Monday, 9 October 2017

Cannibals and the Education System

Protecting Our Children From State Schools

The monopolistic state-run education system in New Zealand is a mess.  Monopolies usually deteriorate to gross inefficiency over time, and the state run education monopoly is no exception.  But it is much worse than the ordinary run-of-the-mill monopoly.

Some state run monopolies work because they reflect the essence of the responsibilities of state.  These include the justice system, the courts, the defence forces, and the Parliament.  But education is not one of these.  The statists amongst us insist that education is far too critical and important to the future of our country to be left to anyone but the "experts".  It must be both run and supervised by the state.  The truth is diametrically opposite: it is precisely because education is so critical to our national future that it must be kept out of government hands.

At the present there is a gargantuan battle taking place within the state education system.  On the one side are the education unions and the career educationalists who insist upon maximum diversity within the system--provided the diversity is firmly controlled by the educrats and the unions.  If that were to be the case, educationalist nirvana would break out upon us all.
 In this context "maximum diversity" refers to the breadth of subjects taught and maximum diversity of teaching methods.  On the other side are the economic utilitarians who argue that if pupils cannot graduate from the system with fundamental competence in "reading, writing, and arithmetic" it has failed in its basic responsibility.  Consequently, national standards in these core subjects have assumed top priority and teachers spend a good deal of time providing data and reports to the state to measure what achievements are being reached.

Two things stand out as marking the signal failures of this self-contradictory statist system.  The first is the common belief throughout the system that parents are utterly incompetent to judge and select the appropriate education for their own children.  That paternalistic, condescending position is a necessary corollary of a statist system.  The government must own, operate, and control the education system because no-one and nothing else is competent to do it--as Lenin and Stalin taught us and demonstrated most convincingly.

While the statist education system proceeds on the presumption of parental incompetence and ignorance those presumptions are themselves false and patently ignorant.  Does the government presume that parents are incompetent to feed and clothe their children--and consequently set up a Ministry of Food and a Ministry of Clothing for every citizen in the country?  Of course not.  Why the special pleading, then, for education?   Last time we checked the shops were filled with clothing and food--with no gummint manufacturing and  supply chain in sight.  Ah, comes the rejoinder, education is too complex, too important to leave to the non-governmental sector.  Bollocks.

The second indication of statist educational failure is the way the New Zealand education system is constantly being roiled by changing educational theories and methods.  These changes represent nothing more than straw-clutching.  Fifteen years ago open plan class rooms were all the rage.  With it went euphoric cheerleading over the joy of being at the cutting edge of pedagogy.  It failed dismally.  Now it is back.  Now, pupils (we are told) need to be exposed to all kinds of learning about all kinds of subjects but at their own pace as they follow their own interests.  Result: classroom chaos.  Is is not the case that one definition of insanity is constantly to repeat the same mistakes.

Anthony Esolen is exactly right:
There are only two things wrong with our schools: everything that our children don't learn there and everything they do.  The public schools, with their vast political and bureaucratic machinery, are beyond reform.  This does not mean that persons of good will should not offer themselves up as missionaries of truth and goodness and beauty, to teach there.  We send missionaries to cannibals.  We do not serve the cannibals our boys and girls.  [Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2017),  p.54]

No comments: