Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lost in transmission

Keeping up online with New Zealand news while travelling overseas is a frustrating business. Despite all the advantages of modern technology, enabling information to whizz round the globe in microseconds, sometimes even the best of systems can malfunction. Take, for example, the Government's backdown over class sizes. Having followed the unfolding story keenly from the United States and Canada I've been impressed by the media's comprehensive coverage of the saga. Some gremlins must have crept in, however, because certain words seem to be missing from all the stories. Just at the point in each story where you would automatically expect to find 'Ms Parata apologized for making a humungous mistake'—there's nothing! The stories glide seamlessly from 'Ms Parata said the policy was a trade-off parents were not prepared to accept' to 'We are firmly focused on raising student achievement.' Clearly a fulsome apology was made (knowing the standards of ministerial responsibility to which the government adheres, I have no doubt about that), but, as I say, sometimes when data is being transmitted online, irritating errors can occur. Just the other day I sent an email with an umlaut in it; I subsequently saw from my correspondent's reply that the umlaut had not appeared in the version he received. I'm sure something of that sort happened with the reports of the class-size backdown too. My browser probably failed to recognize 'humungous' or the words 'sorry' and 'Parata' in close conjunction. Just to prove that lightning does strike twice, the same reports kept referring to a 'trade-off' between the $174 million the government intended to save by changing the teacher/student ratio and the $60 million it wanted to invest in improving teacher quality. On reading these reports I tied myself in knots trying to work out how $60 million spent could remotely be called a trade-off for $174 million saved. Finally, of course, I realized the computer gremlins had struck again, and I was tormenting myself needlessly. When I get back to New Zealand I'm sure I will find that it all makes perfect sense—as indeed will the whole idea of trying to increase class sizes. After all, why else would the government do it?

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