Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another apology we'd like to hear

Seeing as it's Sorry Week, here's an apology some honest education department apparatchik might like to deliver.

Today I'd like to honour the New Zealand children who were delivered by government force into our care, and whom we rewarded by abusing their parents' trust and depriving them of the human potential with which they were born.

We reflect on your past mistreatment, and we have to say: we were responsible.

We reflect in particular on those New Zealanders who due to decades of our mismanagement have emerged from our factory schools functionally illiterate and wholly unemployable -- unable either to read or write or count, and who as a consequence now fill our prisons and the wastelands of our welfare facilities.  On behalf of all my colleagues with whom I share the responsibility of putting you  there, to you all we  say sorry.

To the nearly one-million New Zealanders who have emerged blinking into the modern world -- unable to function in it due to the failure of our teaching methods and good for nothing beyond stuffing a ballot box -- we say sorry.

I say to you that the time has now come to turn a new page in history by recognising the wrongs of the past, and by ensuring with the end of our dominion over this country's children that they never, ever happen again.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive governments and curricula and educational regimes that have inflicted a profound emptiness, suffering and loss on you our young New Zealanders.  The public school system stole you away from your parents and turned your minds to mush.  From the very springtime of your youth We took your bright, eager young minds -- we took them, your normal minds, and replaced them with mental retardation.  To all of those whom we made unconscious for life by means of your own brain, we say sorry.

We apologise for teaching you that you do not belong to yourself, but that you are public property; that you must be taught not to amass wealth, but to seek instead your duty.  To you all who were taught that contributing to the wants and demands of the state is superior to learning the virtues of rationality, independence and productivity -- for enlisting you into the great organic vitality of society, whether you like it or not, for the greater good -- we say sorry.

For substituting "group discussions" for delivering knowledge and "class projects for genuine understanding, we say sorry.  For placing group hugs and socialisation over conceptual development and the acquiring of real skills, we say sorry.

For delivering you into the world as adults barely able to function, we really are desperately sorry.

And finally to parents who were forced to delivered up to us your children and your tax dollars and to whom we repaid by returning you burnt-out hulks coddled with therapy -- with dangerously inflated self-esteem and and an "appetite for destruction" -- we say sorry.

As you can see, we have a lot to apologise for.

We the former educational apparatchiks of New Zealand respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered.

For the future of those of you whose minds we have mangled we have no hope, but for the rest of you we take heart in knowing that we are now removing ourselves from the ability to do any more harm; resolving that this new page in the history of this great country can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all New Zealanders still able to function.

A future where our parliament resolves that the children of New Zealand be kept free from our malign influence so that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again .

A future where you can embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where our old approaches have clearly failed.

We are really a very, very sorry lot, and we resolve hereby to never darken your lifetimes again.

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25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. I think compensation is a good idea - I want my money back.

UR wrong about kids leaving school with inflated self-esteen though -although private school kids leave school with inflated SE no matter how dumb they are. Reality soon sorts them out.

Public school kids often leave with their self-esteem at zero, despite the 'no fail' system. It takes some time for teens to recover from this, and keeping their confidence and hope for the future up is a major problem for a lot of parents.

2/14/2008 05:55:00 pm  
Blogger Greg B said...

hear, hear, good post.

2/14/2008 10:47:00 pm  
Blogger KG said...

Couldn't agree more. Having to deal with the products of these teachers at work, I still can't believe how many secondary school "graduates" can't spell or string two coherent sentences together.
It beats me how anybody with a severely limited vocabulary can make sense of the world.

2/14/2008 11:33:00 pm  
Blogger KG said...

I just put up an excerpt (with a link back to here) at Crusader Rabbit and A Western Heart.

2/14/2008 11:46:00 pm  
Blogger Cactus Kate said...

COMPENSATION!! COMPENSATION!!

Oh that's right....the public tit to suck on.

2/15/2008 01:45:00 am  
Blogger libertyscott said...

A good start would be "here are your taxes back, you decide on your kids' education"

2/15/2008 06:04:00 am  
Blogger Elijah Lineberry said...

A splendid post, Peter, and quite right, too!

