To glorify democracy and silence the people is a farce.




The past week has seen an increase in the attacks on ‘ordinary New Zealanders,’ typified in the disparaging comments by John Key, that we’re collectively more interested in snapper than the GCSB. Is this how he truly sees us? Is this indicative of how senior government MPs see us?

Obviously so.

The neoliberal agenda requires manipulation of public consciousness. Control of education is a crucial tool in this, shaping the minds of the masses to accept their lot and to not challenge or question the voices of ‘authority.’  It is no accident that the formalisation and narrowing of education has been a significant feature in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia and now New Zealand.

Education can be divided into two paths:

  •  a broad, generalist education to enable children to reach their full potentials, wherever these may lie,  (Labour Party, Green Party and NZ First education policies), or;
  •  a narrower, goal oriented education to enable children to participate in the work force. (National and ACT education policies).

One of the great educationalists of the 20th century was Brazilian Paulo Friere (1921 – 1997). Friere spent many years working with poor and dispossessed people in isolated areas of Brazil, and his great book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (first published in 1970, latest edition published by Penguin Books, 1996) was developed from his experiences.

[Note that this book is still banned in a number of states in the USA, viewed as being too subversive, which neatly proves Friere’s thesis.]

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In his foreword to the 1996 Penguin edition of this book, Robert Shaull writes,

 “There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” 

 This essay could possibly conclude at this stage, because there, in Shaull’s words “bring about conformity,” is the answer to the minimisation of education through a narrow focus on achievement in literacy and numeracy, to the exclusion of everything else.

Friere has much to add to this, however, and immediately defines his purpose with a quote that was written by Francisco Weffort in a preface to one of his earlier books. This provides the counterpoint for the narrowing of the curriculum.

 “The awakening of critical consciousness leads the way to expressions of social discontents precisely because these discontents are real components of an oppressive situation.”

 The theme that the ‘oppressors’ do not want the ‘oppressed’ to learn to think and question the basis of their situation is elaborated many times throughout the book.

The base situation, according to Friere, is that the oppressed have been, and will need to be, conditioned to accept the status quo.

[Hence John Key’s proclamation that people care more about snapper..]

In the early stages of the development of awareness of their lot, the oppressed struggle to differentiate their awareness from the influences of the oppressor, in order to gain an objective view of the situation, due to their “submersion in the reality of oppression.

[This can be used to explain why so people are unable (unwilling?) to see the threat implicit in the National led government’s policies.]

Taking this further, Friere observes that people, lacking this consciousness, can also themselves unknowingly contribute to the oppression.

Extending from this, there are the people who are knowingly contributing to the oppression, having set aside previously held beliefs and values, including those who are seeking personal gain.  One could question the integrity and morality of this group.

Friere then examines the relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed;

 “One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to, into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness. Thus the behaviour of the oppressed is a prescribed behaviour, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor.”

 [This concept of ‘prescription’ leads directly to the mandated national standards of achievement in education that have been imposed under this government.]

Friere’s pedagogy was developed as a way to enable the oppressed to break free of the influences of their oppressors, through the fostering of questioning and inquiry, to enable them to perceive, for themselves, their own realities and understanding of their oppression.

The oppressors, of course, are very aware of the threats that enlightened people would pose to their power base, and therefore it is very much in their interests to maintain and even tighten the prescriptions.

This then becomes a battle for the oppressed to “pursue the right to be human,” through the development of every aspect of their potential.

Paradoxically, Friere also observes that the ‘liberation’ of the oppressed may then leave the former oppressors feeling as though their quality of life has suffered.

 “Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them to be like oppression. Formerly they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven….”

Any restrictions on these, due to the ‘liberation’ of the oppressed, will seem as a violation of their rights.

[How often do we hear the rich complaining about anything that even slightly threatens loss of their privileges, such as being required to pay their fair share of tax?]

