Metiria Turei
“Groupthink”

Yesterday we saw Work and Income boss, Janet Grossman, quit less than a year after being head-hunted from the UK.

This succinctly answers our pending question – how is Minister Bennett’s newly appointed Welfare Board going to work with existing management staff in the Department of Social Development? In this case it has become clear. It is not.

It seems that Janet Grossman was not happy to have Paula Rebstock effectively running Work and Income after all. Rebstock chaired the Welfare Working Group and is now a member of the Board appointed to oversee the reforms.

Paula Bennett’s preference to appoint these Advisory type boards is a persisting trend.

First there was the Welfare Working Group, then the Welfare Reform Board and most recently announced, the Social Science Experts Panel to oversee monitoring, evaluation and research across the social sector based at the Families Commission. This panel takes over functions previously performed by the Centre of Social Research and Evaluation, again at the Ministry of Social Development. We can look for more staff movements as a result of this latest announcement.

I, like others, am alarmed about this trend and how it impacts on the provision of non-biased, free and frank advice to the Minister and the CEO of the Ministry. I am concerned that the members of these panels/boards may be chosen by the Minister because their ideologies are aligned with hers. As such how can they possibly gather free and frank advice from the sector and from New Zealanders on the issue of Welfare?

It reminds me of a condition called “groupthink” – a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

And so… the education debacle over increased class sizes rises to mind. Lack of engagement with the sector, parents and children being sighted, still more questions about how the Minister was advised and who did she consult with

Perhaps no-one. Just the “experts”…handpicked.

21 thoughts on ““Groupthink”

  1. As such how can they possibly gather free and frank advice from the sector and from New Zealanders on the issue of Welfare?

    They can’t but, then, they’re not actually supposed to. They’re supposed to tell the minister what the minister wants to hear.

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  2. You know, the only way to avoid “group think” on some critical level is to get your head outside the bubble of your social scene.

    Go for an isolated walk where you can feel only your own presence, as a psychological state. If you’re a Greeny, for example, then put yourself in a position (mentally) where the Green party and people do not even exist. Only then, I believe, will you see anything without the “group think” factor.

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  3. This is just a recurring theme for National. In education they have hand picked advisory group members who have the same ideology but they had to get them from other countries who rank beneath us educationally. John Hattie has served them well regarding class sizes (I think he is the only NZ educationalist who dismisses class size as a significant factor), but ignored his criticisms of National Standards.

    National ignored their science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman when he voiced concern about cutting funding to early childhhood education and not resourcing science teaching. It seems Treasury are now the experts on education.

    When it comes to the environment, Dr Jan Wright is ignored when she advises not to mine lignite. When scientist, Mike Joy, voiced concern about our rivers and biodiversity he is rubbished, even though it has since been supported by the WWF, Pure Advantage and the OECD Yale report.

    National doesn’t listen to advice about motorways, child poverty, carbon emissions, refugees or asset sales unless it fits their simplistic world view.

    At the Green Conference the other week we had workshops on what a Green Government should look like and operate. One person made the radical suggestion that all legislation should be supported by research and evidence and that none should contravene basic human rights, what a novel idea…

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  4. This methodology – the team of ‘experts’ – that is mentioned above (and is similar in the case of the Kapiti Coast District Council that I discussed on the General thread), is very reminiscent of Marxism, with its obsession with ‘scientific socialism’.

    There’s the same tendency to follow the thinking of ‘experts’, politically approved academics and technocrats coupled with a disdain for the democratic voice of the majority, and the failure to understand the ideological underpinnings of a lot of so-called ‘expert’ opinion’.

    Looks like we’re following the old Marxist states in heading for a great nosedive forward.

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  5. You mean the type of “groupthink” you might find in a Green caucus meeting?

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  6. Sam Buchanan:

    The biggest problem with “experts” is that the wider public don’t clarify the status and meaning and their knowledge.

    A good example is with experts in education. People think we should just leave education to the educational experts because they are experts, and they do not look at what the experts knowledge really represents. They do not see that the experts are only expert at getting kids to respond to government programmes, and in relation to what can be clinically measured, and that there is a universe of ‘other’ non-measurable factors and concerns that make the idea of ‘expertise’ in education fundamentally a bit of joke.

    But alas, instead the public just “believe in” the expert. It’s a dangerous form of ignorance, because it can translate to deep governmental control and regardless of its credibility.

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  7. Teachers use multiple measures to assess children’s understanding and capability because a one off assessment cannot provide a complete picture, it should be the same with experts.

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  8. sprout:

    But how does the expert measure the unmeasurable? They don’t. They are blind to what they cannot see – and blind to what they do not have an agenda to see. And how does an expert assess the difference between a child’s development in school as compared to a child’s development out of school? They can’t. They don’t. The meaning of their expertise is that they are expert only within a tiny little bubble – that is, within a government control-environment. Their knowledge is incredibly narrow and grossly incomplete…for if they want the title “legitimate authority” on child development.

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  9. Andrew

    Your problems with teaching and teachers are well known to all of us now.

    “They do not see that the experts are only expert at getting kids to respond to government programmes, and in relation to what can be clinically measured”

    If you think that this is what causes teachers to get up in the morning, and you really do seem to have a bizarrely negative attitude to the teaching profession, you are simply and comprehensively, wrong.

    Nor are the teachers I know ignorant of the child’s home environment, particularly when that environment is bad and negatively affecting learning.

    Nor are there a lot of “unmeasurables” involved here. Kids learning is one of the areas in which psychology has had a lot of success and in which metrics that do fairly closely predict success later in life, are available.

    Basically what this comes down to is Andrew’s war on the education system and the difficulties presented to the more unusual children in it. Yet unusual children will always have difficulties. In any system.

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  10. bjchip:

    Unlike you I have seen the difference first-hand between institutional learning, and learning “normally”. For some of us the illusion is broken. It happened when I was about 14 years old – I won’t go into detail.

    I watched a nephew learn to read in a few weeks, for example, when left alone to do it without the experts extra help. I knew it would happen, was vindicated, and I am totally “unqualified”. Why couldn’t the experts see what I could see? Why couldn’t they see that they needed to just, like, get the hell out of it?

    Because they are BLIND to non institutional learning because that is NOT what they study. They study rats in their rat cage – not the field.

    Ask your teacher chums what they know about natural non-institutional learning. Ask them how ‘expert’ they really are.

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  11. @AA I knew it would happen…

    bj, you should know better than to argue with an Expert. ;-)

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  12. Andrew, I guess we have to accept that we are all not perfect but “experts” do have value, which is why I would prefer to operated on by a trained and qualified surgeon, have a master builder build my house, have a qualified mechanic fix my car and have a qualified teacher teach my kids. There is no guarantee that any of these experts will do a great job, but a hell of a better chance they will compared to a random person I have dragged of the street.

    I have also had to get legal advice to deal with a rogue plumber, have had a master builder build something that was refused building consent, had a mechanic do substandard work on my car and my kids have had a number of poor Teachers. The art of good governance is deciding who can provide robust and legitimate advice and make sure a range of perspectives are canvassed and then truly listened to. Any final decision should come after hearing the advice and making judgements on its collective value. Your solution to ignore all experts because some aren’t good is flawed and Nationals approach of making a decision then finding an expert to agree is equally flawed.

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  13. Metiria’s posting has been threadjacked; the issues of expert’s competence and teaching is peripheral at best and largely irrelevant to what she wrote. Her gripe is that the board has been appointed specifically to impose an extreme ideology onto our welfare system.

    The minister’s action is actually a blatant effort to further the agenda of the “Plutonomy” which is to funnel the wealth of the general population into the hands of the top 1% and thence to the top 0.1%. A very good and readable account of the Plutonomy and how successive governments in the Anglo-Saxon economies have deliberately connived with them can be found here: Edward Fullbrook, “The Political Economy of Bubbles”, Real-world Economics Review,
    issue no. 59, 12 March 2012, pp. 138-154, http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue59/Fullbrook59.pdf
    .

