Below is an article I wrote “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!” in 2008 while I was working in TAFE as the TAFE Teachers Association (Hunter Institute) Peace Officer. Peace Officer? Well, it was a title given so that Management couldn’t hassle me because I was representing the Union. I was aggravating Management with some of my communications questioning the Corporate Culture that was infecting Public Education – especially TAFE.
It’s primary intention was to record the history of the corporatization of TAFE for the younger teachers who would never get to know TAFE as a public education provider. TAFE was the greatest social justice and equity mechanism in the world because it gave hope and education to those who were disadvantaged and poor. Those educated and trained through TAFE could then get jobs that would alleviate their disadvantage. TAFE did not only cater for the needy but it’s Access and Equity programs and policies ensured that the needy were supported.
It was obvious to me that the plan to corporatize TAFE and gradually get rid of Access and Equity programs and policies was created at least in the early 1990’s. It was also obvious to me that the government wanted to privatize Vocational Education and Training (VET). We all knew it. In NSW we saw what happened in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. We would never let that happen in NSW? Well, we did allow it to happen and now we are witnessing TAFE’s destruction.
Knowing that the Senior Executive Service doesn’t strategise by the 6 monthly semester or even annually but at least a decade ahead I tried to organize Save TAFE Festivals and a website which would highlight the corrosive effect that corporatization was having. The website would include every Institutes’ offering with the numbers of vacant teaching positions NOT filled – by Faculty and Campus. It would also show the stupid, mindless restructures that happened over the years which were done to destroy TAFE staff’s morale. For some unknown to me reason TAFE TA didn’t support the idea. They didn’t support the Save TAFE Festivals idea either. I had two Institutes’ teachers showing interest with over 100 staff in both stating they would support the idea. I asked the Union for the email address database of all NSW members which they refused to give me. I asked that they forward the emails to all NSW members which they refused to do.
I was told that some Union Council members were against both the Save TAFE Festivals and exposing / dobbing in website because if they were successful it would show management that there was no need for extra resources because TAFE teachers could do so much just by organizing and donating their time and expertise. What the fuck! But that is what I was told.
I was also told by Council members that my ideas were far too radical and that most Union members only care about their salary and conditions. I couldn’t accept that baby boomers who were about to retire wouldn’t do as much as possible to Save TAFE because they had nothing to lose. They were superannuated and tenured so they couldn’t be sacked and even if they were hassled so what? They only had one to five years of not being liked by management. But no – in their smugness and complacency, in their relaxed and comfortable slumber they let TAFE be destroyed.
I left TAFE in 2010 because I was getting bitter towards my fellow teachers and Union members. We had a great strike turn out for our conditions earlier but to SAVE TAFE – only very few gave a shit. I didn’t want a bitter heart while remaining in TAFE for a few more years. The way it turned out, I need not have worried because all those jobs disappeared! I must admit some schadenfreude when I heard that most of my Managers & some of the teachers who told me I was over the top paranoid about the future of TAFE lost their jobs.
Now we are witnessing the wholesale destruction of TAFE – many of us saw it coming but few wanted to do anything about it.
The current Managers of TAFE should be ashamed of themselves for they are accomplices in the greatest destruction of world best mechanism for social justice and equity.
The following was originally sent as an attachment then I put it up on a cloud as a PDF document. I’m now including it here so that when needed I can send link via Twitter.
Right at the end of the History Repeats article is a post I put up about 6 months before I left TAFE. Since I couldn’t get a website going through the Union I did my little bit on this blog. The egroup & Save TAFE blog no longer exist.
UPDATE >> 29 June, 2018 Read this and weep! EVERYTHING predicted in this post has come to be.
New figures quantify the extent of the TAFE disaster
UPDATE >> 21 November, 2017 Letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald
Vocational Education a mere shadow of its former self.
Sometime in 2008
History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!
Greetings from your Hunter TAFETA Peace Officer.
I morphed into this role a few weeks ago during a TAFETA Branch Meeting at Newcastle Campus and I wasn’t even there! I accepted the nomination and here I am writing to you. I figure that I’m better placed than that poor bloke in Franz Kafka’s story,“Metamorphosis” where he woke up one morning to find he had morphed into a cockroach. At least in this role, I can communicate … and that is what this TAFETA role is about….. I think.
I have lived long enough to have experienced as a teenager the first landing on the moon by a human and a time when a single computer occupied an entire building. Now I live in a time, when other solar systems are being discovered in our galaxy and a silicon chip is in every home and office, if not in your pocket. I have also lived long enough to see Public Service change from serving the public to marketing to customers. In DET, students have become clients and in TAFE, we lost our Principals to get Managers and we are now in the process of losing our principles and teachers for trainers.