It is an easy matter to use this to interpret the increasing moves by the National led government, and the power groups behind it, to increase their control over the people, in order to maintain their hegemony and way of life through “a policy of indoctrination of the young” (Noam Chomsky)

Friere contends that oppressors believe that they have the right to live in peace in their world, as the dominant class. This is regardless of the needs of the oppressed, and also “because the existence of the oppressed is necessary to their own existence.”

This is based on a high degree of possessiveness, leading to everything being viewed as objects at their disposal, and of having a materialistic value.

 “Money is the measure of all things and profit the primary goal. For the oppressors, what is worthwhile is to have more – always more – even at the cost of the oppressed having less or nothing.”

 Having more is seen by the oppressors as a right, gained through their own efforts. Friere takes this one step further.

 “If others do not have, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all, is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the ‘generous gestures’ of the dominant class. Precisely because they are ‘ungrateful’ and ‘envious’ the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched.”   


 “..the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate ‘things’.”

[Sounds familiar, don’t you think?]

Pass this through an educational filter, and it leads to the classification of children’s learning as numbers or rankings against standards, in a dehumanising process that is an inevitable result of this world view. No other outcome is possible.

How is this done? Friere address this in the following quote which explains the reduction of ‘education’ to basic literacy and numeracy and the seeming disregard for the humanities.

 “As the oppressor consciousness, in order to dominate, tries to deter the drive to search, the restlessness and the creative power which characterise life, it kills life. More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the repressive order through manipulation and representation.”

 Friere wrote this 40 years ago. One wonders how he would have interpreted the technologies of today’s world.

Having established this, Friere lays the foundation for his pedagogy to enable the oppressed to reclaim their humanity through the fight for;

  “…freedom to create and construct, to wonder and to venture. Such freedom requires that the individual be active and responsible, not a slave or well fed cog in the machine…”

 He commences by reflecting on the use of education as a means of control, which is probably as old as humanity itself. This is best achieved through a formal teacher-student relationship.

Friere labels this ‘banking concept of education’ where teachers deposit knowledge in students’ mental ‘bank accounts.’ The more ‘banking’ a teacher does, the better she is determined to be. Students are graded by their abilities in processing, filing and then retrieving ‘deposits’ on demand.

[National standards and other  related policies e.g. league tables, performance pay]

Friere then develops the case for his alternative ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’.

This pedagogy is the antithesis of the ‘banking concept,’ focussing on developing awareness through inquiry, so that “people become masters of their own thinking” and are “able to achieve critical consciousness” in order to achieve their human potential.

The purpose of Friere’s pedagogy is to raise consciousness and awareness through inquiry learning, investigations and dialogue to enable the oppressed to claim/reclaim their humanity as individuals and to break free of the constrictions imposed by the oppressors.

[The open ended vision of the New Zealand Curriculum “Young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, life long learners” targets a similar fostering of human potential, enabled by the values, key competencies and inclusion of all curriculum areas. This sits in stark comparison to the narrowing down of the curriculum that has resulted as standards were deemed to take precedence.]

The overall intention of the oppressors, as described by Friere, is to control the consciousness of the oppressed, to ensure that they accept the world as it is, to prevent them becoming aware of an alternative reality and therefore to minimise challenges to the dominance of the oppressors.

This is the underlying purpose of the ‘banking’ model of education, which accompanies the standardisation of education in so many countries. A reason for disregarding of all the research to the contrary now becomes very clear, as this evidence challenges the very purpose and power base of the oppressors.

Interpreting this very significant book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in the New Zealand context, along with the other agendas that also accompany the standards based ideologies, leads to the only possible conclusion about the whole standards/testing movement.

As has been written and said many times, standards (and all that are associated with these) are for political and financial purposes and have nothing to do with education. As Friere wrote, “To glorify democracy and silence the people is a farce.