Fortunately we have private boarding schools in NZ which do turn out a small number of intelligent, independent minded, literate teenagers fortunate enough to have avoided the twin perils of growing up...Parents and the State.

2/15/2008 08:09:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

But it is not just the State that is at fault is it? The fault also lies with parents and other people who think that children cannot control their own lives and must submit to coercion. Be that coercion from school systems or coercion from parental authority.

Many libertarians unfortunately seem to have a blindspot when it comes to children. Coercion of children - no matter who applies it or how it comes about - is just as harmful for them as it is for adults and leads to just as many bad consequences. Do you see that Mr LibertyScott and Mr Lineberry? For in both of you I detect a whiff of authoritarianism in your attitude to children.

Should a libertarian society eventuate, the way that society treats it children will be crucial to the long-term survival of that society.

2/15/2008 11:32:00 am  
Blogger KG said...

"Coercion of children - no matter who applies it or how it comes about - is just as harmful for them as it is for adults..."
"coercion" in what sense?
Of course kids need to be told what to do by adults until they reach that stage in their development where they're competent to make informed decisions.
You're surely not suggesting they be raised without that?

2/15/2008 01:12:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

KG,

Coercion in the sense of being made to do things against their will.

You say that children "need to be told what to do by adults until they reach that stage in their development where they're competent to make informed decisions". I put it to you that there are many things that you as an adult are not competent to do. This does not imply, however, that you should be forcibly subject to education about those things until you are judged competent by some authority. I doubt very much that you would take kindly to being forced. Why do you think children are any different?

Children deserve to be reasoned with. They don't deserve force. Reason requires openness to criticism and that ideas be judged by their content and not by their source. If you are not open to criticism, then errors will go uncovered and that, of course, leads to all kinds of badness. So the fact that a opinion comes from a child does not for that reason make it invalid and if you are not open to a child's opinion then you are not furthering the growth of knowledge in either you or the child. Simply overruling a child's opinion with a "because I told you so" is irrational.

2/16/2008 01:45:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian S

So, when my two year old runs out into traffic I should not grab him and forcibly pull him back? So I should reason with him? And I should keep talking while he attempts it again and the next time as well? You have got to be kidding.

Children have a limited ability to reason and a limited experience of life. A parent bringing up children must see to it that the children are trained in the art of exploiting their attribute of reasoning. In the meantime the parent provides much reasoning in the child's best interests. On occasion the child will not understand the process or the decision. Nor will the child understand the reasoning when it is explained. There are times when the parent must simply act and there are times when the parent will need to force the child to comply. That is part of being a parent.

As children get older they get more experience in life and they get better at reasoning. Until they attain a majority and independence the parent makes many choices on the child's behalf (although these become less and less in number over time). On occasion the context is such that it is not appropriate for the parent to try and reason with the child. There will be many, many situations where it is entirely appropriate for the parent to make a decision and enforce it (even when the child's expressed preferences are in opposition). And contrary to the trendy bullshit of the day, there are indeed times when force is necessary.

Another point to consider. Anyone entering my home must obey my rules. For example, if a visitor enters my bedroom without invitation or permission I will not reason with him but throw him out. My house, my rules apply.

A similar deal goes with the children. It's my property and I set the rules.

LGM

2/16/2008 07:56:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and there is one other thing to consider. A child is not a miniature adult.

LGM

2/16/2008 07:58:00 am  
Blogger KG said...

Brian S, I don't have time right now to point out the fallacies and baseless assumptions in your comment, and in any case LGM says it better than I could.
I just hope you don't have charge of children, is all.
Or should that be "little partners"?

2/16/2008 08:11:00 am  
Blogger KG said...

Nope, i just can't let that idiocy go unchallenged--"I mean coercion in the sense of being made to do things against their will"
The will of young children is NOT the benchmark or guide to what they have to do in order to grow up to become responsible adults, fer chrissakes!
As children I daresay all of us were made to do things which were against our will, but the judgement of the parent must be paramount because it's the parent who has the knowledge and experience to make the call.
Children are very often not amenable to reason.
the fact that there are things that I, as an adult am not competent to do has stuff-all to do with the point I was making about children.
I'm not competent to pilot the bloody space shuttle either--so what?
And by the way--I didn't say anywhere that children "deserve force". If you think that's the definition of coercion then you're seriously lacking in comprehension.
"I doubt very much that you would take kindly to being forced. Why do you think children are any different?"
Err...because they have about 5% of the learning and experience I have?
I think you are one very seriously confused person.

2/16/2008 08:22:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

LGM,

You wrote: "So, when my two year old runs out into traffic I should not grab him and forcibly pull him back? So I should reason with him? And I should keep talking while he attempts it again and the next time as well? You have got to be kidding."

Of course you should pull your child back. What in my position gives you the idea that I think you should let your child stand there and get run over? You know as well as I do that there are situations in libertarian philosophy where it is morally correct to use force (eg, Iraq) and saving your child's life is definitely one of those.

I would suggest that having pulled your child back you should try to find out why your child has a desire to run out in front of traffic. Perhaps that child is fascinated by moving objects. If so, then you could explore that interest with your child and find safe ways to watch moving objects.

You also write that "anyone entering my home must obey the rules" and that "[a] similar deal goes with the children. It's my property and I set the rules". Yes, but that doesn't necessarily make your actions morally correct.

It is within your rights to switch off the TV while your child is watching their favourite TV program, but that doesn't mean it is right to do so.

KG,

Funny you should mention the space shuttle. Last year, my (home-schooled) five year old daughter attended the Kennedy Space Center for a shuttle launch. Unfortunately the launch was scrubbed for technical reasons. Nevertheless she had a great time and learnt a lot about space and rockets. Do you know what an ECO sensor is and why these delayed the launch of STS 122? No? My daughter does. I daresay her knowledge of what goes on in a space shuttle countdown is greater than most adults. She has a desire to learn more about space, wants a telescope, and most definitely wants to attend another a launch attempt.

If my daughter is busily studying space should I allow her only so much time per day on this activity and then force her to study, say, ballet because I think it would be good for her to learn ballet? If she refuses, would you say she is not amenable to reason? Or would you say I am the unreasonable one for trying to employ force in the name of education? Do you think that when a child is given free rein to pursue his interests that he is not equipping himself with all that is necessary for later life?

A child's will is important. All a child lacks is knowledge. But if you use that lack of knowledge as an excuse for coercion then, really, you open the door for you yourself to be coerced by others who claim more learning and experience than you.

2/16/2008 10:47:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

KG,

One other thing I should mention is that your reaction to learning about my parenting philosophy is typical and one that I am well used to. But make no mistake, parenting is something I have thought long and deeply about. My brand of libertarianism is not very well-known in New Zealand, where Objectivism rules the libertarian roost. My brand of libertarianism has much in common with that of Perry de Havilland of Samizdata and with that of David Deutsch and Sarah Fitz-Claridge, who founded Taking Children Seriously. And here is Sarah describing why TCS is the final phase of the enlightenment. Obviously, she also is well used to dealing with people who react as you have done.

2/16/2008 12:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent posts Brian.

Many libertarians unfortunately seem to have a blindspot when it comes to children

Because most of the hard-liners don't have any. I suspect most who post here do not. In fact a lot seem to actively dislike children and young people -- 'brats' 'thugs' and so on.

Not having had kids doesn't preclude anyone having an opinion on how to raise and educate them, but it means those of us who *do* deal with that reality can treat those opinions with the respect they deserve.

2/16/2008 03:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian

I'm not a libertarian although I respect many of the ideals.

The point was that there are situations where a parent is going to force a child to comply with the parent's decision. It is right and proper to so do. The child is not an adult. Nevertheless the parent must act in the best interests of the child. Natuarally enough that excludes assault, abuse, torture and the litany of child trauma that is being visited on so many children in New Zealand over recent times (and not so recent times).

In the wider context what you are discussing is the method of training the child to exploit his or her attribute of reason. My bias is toward home schooling and/or Montessori.

The essay you linked to is interesting. One thing it illuminates is that in the USA the libertarian movement is unprincipled. There are a lot of people saying they are libertarians, going through some of the motions of acting in a libertarian sort of a way (kinda), without understanding the ideas (what they mean, how they are derived, how they are employed). They certainly are not consistent in their behaviour and thinking. They do not consistently apply the ideas. In practice these people are comparmentalised and quite shallow. Scratch the surface and they default to exactly what they were taught- emotionalism, fear, anger, violence, collectivism, IOF. Still, they can talk the talk... and talk and talk. As is well said in NZ, "too much hui and not enough doey."

As far as actions being "morally correct" is concerned, the question is "morally correct acording to whom?" That's always a question that is worth serious consideration.

Moving on, if I want the TV turned off then it gets turned off, not because there is homework to do (there isn't any around here in the conventional meaning of the term), but because it is my TV and it is my preference that the TV is off.

Anyway, it is far preferable to limit young children's exposure to the sewerage outfall in the living room. They do not need to be exposed to gory murders (presented as entertainment), sexual atrocities (presented as entertainment), profanity, bad taste, mindless droning, propaganga, etc. etc. etc. They sure do not need to watch disgraceful Hollywood fare demonising individualism and glorifying collectivist gangsterism. That's when the TV stays off. That's when it's time to do other things- like explore the real world.

As far as a study is concerned, there is a time for each task of the day. As children get older and more independent the decisions about study time (say) is more and more left up to them. They can handle it. What I would say is that there are occasions when as a parent you are going to have to tell your child, "OK time to put away the xxxx books and come look at yyyy". You are the guide. They rely on you.

What I've found is that there is more to life than one subject. Sure, I have particular interests and projects that I'd like to spend more time on. However the nature of life is that this is not possible. There are other activities that take precedence and must be completed first. A child needs to learn and understand this. So you may well need to ask her to close her space exploration books from time to time and come do something else.

A good friend of mind used to say that in order to spend the weekend drag racing, he had to prepare the car. In order to afford the time and spare parts to do that he had to spend the week repairing other people's cars first. Keeping them happy was the priority. He got very, very good at his business. I reckon he'd have prefered to be working on the race car more but that's not how life works. It's a good lesson for kids to understand, besides which it prevents them becoming little one topic fanatics. And shit-oh-dear there is little more frustrating than someone's one-track fixated child. Ugh!

LGM

2/17/2008 07:46:00 am  
Blogger Brian S said...

LGM,

You wrote:

As far as actions being "morally correct" is concerned, the question is "morally correct acording to whom?" That's always a question that is worth serious consideration.

Morally correct according to the best theories we have at our disposal. People may disagree about what is morally correct but there is always a truth to the matter and if you are willing to look for errors in your thinking you will get closer to that truth. So the question is not morally correct "according to whom", the question is morally correct according to what is in fact true.

Moving on, if I want the TV turned off then it gets turned off, not because there is homework to do (there isn't any around here in the conventional meaning of the term), but because it is my TV and it is my preference that the TV is off.

I fear you have missed the point about the distinction between what is legally correct and what is morally correct. To take Sarah's example, in a libertarian society it is within your legal rights to raise your children to be communists. You could paper your child's room with Mao Tse Tung wallpaper and only allow them to read The Little Red Book. But, clearly, this is not the right way to raise a child.

You have a preference to turn off the TV. Your child has a preference to keep watching. Is your solution to this problem simply to employ coercion, overrule the child, and exercise your legal rights? How is that rational? What happens if your ideas about the damage TV is doing to your child are in fact wrong? What if your child actually has the ability to discriminate good from bad all on their own? What happens if the child sees something of value in the TV program even though you don't?

Do you not think it is possible to educate a child in an environment that is completely free from coercion?

I think it is possible, and I also think that the future of liberty absolutely depends on this idea taking root.

------------

Anon,

I really don't understand how people can dislike children. I suspect that whenever you see a child behaving like a brat you are probably seeing the results of parental coercion.

2/17/2008 12:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's a good lesson for kids to understand, besides which it prevents them becoming little one topic fanatics. And shit-oh-dear there is little more frustrating than someone's one-track fixated child"

Not necessarily true. Having a strong concentration in one subject is quite healthy in a child (or any human)of course provided they have an appropriate understanding of other subjects for their age.

2/17/2008 03:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian

You wrote: "Morally correct according to the best theories we have at our disposal."

The question you need to face returns in this form, "best" according to whom? Well worth thinking about.

