Friday 14 August 2009

Teaching relevant skills

We send many of our honours students to Treasury and to the Ministry of Social Development, among other places. Boris Hampton reports that ability to withstand blistering abuse from Ministers can be a job requirement.
There is nothing, unfortunately, in the Public Service Manuel that covers what to do when your minister hurls obscenities at you. Officials who have to deal with Gerry Brownlee on a regular basis have been asking for guidance but there’s not much in the way of precedent. That is not to say previous ministers did not curse their officials. Of course they did.

What Muldoon called his energy officials, when they told him their previous advice to spend a billion dollars on a dam was wrong, has gone down into Wellington legend. In fact, the words were blistered into the woodwork in Rutherford House, until it was revamped for Victoria University.

But back then officials were able to handle it. These days the schools are just not turning out people who can deal with that sort of thing.

One hears tales of Ministry of Economic Development officials coming back in tears. Treasury officials sent across have turned it into a competitive game, and try to see who can collect the worst insult. The game spluttered out, not because of the officials, but simply because Gerry’s vocabulary is not all that wide, even the swear words.

The best reply so far seems to be “I don’t agree, Minister.”

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie simply says “tell the officials to get over it” which sounds like advice he has offered before.
If this is the case, and if we're meant to be preparing our students for the real world, the implications for pedagogy are interesting. I will ask my HoD, and co-blogger, if I should work to better prepare my students. Seamus? Ought I unmuzzle?

It sounds like Brownlee ought to watch Deadwood. There's no better training for eloquence in cursing. If cursing has health benefits, then surely improved cursing is even better.


  1. Eric,

    I was unaware that you were muzzled currently!

  2. You missed the best bit about the large sector lobby group and how he revised their submissions by doing a find and replace of "sustainability" with "productivity". Perfect! I'm sure the new productivity commission will love their submissions now..

  3. I also loved that bit. Folks ought to read the whole thing.

  4. I'm free to help train your students, BTW.

    I studied under a master -- a Belfast-born construction manager.

    I'd be happy to pass on the skills I learned. :-)