  1. Excellent, I could not agree more. It just saddens me that, even within my own circle, most cannot see these things.

  2. Well said Allan. After my many years in education I couldn’t agree more with you. The current policies are certainly all about ideology rather than learning yet the opportunities for kids could be and should be unlimited.

  3. While this excellent article highlights the influence of formal education on the relationship between oppressor and oppressed, education (or lack of it) continues after leaving school.

    I mention this because a phrase that was commonly heard in the late 1980s and early 1990s was “the dumbing down of society”. No one says this any more because the dumbing down process is complete, and there is nothing to guage the dumbing down process by anymore. Three of the primary means of this dumbing down process were the commercialisation of television, creating a competitive tertiary education model, and gutting of the public service.The present government can only do what is doing now because for almost 30 years the soil of ignorance was prepared for it to grow its ugly crop by both Labour and National.

    • Actually the dumbing down is alive and well when it comes to NZ History and the impact of colonisation which is now portrayed as a ‘bad thing’ and ‘look what happened to Maori living an ideal life with goodwill towards all’ rather than the truth.

      Their lives jumped centuries when Europeans arrived, some changes negative but mostly they improved life for Maori untold. We don’t hear any acknowledge of how colonisation raised living standards and saved lives. Instead part-Maori are demanding sovereignty and Government is listening.
      Kids come home from school singing Maori songs, learning poi and haka but where’s the European culture mentioned along with this?

      Even Maori legends are taught as truth and now science has to consult w part Maori and incorporate their thinking.
      Like Maori refused to let a small investigative submarine (bought to NZ from Germany at great expense by scientists) into Lake Taupo to ascertain if the volcano under the Lake (which is still active) is likely to be a threat some time in the future.
      But hang on, there just might be some Maori bones in the lake so Maori refused permission for the investigation.

      Maybe bones!!!? Maybe not too.
      Maybe they could be bones from neighbours they feasted on too!!!

      Are our kids, us, meant to go along with this ‘backward thinking’ because we are being ‘taught’ that Maori understand the environment better than non – part – Maori can???

      Check out for more examples of irrational revisionist thinking.

      • “…Their lives jumped centuries when Europeans arrived, some changes negative but mostly they improved life for Maori untold. We don’t hear any acknowledge of how colonisation raised living standards and saved lives…”

        Any citation for that???

        Maaori life expectancy was higher pre-colonisation and the Maaori population itself was decimated by diseases the colonisers brought with them. By 1896, the population of Tangata Whenua had dropped more than 50% to appx 42,000.

        • Yes, I have just been reading an excellent New Zealand book called Searching for Paradise about the writers and artists who came to the Pacific. I had not realised just how difficult life became for all Pacific Islands. Tahiti went from a population of 150,000 around the time of Cook’s visit to just 7100 by the late 19th century.

          • Believe it or not Fambo but the humble spud improved life for Maori untold – some say this impacted on the incidence of inter-tribal warfare as the potato gave more nutritional value and was markedly easier to grow than Maori potatoes and warriors had more time on their hands.

            I think the introduction of pigs, possibly by Cook, also changed diet.

            But yes, it was ‘tough’ then . . .

        • The reference you cite contains information from Claudia Orange and thus is revisionist.

          She to this day fails to acknowledge the true treaty with its correct translation (Te Tiriti O Waitangi is matched nearly word for word by the Littlewood Treaty) made worse by the true treaty draft being reluctantly displayed at Te Papa with the date and other important information deliberately folded underneath and obscured from public view under her watch.

          Yes I do have research facts to back up my sayings (When two Cultures meet and The Corruption of NZ Democracy by J. Robinson.)
          The revisionist text creates an impression that a healthy Maori population was brought down by European contact which is simply not true.
          There is no evidence that disease was the main cause of the Maori population decline albeit it would have contributed.
          The evidence is overwhelming for tens of thousands dead in warfare and associated disruption.
          From 1800-1840 Maori population dropped 40% primarily due to war, and a further 20% by 1858 (census figure) due to demographic trends caused by the earlier wars (existing lack of young and women plus low birth rates and survival rates.)

