If you’re wondering why I haven’t blogged for a while, well, it’s because I’m in the thick of getting an exemption. (For my overseas readers – in New Zealand we have to apply to the local office of the Ministry of ‘Education’ for their gracious permission to bring up our own children. It’s pretty much a one-off thing, so they can be pretty grim about it.) My fourth child turned six yesterday, so I’m a criminal from now until we finally get the exemption, which is still far from certain. Oh well, what’s the difference. Everybody’s a criminal in the socialist paradise.
Here’s a choice quote from the nice lady at the Ministry: “As you will be aware the Ministry of Education is focussed on raising student achievement therefore we are continually looking for improvements to meet this goal.” The gall of it! The gall of it, when New Zealand has just fallen about nine places in the OECD ranking for student achievement. They’re quite right to want to raise achievement, of course – they could begin by using a bit more punctuation themselves – but they can’t seem to see past their failed methods and outdated ideas. It’s the same with all state social services: their motto is, “If it’s not working, do more of it.”
And they still insist that they have to do what they do in order to protect your child’s ‘right to an education’. The brazen shamelessness of it, when almost half the adult population is functionally illiterate. What will they say to the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who can’t read well enough to understand the instructions on a packet of aspirin? Has the Ministry protected their ‘right to an education’? Of course not. Nor can they do so, and nor can they protect my children’s.
We need to remember that the only power the state actually has is brute force. That is, they have power over you because they can tie you up or shoot you if you don’t do as they say. Such force is necessary to the legitimate tasks of civil government, such as executing justice and defending the country from foreign aggressors. But it is completely useless for many tasks. You can’t light a fire by brute force; you can’t bring a flower into bloom by brute force; you can’t educate a child by brute force. The government is utterly powerless to ensure education.
They’ve certainly been trying hard lately, with public dissatisfaction growing over the failures of state schools. A couple of years ago they introduced a draconian system of tracking student achievement – normal educators were spared this, thankfully – and not long ago the Prime Minister was vowing to get rid of bad teachers. You have to admire their persistence in beating their heads against a brick wall, I suppose. But no kind or degree of force will ever guarantee education.
Let me close by suggesting that we be fair in our criticism of the state schools. They’re failing because they can’t succeed. It’s really not their fault.