The document, TAFE NSW Doing Business in the 21st Century, arrived in my inbox and the thought crossed my mind that it’s important the history of what happened since 1988 to TAFE should be recorded. When we, the Great Demographic Blimp of Baby Boomers, leave TAFE over the next few years, this knowledge will disappear.
History may not repeat itself but I reckon it rhymes.
Rhyming patterns may be discerned in this 20 year history. These in turn may resonate into the future. Younger TAFETA members will tune into echoes and hear the rhymes of crimes, the chimes in the times. They will be prepared to project from these rhymes of history possible “new” beginnings and probable lies.
So instead of looking towards the future I turned around and saw a hazy scene, a kind of otherworldly reminiscence. Like an eagle gliding above, I saw over 50,000 teachers from schools and TAFE colleges converging and congregating at Hyde Park in 1988. I remember having travelled by bus from Wagga, along with many others from across NSW, to protest the fundamental change in direction for public education which was being pushed by the then Greiner Liberal State Government.
Terry Metherill, the Education Minister at the time, decided that it was time for Public Education to walk the path (plank?) of economic and cultural redemption. As a matter of historical record, Nick Greiner was a disciple of Margaret Thatcher’s Gospel of Economic Rationalism, she of the “there is no society” fame. He took it upon himself to transplant the Corporate Business Culture (CBC), structure and processes into the Public Service.
You may ask, “What is wrong with Corporate Culture?” Well, it may be fine if the prime purpose of an organisation is to make money at the expense of everything else. In fact, if a human was a Corporation their psychology would be diagnosed as psychopathic. A book by Joel Bakan called “The Corporation – the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” outlines these features and why the Corporate model is dangerous for a Public Service.
Educational service exists for reasons that transcend making a profit, so if you transplant a culture and model – of being from an entity which exists solely to make money onto education you have created an organisation creaking with tensions and contradictions. These tensions are exacerbated because Corporate goals contradict Teaching goals, no matter how many Mission and Quality Value Statements are made in glossy brochures.
Anyway, Terry Metherill, Nick Greiner’s loyal Education Minister began his major restructure of Education to make it Corporate. He didn’t explain why, he just didit because it was a matter of economic rationalist faith – a user pay doctrine of an irrational ideology.
So how did we arrive where we are now? What did these Economic Rationalists do? Why did we educators, teachers and citizens protest in 1988 and have gone quiet since then?
Well, the first thing Greiner and Metherill did was to create the Senior Executive Service SES. The Corporate Business Model dictated an SES which was separate from the rest of the organisation and placed on 3 – 5 year contracts. They could earn bonuses too if they performed according to the specifications of their contract. So, if they could demonstrate that under their watch they came in under budget they would get a bonus.
No longer were the Heads of Public Service organisations permanent with tenure andthus could advise and run their organisation according to the needs of the public withoutfear or favour but had to perform according to the dictates of their political masters or face the sack. Greiner had politicised the State Public Service which Howard would later do tothe Commonwealth Public Service in a much more sinister way. The best example of this was the break up of Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) to Jobnet Private Providers.
About a year or so later, Greiner set up the Scott Report and then the Predl Report which had to review all of the Access and Equity Services. When Scott and Predl reported that the Access and Equity Services were excellent and needed more funding rather than be dismantled, Greiner and Metherill weren’t too pleased.
The next step was to impose a “Managerial” culture onto the Principals and Teachers. They got rid of all Principals and in their place created Managers. I remember talking with a few of the Principals who had lost their jobs because of the restructure and how they felt about the changes. They felt that Corporate Accounting Procedures were central to their new role rather than pedagogy and educational guidance. They lamented the loss of true educational leadership and the rise of the Corporate Manager within an educational institution.
One feature of this Corporate Managerialism is that no longer is it expected those in management roles in Faculties have to have expertise in the Faculty’s skill base they manage. In fact, they don’t even need to have been teachers. All that is needed are generic management skills where the manager does not have to know anything about the educational content of the faculty, just how to manage budgets and human resources, preferably with an MBA. So, an accountant would be ideal to be a Faculty Director of Access and General Education.
One thing that was pivotal in creating the “Corporate Business Culture” in TAFE was to ensure that there was a separation in working conditions between Principals and Teachers. This meant that the new Managers did not have the same conditions as Teachers which guaranteed that no longer would there be “solidarity” between Principals and Teachers. The first Institute Managers (IM’s) were restructured into these positions from their previous educational leadership positions. They had no choice but to take up what was on offer or lose their jobs.