          Maori population was marginal before Europeans arrived with poor diet, low fertility, female infanticide and shortage of breeding women. The introduction of new weapons and food led to an explosion of intertribal warfare with a killing of around a third of the population.

          Our kids are being taught revisionist history which the Maori party had input into and are being dumbed down into thinking Maori good, Europeans bad.

          This certainly wasn’t the case as many Maori say; this teaching is to make ‘us’ feel guilty and thus give sovereignty to Maori.
          I would like to say more but space precludes that.

          • “I would like to say more but space precludes that”

            Never mind. You could always head to the Conservative Party Conference next month; the author you’ve referenced will be speaking there – alongside Garth McVicar and Bob McCroskie – bonus!

            • Nah, I think there is only one issue worth voting for as otherwise we won’t hv a democracy and race will be the only thing that matters. 1law4all party is the only way to go.

              Conservative Party have 5 priorities and Treatygate is #5 not #1 plus don’t hear much from them about Maori Sovereignty being forced on us even though they been around a term now….

              Note that no-one has come up with examples of how Maori hv benefitted NZ. Instead there’s a gravy train that hasn’t been derailed despite ridiculous claims as you well know.

    • Nope, I didn’t watch as I don’t glorify our democracy at all, I am well aware it’s not impartial and we can’t trust our politicians across board – you only hv to read Ian Wishart’s books to find examples plus common-sense following news.

      My complaint is race-based policies and the tribal land grab and sovereignty being handed to part-Maori without any legitimate reason.

      And we are complaining about the GCSB bill whilst losing democracy & sovereignty to self-serving corporate Maori activists. It’s criminal and deceitful of Keys, Finlayson, Sharples, TOW Tribunal and their ilk.

      Look at the 50% share of Sealord’s that was heralded as opportunity for unemployed Maori to gain worthwhile employment. Instead we have a handful of corporate Iwi bitching because they can’t employ foreign fishers at low wages!!!

      No jobs for Kiwis and our ‘democratic’ government gave them special consideration and Iwi can continue with their shoddy employment practice until 2020.
      This is a good example as to present day part-Maori having pre-colonisation thinking where so long as those at the top have power and resources who cares about the ‘little people’.

      You give me some real examples of anything Maori that benefitted the colonists – according to many they offered so much to ‘us’. Let’s have examples please.

      • This … erm … discussion just goes to show that there is little to choose between a ‘Conservative’ mind set and a … let’s call it ‘Socialist’, faute de mieux. I don’t mean what they believe – the one believes colonialism was on the whole beneficial to Maori; the other taking the view that colonialism was for the most part (if not altogether) pernicious – but more in the way they receive a different or dissenting view.

        It is my belief that colonialism had the capacity to have brought great benefits to Maori, and the Tangata Whenua were at the time acutely and gratefully aware of this. The impression I get was that Maori rather took to European ways in many things.

        But the reality and events fell far short of the promise. They had to reckon with a devastating bad faith by an incoming people who failed to appreciate they owed something to the Tangata Whenua as well. It wasn’t war or disease that really devastated Maori – though they were bad enough. It was the wholesale theft of Maori land under the guise of legal form.

        Overwhelmed by the scale of immigration (I doubt Maori could possibly have foreseen this before 1840, by which time it was already too late), Maori found themselves, in their own world, having to adapt because that world was being changed. And Maori was being short-changed into the bargain.

        Their methods of attempted adaptation were, I think, not always happily chosen – how could they be for a people that had no similar past experience to draw upon? The issue remains unresolved to this day, complicated by other forms of ‘colonisation’, from Polynesia and Asia, as well as continued immigration from Europe.

