Rodney Hide on union fear and loathing of charter schools

Rodney Hide writes in the NBR about the fear and loathing of charters schools by doctrinaire unions.

On cue with last week’s column explaining why lefties are a miserable lot, the principal of Bruce McLaren Intermediate, Roy Lilley, hit the papers having a moan.

His gripe? Charter schools. His worry? That they will pinch his pupils with inducements of a free uniform and a policy of no donations. The new charter schools, he says, will have a “huge” and negative impact.

The newspaper reports Mr Lilley’s school having 416 spare places. The 2013 Education Review Office Report confirms the roll at 248. His school’s almost two-thirds empty.

Why isn’t Mr Lilly offering free uniforms? Why isn’t he having a “no donations” policy? Why isn’t he offering what students and parents want, so a charter school is no threat? Why isn’t he offering to rent his spare capacity to the new charter school and achieve synergy?

Why aren’t we laughing at him?

We would if he was the local supermarket whining about a rival opening up down the road. We would be laughing and looking forward to sharper prices, better service and higher quality produce.

Teachers, and their unions aren’t interested in any of that, they are interested in protecting their own hegemony of the system.

But schools are different. Here we have never known choice and competition. Our schools are run like the Soviet economy. The Ministry of Education is our Kremlin.

The Soviets were frightened: who would feed, clothe and house them if not the government? We are the same. We can’t imagine schooling in the absence of government direction and control.

Who would build the schools? Who would feed the teachers? Who would decide what is to be taught? And how?

The first schools were private…exclusive to those who cold pay, mainly the rich…even today the old Greek and Roman concept of pedagogy lives on in modern teaching vernacular with lofty titles attached to some teachers as “pedagogical leader” or other such tosh. Somewhere along the way the state took over and homogenised our education system….then the union moved in…and the problems have been there ever since.

That’s why charter schools are so important. They are the chink in the Berlin Wall. The unions, the educrats and the control freaks know that. They can’t afford one ray of sunshine to peep through. One chink can bring the entire edifice crashing down.

The charter schools must be demonised and ostracised. There are no facts nor reason. It’s just propaganda and more propaganda endlessly repeated to sound true. It’s designed to play to our fears. Charter school proponents emphasise the smallness of the chink. The chink is tiny; the Wall so big.

But it’s a chink. And a chink is all it takes. At stake? The stultifying, mind-numbing, child-crushing edifice that is state education. The state’s dead-hand has stifled innovation, sunk achievement, killed education success and condemned generations to a life barely schooled solely to concentrate power into the hands of the few.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Mr Lilley. He knows no different. One school’s gain has always been another’s loss. There’s no baking a bigger cake, hence the perpetual whine for “more resources.” And the constant opposition to funding schools outside the system.

Simple patch protection is all it is. Bugger the children…oh wait that’s what registered teachers do.

After the Christchurch earthquakes I suggested the government fund students no matter the school they went to. Ministry staff reeled in horror with the most senior declaring, “But Minister, that would mean parents deciding their children’s school.”

That was their king hit. And for my National Party colleagues, it was enough.

The proposal died without consideration.

Yep, the unions, and more squeamish politicians just can’t let parents choose what is best for their children. No, the state must always decide. When you cede decisions about your own life tot he state you become what most of us think is appalling…a slave.

It’s impossible to imagine how successful our education system would now be had it long ago been open to true choice and competition. But compare cars now to 100 years ago, or grocery shopping, or any business for that matter. The progress is astounding. And then look at education. I suspect it’s gone backward since my father’s day.

It’s North Korea versus South Korea. East Berlin compared to West. Our education system is walled in, hermetically sealed. There is no choice, no accountability and no competition.

We are lucky to have a few brave souls chipping a chink. There’s prospect of sunshine.

A very good column from Rodney hide.


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