A friend who was forced into becoming an IM told me that when he complained to the Institute Director (ID) about the situation the ID said, “You’ve got a job, haven’t you? Don’t complain.”
In the 1990’s we witnessed a change from TAFE Regions to Networks. In fact our Institute was separated into three networks Newcastle Urban Network, Hunter Network and Central Coast were part of North Sydney Network. Along with these Networks came new signage, new stationery and new offices. In the Network model it was believed that Network Administration offices had to be separate from the “business” of the campus. This meant that money was spent in creating new office space away from the campuses. A little later another restructure saw the creation of Hunter Institute of Technology. Only a few of the TAFE Institutes were Institutes of Technology, the majority were Institutes of TAFE. This entailed spending money on NEW signage and stationery. The new signage evenwitnessed new logos for each Institute. Then there was another restructure where all Institutes became Institutes of TAFE and with one brand sign TAFE, NSW.
All the while the Marketing areas of these restructured organisations gained in powerand status. To emphasize the new Corporate Hierarchy, palatial offices were created to house the CEO’s, the Institute Directors. Meanwhile, classes and programs were cut and new “Centres of Excellence” were created which rationalised the delivery of programs away from local campus provision to one place within the Institute. So students who attended a Muswellbrook course in Automotive Engineering would now have to travel to Glendale Campus which was the ONLY campus offering the course.
I do not know if there has ever been a cost benefit analysis of all these restructures but I imagine that the cost would be in the order of millions. How many classes could have been run for the cost of these failed restructures? Has anyone reviewed the Senior Executive Service structure to see if it is beneficial to the community?
I don’t know if Teachers Federation has researched and reviewed the restructures involved. Maybe I’m a little naive about this but it seems to me that whenever there has been a review and then a restructure we just go along with the ride. WHY?
Sure salary and conditions are important, but who is responsible for the “culture” of an educational organisation, if not us teachers? The effect is that we now have the Managerial Culture infecting head teacher positions where the main work seems to be compliance and accounting of the budget.
In another decade we may find that TAFE will become TVT Technical and Vocational Training, where Head Teachers will be Program Managers on 3 – 5 year contracts responsible for hiring “trainers” casually or on short term contracts. These Program Managers may also be offered bonuses if they perform according to their contracts. In other words, they will have similar work conditions to the Senior Executive Service but with much less pay and less responsibility.
We may even find that online education will do away with buildings so that TAFE campuses become smaller and in regional areas non existent. Private providers may rent these ghost buildings for bugger all and if students need practical training they can come in for a few days per year. Impossible? Improbable? Let’s see.
Already the powers that be, have decided that TAFE teachers do not need a Diploma of Education, just a Training Certificate will do, since we all have Cert 4’s to satisfy Registered Training Organisation (RTO) status. Do you remember your initial response when told that you have to do the Certificate 4 in Workplace Training? I bet it was something like, “Why? I’ve already got a Dip Ed. I can’t see why I have to get a lower qualification because you say so.” But most of us did it and now we find that TAFE Management doesn’t want your Dip Ed because they want trainers NOT teachers. Don’t forget, trainers are cheaper than teachers and in this competitive market place private providers use trainers, so what chance have teachers got? Why has our Union gone along with this? Beats me! I refuse to do the Certificate 4 – and so should all of us.
TAFE lost its Principals in the 1990’s to get Managers, now it looks like TAFE will lose its Teachers to get Trainers in the 21 st Century.
I remember a few years ago when I was visiting Bethlehem in Palestine, sitting on a bench in Nativity Square. Along came an old man with an Arafat like profile who sat next to me. When he realized that while I was of Middle Eastern appearance, I didn’t speak Arabic but only Greek and English, we began speaking in that half telepathic, half verbal way in English that happens sometimes between people of different backgrounds when they want to communicate.
Anyway, he found out that I was a teacher and he said something which has touched me to the core ever since. He said, “In our culture a Teacher is a Lamp because a Teacher brings the light of knowledge to the darkness of ignorance.” Note, not a trainer but a Teacher. The two roles are completely different and now Management wants to get rid of Teachers in TAFE.
How many restructures have we had since the late eighties? What happens when an organisation is in a constant state of restructuring? One thing that is obvious is that there is an ambience of uncertainty. People worry about their positions and their jobs. As anyone with a modicum of common sense knows, people do not innovate and create when they are scared and insecure. We have had a culture of fear and uncertainty for about 20 years and I don’t think having an Institute Manager position Director of Innovation will create the psychological space for creativity to be born. It appears that we have been surviving in the Realm of the Perpetual Restructure.
