Education minister Anne Tolley has criticised a University of Waikato professor she says is teaching a biased teacher education course. However, TEU is concerned that the minster’s public attack undermines academic freedom.
Mrs Tolley said students at the university’s faculty of education had been “let down” and were “clearly distressed” by the teaching of Professor Martin Thrupp, who is a critic of her national standards policy currently being implemented in primary schools.
“They deserve to be treated with respect, no matter the personal views of Professor Thrupp,” Mrs Tolley told the Waikato Times.
Primary teachers’ union NZEI appointed Professor Thrupp last month to lead a three-year study into the standards. Mrs Tolley said Professor Thrupp had “long campaigned against” the national standards.
“If he wants to work for NZEI outside the lecture hall then that is his decision, but while he is teaching students he should be working for them,” Mrs Tolley said.
TEU national president Sandra Grey said she is concerned that a minister of education would be taking such a lax view about academic freedom.
“Academic freedom is enshrined in the Education Act; a piece of legislation the minister should be well aware of. To publicly criticise an academic who is engaged in research-based teaching, and who is able to make cogent academic arguments supporting his thesis suggests the minister either does not understand, or does not care about academic freedom.”
“Academics not only have a legal right, they have a legal duty to actively critique, both through research and teaching, the society they live in, and that includes the duty to critique Mrs Tolley’s own policies,” said Dr Grey.