---

Fear not! I've not missed Sarah's distinction. She faces exactly the same question about moral correctness that you do.

---

The decision about whether it appropriate for the children watch TV or not is mine to make. That's part of being a parent. If it is necessary to enforce the decision, then that is what will happen. And that IS rational. It is certainly not rational to expose children to watching programs where rape (for example) is presented as entertainment or "music" shows where women are castigated as "bitches" and "whores" and "fucks". Do you really reckon it is "moral" to expose your young children to that degeneracy? Hell, I don't watch that muck myself. There are better things to be getting on with. Same goes for the kids.

Seriously, do you reckon that sort of TV content has "value"? You have got to be kidding!

Remember, a child is NOT a miniature adult. There are decisions (less and less over time, as the child gets better at reasoning) that a parent is going to have to make on the child's behalf and enforce them if necessary. That is the nature of life.

LGM

2/17/2008 08:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon

"...provided they have an appropriate understanding of other subjects for their age."

You've conceded the point. Thank you.

LGM

2/17/2008 08:16:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

LGM,

No, it is not the nature of life that people need to be subject to coercion. Yes, it is currently a fact of life that people all over the world, included you and me, are subject to coercion in one guise or another. It doesn't have to be that way. Not for you and me. Not for children.

Let me try to answer your question about "best according to whom?"

When you and your child have a conflicting preference, there is a problem. One solution to the problem is to say "I know best" and force the child to comply with your preference. But that's simply authoritarianism and your use of force will probably result in all sorts of unintended consequences.

A better solution is to work with your child to find a common preference. The TCS website defines a common preference as follows:

A common preference is a solution to a problem, or resolution of a disagreement, that all parties prefer to their prima facie positions, and to all other candidate solutions they can think of. It is the solution that pleases everyone involved in the disagreement.

A common preference is not a compromise. It is a something that both parties genuinely prefer to their original positions.

On the question of TV, do you really think young children like watching rapes and, murders and would not, in fact, be scared watching such programs? Their preference would be to turn the TV off. My daughter is quite discriminating and often turns the TV off all by herself when something she doesn't like comes on. If a TV program contains bad ideas and you child is still watching then you as a parent ought to explain to your child why you think those ideas are bad.

2/17/2008 11:03:00 pm  
Blogger Brian S said...

LGM,

Here is Elliot Temple, a fellow TCS advocate, on the dangers of parental authoritarianism.

The central question here is whether it is possible to educate a child in an environment that is free from coercion (both for the child and the parent). And by educate, I mean educate in the fullest sense. Do you not think it possible, or is it merely that you cannot imagine how to do it?

PC, I would be interested in your opinion on this. I maintain that the future of liberty depends on the idea taking root that it is possible to educate children in a coercion free environment. Do you agree?

BTW, LGM, just so you know, my daughter has many other interests apart from space. As a home-schooling parent, I consider the whole city of London to be her schoolyard. And, boy, what a schoolyard is this fantastic city of London!

2/18/2008 02:39:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Brian, you ask, "PC, I would be interested in your opinion on this. I maintain that the future of liberty depends on the idea taking root that it is possible to educate children in a coercion free environment. Do you agree?"

I will have to give it some thought, but at first sight I'd have to say probably not. It's true that a culture needs to understand liberty to support it politically, but in my view the inculcation reason is worth far more than coercion-free classrooms. I'd be very happy however if you wanted to prepare a guest post arguing the point in more detail?

In the meantime let me make a few observations on what Sarah from TCS might have drawn on from the Montessori philosophy in her own approach. My Montessori partner certainly maintains that it is possible to educate children in a coercion free environment, and this is the goal of every Montessori children's house.

The TCS approach also seems to fit with the Montessori approach to delivering education, which is to "follow the child," not to push them around in convenient one-hour slots.

Incidentally, the Montessori philosophy also maintains that the future of "world peace" lies in educating children that one's values should not be obtained by coercing others. A laudable if perhaps an unrealistic goal, but perhaps along the lines Sarah suggests?

In my view, a child's conceptual education is the primary job of education, which the Montessori system certainly achieves. If the preservation of liberty depends on the inculcation of reason, then the Montessori classroom is uniquely placed to deliver that.

2/18/2008 10:14:00 am  

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