieu of working, invite young women to sit on his lap, and openly leer down their blouses.)

My concern - which I'm aware takes me close to Tinfoil Hat Territory - is that this would leave personality profiling data potentially in the hands of the Government. No other sector of the labour force is forced to undergo widespread personality screening. Certainly no other labour sector as politically active as teachers.

Of course, individual firms do use personality profiling in recruitment and to match workers to managers or small teams. But those results stay in their employee file and - to the best of my knowledge - is not passed over to new employers.

If the personality profiling test results are made available to the government, this has the potential to go to really bad places. The National party has already clearly signalled its willingness to breach the privacy of its critics to shut them up. What's to stop them from hauling out an ancient piece of profiling data to shut up a pesky teacher?

I'd probably be less scared about this if Anne Tolley wasn't the Education Minister. Her tenure has been plagued by the National Standards debate, true, but her whole approach has been dictatorial and autocratic: Do what we say, says National, or Else.

Having large volumes of personality data could potentially help future governments know who to target when teachers get political, and how to target them. It could also lead to them selecting certain types of people to be teachers; perhaps they may apply gentle pressure to colleges to start selecting less politically active people to be teachers, break the back of the teacher's union that way.

Once again, this is a long bow to draw from a single line in a single policy. But given the nature of this National government, with their clear contempt for privacy of people who aren't John Key, I dunno. If I was leaving high school right now, considering a career in teaching? I'd be worried.

In Other News, TV3's Inside New Zealand documentary on child poverty kind of broke my heart. Let's see what John and Bronagh thought about it:

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