Monday, 18 December 2006

Modern education: Value for money?

We may be spending more on schools, but how about the argument that teachers in general still aren't paid enough? I asked the question the other day, suggesting that without a market for education it's simply impossible to say for sure. Alan Caruba asks and answers the question in the American context, and based on the service performed, and his answer is a very firm "Hell, no!" His charge (and the problems he cites) holds true locally as well:
It is an act of thievery to take money to provide goods or services and then fail to do so. Our nation’s schools have become a great criminal conspiracy, promising to educate our children, but more often producing “graduates” without even the most basic skills, let alone a useful, wider body of knowledge.
If you doubt the truth of that charge, perhaps I can remind readers of the results of the comprehensive 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey, which surveyed adults from 16-65. The survey ranked reading levels from level 1 (very poor) to level 5 (very good); level 3 is regarded as being “functionally literate,” ie., the minimum level required to meet the “complex demands of everyday life and work.” The New Zealand portion of that survey found that for prose (the “ability to understand and use information from text”) a staggering 66.4 percent of Mäori were below this minimum level and an equally tragic 41.6 percent of non-Mäori.

There is no reason to suppose that insuperably different results would be achieved today, yet this 'service' takes children from their homes under the pretence of education, in return for which taxpayers continue to pay, and are forced to pay. How much? Through the nose.
“According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average private school charged $4,689 per student in tuition for the 1999-2000 school years. That same year, the average public school spent $8,032 per pupil.” Somehow, private schools are able to out-perform public schools when it comes to imparting knowledge and skills despite the fact their students have less than half as much funding as public school students...
The figures are commensurate with local prices. Conclusion?
The entire education establishment, frequently advocating the teaching of values at odds with those held by parents, has ruined our nation’s schools and are defrauding taxpayers by failing to truly educate the children placed in their care.
What will it take for it to become politically unacceptable to fail at this level, to take so many young minds and to have them reduced to so much mush, and at such great expense? A great scam is taking place before our eyes, and we're all too blind to see it.

Alas, while such unspeakable disasters are avoidable, they are not unprecedented historically, and a brief historical detour will help to make Caruba's point even plainer. That great humanitarian Victor Hugo wrote in The Man Who Laughed of the 'Comprachicos,' a breed of "strange and hideous nomads" from the 17th century who "made children into sideshow freaks," for which there then was some demand. Hugo described the hideous process:
To succeed in producing a freak one must get hold of him early; a dwarf must be started when he is small... They stunted growth; they mangled features... It was a whole science of inverted orthopaedics. Where nature had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where nature had put harmony, they put deformity.. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not in his mind... During the operation the little patient was unconscious by means of a stupefying magic powder.

In China since time immemorial, they have achieved refinement in a special art and industry: the moulding of living man. One takes a child two or three years old and puts them into a grotesquely shaped porcelain vase, without cover or bottom, so that the head and feet protrude. In the daytime the vase is upright, at night it is laid down so the child can sleep. Thus the child slowly fills the contours of the vase with compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes an irreparable monster. Then the vase is broken and one has a man in the shape of a pot."
Ayn Rand noted that while Hugo wrote this in the nineteenth century, "his exalted mind could not conceive that so unspeakable a form of inhumanity would ever be possible again. The twentieth century proved him wrong."
The production of monsters--helpless, twisted monsters whose normal development has been stunted--goes on all around us [observed Rand], But the modern heirs of the comprachicos are smarter and subtler... They do not hide, they practice their trade in the open; they do not buy children, the children are delivered to them; they do not use sulphur or iron, they achieve their goal without ever laying a finger on their little victims.

The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past, this horrible surgery left traces on a child's face, not in his mind. Today it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases the child is not aware of the mutilation he has suffered. But today's comprachicos do not use narcotic powders; they take a child before he is fully aware of reality and never let him develop that awareness. Where nature had put a normal brain, they put mental retardation. To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain, nothing can be more ingenious.
This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today's educators. They are the comprachicos of the mind.

They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a [modern] school to adjust him to society.
Perhaps this Christmas you might reflect that it is beyond time to effect the political change necessary to turn around what should be a matter of national outrage. Forget all the alleged scandals and conspiracies supposedly buried under froth and spin -- attack the inhumanity like this that is happening right out in the open! And attack it as fiercely as you know how.

LINKS: Robbing parents to pay teachers - Alan Caruba, Capitalism Magazine
Adult Literacy Survey - Ministry of Social Development

RELATED: Education, Politics-NZ, Objectivism


  1. It's enough to make you vote Libertairanz! ;-)

  2. Donna Awatere's reading program has been praised by some educational officials lately as an excellent tool for our kids. Its time to put aside her dishonesty past conducts by the Ministry of Education to examine her reading program to see if it could be licensed to the Ministry for nationwide use.

  3. They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a [modern] school to adjust him to society

    Maybe I am missing the point here but it strikes me that this is exaclty what schools do not do. I want schools to pump out individuals that are adjusted to society. Maybe then we would have less tagging, crime etc..


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