    The welfare reforms, charter schools, asset sales, earthquake recovery legislation, private prisons are all part of their concealed agenda. And before someone screams conspiracy theorist” let me say that I wish that I was just a conspiracy theorist. Unfortunately there is now too much evidence of the Plutonomy and it’s agenda. Why else has Citi-Group gone to such extraordinary lengths (described in Fullbrook’s article) to conceal the evidence of the Plutonomy’s existence?

    p.s. Sam Buchanan; where do I find this “general thread” that you mention?

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  14. sprout:

    Why don’t you get an expert to teach you how to have sex, too? I mean they ARE the experts, right? F–k what is natural and rooted in 4 billion years of evolution, right? The expert ALWAYS knows best regardless of the function or process.

    See. I can be sarcastic too. The difference is my associations are not completely out of whack. I know when there is a place for experts and when there is not, and in what way.

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  15. An economy based on Mickey Mouse’s dog ?! :-)

    Read that with interest Michaela . I have often observed the vigor with which National pursues the path to hell down which the US and UK have been running headlong. Liked Keen, who explains it all over again, and well.

    If we want them out though, we have to abolish the ability of the banks to create money, because that is the BASIS of their ability to buy and control governments, and the reason why National is so wholly pwned.

    BJ

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  16. I am mindful of the quote.

    “Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.”
    ― Napoleon Bonaparte

    Generally I have a somewhat optimistic view of humanity. I gave NACT the benefit of doubt, by ascribing their sheer lunacy to incompetence.

    However, even politicians cannot be that incompetent.

    Trashing a top class education system, trashing WINZ, trashing ACC. Not to mention trashing NZ as an egalitarian society and causing a recession to deepen with idiot policy like public service layoffs and tax cuts for Hawaii holidays.

    It is malice.

    http://www.alternet.org/rights/155484/ehrenreich%3A_how_corporations_and_local_governments_rob_the_poor_blind

    “wage theft nets employers at least $100 billion a year and possibly twice that. As for the profits extracted by the lending industry, Gary Rivlin, who wrote Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. — How the Working Poor Became Big Business, says the poor pay an effective surcharge of about $30 billion a year for the financial products they consume and more than twice that if you include subprime credit cards, subprime auto loans, and subprime mortgages.”

    http://www.alternet.org/story/153858/5_biggest_lies_about_the_right-wing_corporate-backed_war_on_our_schools/?page=entire
    “They want to dismantle public education altogether and run schools as businesses, judged as “successes” or “failures” based on abstract data taken from high-stakes standardized test scores.”

    “The right are so envious of the poor, they want to take what little the poor have left”.

    Our neo-liberals see how much wealth has been stolen by their couterparts in the USA and they want to repeat the process here.

    They see tax payer dollars going into schools, Social insurance and infrastructure.
    Even though they do not pay taxes themselves, their money is in trusts, untaxed capital gains or offshore shelters, they are trying to find a way of increasing their cut, of taxes WE PAY.

    We forget, at our peril, why neo-liberalism is so popular among the wealth stealers.

    Because it works for them!

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  17. Sprout.
    . Though some master builders members are excellent.
    It is well known that the cowboys join master builders.

    There is no requirement, other than money, to join master builders.

    They actually should have no right to the term master builder because many of them are not.

    If you want a qualified builder best to go to certified builders, Who do require their members to be trade qualified.

    Many builders can offer a better insurance guarantee than master builders can. The willingness of the insurance companies to cover them gives a good indication of reputation. Also get references from previous customers.
    A one man band is often better. You get a real builder closely supervising the work, instead of a bunch of wallies off the street picked up by a big company.

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  18. “Sam Buchanan; where do I find this “general thread” that you mention?”

    General Debate, June 10, previous post to this.

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