Sometimes even politicians can learn from their mistakes...

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Mon, 2007-05-28 23:05

I was reading the latest NZ Montessori News when I heard that the NZ Government has finally conceded their most recent educational methodology for dumbing down children is mistaken, and intends to announce this morning that they will be making changes.


Any changes made will be far fewer than required -- which is a total scrapping of the NCEA 'system' -- and will have far less positive effect than the headlines tell us, but I want to focus first on the highly unusual occurrence in politics that a mistake has been both admitted and seen as an opportunity to make things better, and I want to focus on that because it happens so rarely in politics, and because it's exactly what I was reading about in the NZ Montessori News when I heard the news about the NCEA.

You see, in both traditional education and traditional politics, mistakes are a humiliation -- something to fear -- a reason for cover-ups, excuses and mealy-mouthed evasions on Close Up and Socialism at Seven. Not so in real life -- answering a critic on this point, economist John Maynard Keynes (whose own work ironically is a monument to error), responded: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" -- nor in the Montessori classroom. As Nicky Chisnall points out in the article I was reading,

Dr Montessori suggests that the Montessori teacher (and by extrapolation parent, employer, employee, friend ... ) should see mistakes as an indication of some error she has made and thus seek to correct it. In a traditional school [or in politics], this would be seen as humiliating, but in Dr Montessori's approach it is just a new way of looking at things... The Montessori way emphasises that mistakes give us opportunities to learn.

If we're not afraid to make mistakes then we're more likely to experiment, to try new things, to give ourselves more opportunities to be creative, and to be much more productive than if we're motivated only by fear of failure. The thing is that when you or I or a businessman does make a mistake and we're honest about it (there's that word again: in the terms of my earlier post on lying today, if we're committed to focussing on reality), then recognition of error is not bad, it's a good thing. It keeps us focussed on what's real.

Mistakes are made, we fix them, and we move on and make things better by removing the error -- and things overall are thus improved for the better. Not so in politics, where the idea of "opportunities to learn" is no more in evidence than is the admission of mistakes, so for today's small and unusual blessing we should be thankful.


The thing is that when you or I or a businessman experiments, then (if we do maintain our reality focus) that process of experimentation leads to better and better things, with mistakes corrected as we go on to even better things. On the other hand, since in business and private activity people only deal with us voluntarily, any mistakes or bad results that do occur are limited. Whole countries and whole generations aren't required by force to submit to our experiments and to pay for our mistakes.

Not so in politics.

New Zealand's experiment with mediocrity in education has been a disaster. The NCEA 'system', a fragmented pedagogical experiment implemented and enforced by braindead educationalists and by both main political parties has helped turn the minds of a generation of young students to mush: a generation of young students has been delivered by force to the factory schools wherein this experiment has been taking place, and the future for all those young students is less bright as a result.

In politics, unlike in real life, mistakes like those admitted to today can have enormous and far-reaching destructive power. The real mistake we've all made is to give politicians all that power, including the power to destroy. But that too is a mistake that can be fixed -- all it takes is that first admission of error.

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