While I’m sympathetic to the Buddhist concept that the only constant in the world is Change, I do not feel that these constant restructures are based on a sense of the sacred.
I believe that the Equity Units of TAFE are what makes TAFE uniquely different to any private provider. In many ways the Equity Units are TAFE’s sensitive antennae picking up trends and subtle changes in the scales of social justice. What happens to Equity Units happens to everyone else in DET, sooner or later. Right now all Equity Units are going through another review and there is talk about creating a new Social Inclusion Unit. However, before you younger ones cheer, please understand that 20 years ago the Central Equity Units had more than 60 people and now have about 20. If we go by what has happened in the past, why wouldn’t we believe that the Central Equity Units will become a Social Inclusion Unit with three, if not one member of staff?
Hunter Institute’s Multicultural Education Unit won a Quality Award in 2007 for the work it is doing with African refugees. This is great, good work is being acknowledged but when you consider that the category in which the Quality Award was given, it kind of changes one’s feelings. The Award states: “The African Experience” Business Relationships. Yes, a social justice project that worked closely with the local community did not have a category called “Social Justice” or “Community Relations” to call home. To fulfil the Corporate ethos this spherical, “Whole of Life” project had to be put into a corporate cube.
History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme!
After the consultations for the Doing Business in the 21st Century are over, you can bet, like clockwork, there will be another Restructure, Realignment Re – whatever word they will use for it. Why don’t we have a Review of the “Restructurers”? I sometimes wonder if these Managers who order restructures do it just to be seen to be doing something. It is often easier to dismantle and restructure than to create and build.
Maybe, I’m having an attack of nostalgia for a world that has disappeared and a paranoid fantasy that in TAFE’s place, a 21st Century TVT Corporation is coming. Assuming that there will be another restructure, whatever name or spin they put to it, what will happen? What needs to happen? Can we do anything about it?
I believe that Teachers Federation is like a sleeping giant. I don’t mean to take away any of our great achievements as a Union but I would love to see the sleeping giant wake up and say “enough is enough” with the corporatisation of our educational service. We can do it if we have the will. However, I am inclined to feel that as we older ones leave TAFE, the younger ones who have not known a non corporate TAFE culture, will go along with the changes because that is all they know and recognise.
What if we do wake up collectively, what can we do?
Well, being a Peace, Love and Hope kind of bloke, I believe that if enough of us have a vision and if this vision is rooted in pure intention, that Magic can happen, that serendipity and synchronicity are not just long words but mean something vital, that Leonard Cohen was right when he wrote, “God is alive, Magic is afoot”, that, Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly are right that “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. However, saying this does not preclude organising collectively. We can organise locally by forming affinitygroups / clusters of action.
To do what?
We need to take individual responsibility and to join with other like minded members to develop and create new strategies that arise from locally relevant issues. As a start, every time our Managers tell us to do something we can ask
“WHY?” and keep asking “Why?” and not be satisfied with answers that allude to “because that is the way it is” or “because we have been told to”. Keep onpushing through to the essence of what is being directed by asking the simple question “why?” I have been surprised how far this question has taken me into the realm of the human instead of the wasteland of the corporate.
Here’s some other stuff we can do:
If asked for a student tally, refer the manager to CLAMS; for a budget summary, tell them to see Buddy; for FCPS, say, “Here’s my current provision, for next semester’s, ask me then.” You all know that these “tools” do not help us, they are a burden. Yet we do them. Then the managers ask us for simple info instead of using the tools created for their use! Don’t forget that as we use these “tools” we embed the “managerial” culture into our positions and we acquiesce and then comply in the corporatisation of education.
If you want you can reply with some feedback which I can use to create a threadand send to TAFETA members. You may wish to share your own experiences of “corporatisation” and ways of taking it on. Keep sending your input to the Doing Business in the 21 st Century people, if it’s still open.
This may not sound like much but when you consider how many of us there are I’m certain that our combined imagination and creativity will come up with countless strategies to “decorporatise” our TAFE. Or, we can simply do nothing, roll over and sleep until we are superannuated out. The choice is ours.
For the younger members, at least you now have a story of how TAFE became corporatised before it became TVT Corp and maybe you will be able to recognise that historical rhyme when you hear it and thus be prepared.
All the best
Your Peace Officer
I found a printed copy of an email I sent the then Director General of Education & TAFE, Michael Crouts-Trotter. I couldn’t find the last paragraph but this is the main part o the email. I think it was written around 2006. Anyway, reading it now in 2020 I realise how idealistic I was. So, here it is, a copy of the printed email made by my mobile phone camera.