        My point is that even on a matter of New Zealand’s history for the last 200 or so years, there will be disparate ways of looking at it, different interpretations, several points of view. We ought to be able to question any and every point of view, even across races, if we are mature enough (a doubtful proposition I accept), without prejudice.

        Where the government policy on education fails (and I’ll believe Labour’s is significantly different from National’s when I see it – in action), is in its failure to ensure the emergence of future generations of good citizens. A good citizen is not compliant and submissive to government will, but is informed and, when necessary, active in the good of the Common Weal.

        These days, governments and their mates regard the Common Weal as theirs to take, rob, loot.

  4. George Orwell was right, our brightest and best have all gone overseas to find work and now govt wants to amalgamate schools, dumb down the population even more and control the ignorant masses with the neoliberal ideology of Leo Strauss and Homiletics and facilitated by the GCSB supervised by the NSA.

    But as I write, even complacency is addictive and as long as people have bread to eat, they will walk to the milking shed as passively as any well managed dairy herd.

    So for those of us who are are awake, we must ask is change possible and how noting that revolution makes matters worse as we see in Nth Africa today?

  5. David: “So for those of us who are are awake, we must ask is change possible”.

    Yes it is because “complacency is addictive and as long as people have bread to eat, they will walk to the milking shed as passively as any well managed dairy herd.”

    We will vote for what we perceive is the path of least resistance, or indeed the better ROI. Offer people something “better” and they will walk to the polling booth and vote for that something “better”.

    Or at least that is what I believe.

  6. Did you know that snapper are carnivores. Small snapper feed mainly on small crustaceans and worms. Larger snapper eat fish and larger, harder-bodied animals such as sea eggs (kina), crabs and shellfish.
    Just thought everybody might be interested, since being a nation more interested in snapper than our personal security.

  7. I am a trained secondary teacher, while teaching I urged my students to become politically active in something they believed in and to fight for a more fair and equal world. I was told, I taught visual arts so politics had no place in my lesson plans. ARE YOU FUCKING kidding me? Hundreds of thousands of Artists use art as a form of activism every single day to bring attention to the human rights violations happening around the world. I was accused of creating political platforms and told I could not indoctrinate my students into a left wing way or thinking. The problem with this statement is, kids in secondary schools are already being indoctrinated into a right wing system that teaches them to conform and question nothing.

    • Right on Chloe, we need to teach our kids to THINK for themselves. An important life skill that many don’t possess.

    • Gosh Chloe, can you believe the voting on my message that we need to teach our kids to think (two negative) – obviously they are people similar to yr boss and support dumbing down the next generations.

      Freeking UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

  8. For further reading may I suggest the Bertolt Brecht story “If Sharks were Men”, which talks about sharks setting up schools to teach the other fishes to swim into the sharks’ mouths. Could that be what Key was thinking about when he was talking about snapper I wonder?

  9. Thanks Road Runner with your insight and your way
    of thinking as I am part Maori and only starting to Blog hopefully you dont
    leave gaping wounds in my Ego. Dumbing of the people can happening from your
    own family members my dad who is a pakeha expects women to stay home and look
    after house and home. Women’s work normal for the social democracy era. Grandparents
    and forefathers were settlers Lots of things where brought here from the early
    1800s England an example settlers and their class system Then of cause that
    leaves my mums side Ok people don’t realise the families displacement over land
    and titles. Remembering it was the government that stipulated how the formation
    of the trust be formed. So making those trusts in to corporations Where is the
    justice in that for all Maoris only the few elite that benefit No trickledown
    effect no doubt old news to you  Its just
    a simple reminder from a half casts lost in both worlds. History repeats itself
    and can dilute the next generation. So implementing the neoliberal reforms from
    the early 80s are just tick the box. I don’t want to give up that right to think.
    The dumbing of the future I guess that as I keep on blogging and reading other
    people insights I will gather many different opinions which opens me to many different
    views. How great is the freedom to think and learn. I have no formal education and left school at 13. So please excuse grammer, stucture idiots

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