What’s common to the management of both the problematic Health and Education sectors in New Zealand is of course one big thing: Big Government -- and I do agree with you that it's oxymoronic to use the words 'government' and 'management' in the same sentence, although it's no surprise to see the words 'problem' and government linked, is it.
The big problem is Big Government. We don’t argue every three years about the issues of zoning for local supermarkets, problems with waiting lists at shoe stores, or the dangerous shortage of Burger King restaurants, but you can be damn sure we would be if the bloody government was running them, and the talkback lines would sure be running hot complaining about a shortage of Double Whoppers if they were. We don’t want government running supermarkets, shoe stores or hamburger outlets (unless you still vote Alliance), so why the hell do we let them them run our schools and hospitals? It sure beats the hell out of me.
People say that governments must run the country's health system because they need to ensure that everyone has access to it. But do they? As Canadian Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has just ruled in striking down Quebec's government-not-run health-care monopoly “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.” Sure ain't. Not there, and not here either. Mark Steyn has that story and his own acerbic commentary on the state of socialist healthcare in Canada. "They’ve not yet reached the stage of a ten-month waiting list for the maternity ward," he notes comfortingly but he does cite cases that are awfully close. " But forget the medical arguments and consider the purely political ones," says Steyn,
The justification for “universal access” to health care is that a “decent society” does not let its sick suffer because they can’t afford an operation. But even as universal access decayed into universal lack of access, the utopian left defended it all the more vigorously: the fact that we all received the same non-treatment testified to our virtue, though even this perverse defense was utterly phony: one of the most unattractive features of our ersatz-egalitarianism was that it led to the creation of a humbug nomenklatura who (like Canada’s Prime Minister) use private clinics for their own health even as they continue to proclaim that decrepit incompetent monopoly public health is an eternal “Canadian value” that can never be changed.Sounds awfully familiar to the New Zealand ear, doesn't it.
I haven't even started on the problems with government-run education and the state's factory schools. Fortunately, I can point you to some places that do. Julian Pistorius has been following the Orauta school saga at his blog (as can you if you care about government force being used to close a successful school loved by children and parents), Lisa Snell of the Reason Foundation has a blog called Education Weak keeping an eye on this issue from an American perspective, Mark Lerner has a brief item on an increase in educational “looping”, in which a teacher stays with a group of students for two years, and Stephen Hicks (from whom I got some of these links) has an article on Excellence in Education (which is itself excellent).
One component of freedom is social: Not being subject to authoritarian dictates. We live in a democratic republic, and we take our freedoms seriously. Part of education, then, involves teaching people to be self-governing citizens – individuals who can form sound judgments about complicated matters, who have confidence in their judgments and the initiative to act upon them, and who have the independence of spirit that doesn’t let others push them around.Hard to do that in a school financed, organised and 'managed' by a system that tries to make pushing people around an art form.
And check out too this alternative US school focusing on independence and choice, this about the just-finished 2005 Montessori Congress, Championing the Cause of All Children, and this from the Libertarianz party who wants to give back the government schools to those that use them, and to close down the Ministry. Makes sense to me.