Following a barrage of criticism from within the Liberal Party on their stance to abandon fundamental Liberal principles of freedom of speech, freedom of choice, competition, by voting to support the censorship of media outlets who wish to publish ‘school league tables’, the NSW Coalition has responded to its critics.
The allegedly conservative NSW Leader of the Opposition Mr. O’Farrell had this to say:
“It is not Liberal Party policy to name and shame schools…where’s the sense in comparing schools in (Sydney’s) Berowra, Bankstown and Balgowlah, let alone ones in different parts of the state, with very different socio-economic conditions?”
NSW Shadow Education minister Adrian Piccoli stated “A ranking system that is simplistic and wrong because it does not take into account the challenges that individual schools face” and noted that “Our position is supported almost unanimously by every serious education stakeholder”
Adrian, Adrian, Adrian. Of course your position is supported by teachers unions – school league tables empower parents and lessen their grip on the system! Principles? Of course they’d support it – when people will be able to see who’s under-performing. But you forget one very important stakeholder group – the families themselves. Parents and children – the most important stakeholders of all, yet one who you completely neglect. Rather telling really.
Irrespective of the fact that this policy is an unconscionable attack on freedom of the press and a free and open soceity, it is one that is also categorically bad for children. The only way for our primary and secondary education sector to improve is through a move away from the command and control style system of governance on which it is currently based, and towards a decentralised model based on principles of competition. A model where parents can choose to send their children away from failing schools, to better ones. Schools would be forced to increase their standards or lose students to better performing schools. And the only way you can do this is by empowering parents through giving them information.
Indeed, perhaps the most insulting part of the argument put forward by the NSW Coalition is that, effectively, parents are too stupid to know what is best for their children. That they can’t be trusted to read tables (and – heaven forbid – this might make them want to send their kids to a better school! ) Such an argument is not only arrogant, patronising and insulting, but it is also factually incorrect. Research has consistently shown, however, that where parents from poor backgrounds have been empowered to make choices, the results have been very impressive (for more info see Gannicott, K. Taking Education Seriously: A Reform Program for Australia’s Schools. Centre for Independent Studies. Sydney. 1997. p98) In any case though, if indeed choice and information is denied on the ground that parents do not choose well, then the present educational system condemns itself for failing to make them good chooser, and that “without the interposition of political influence, parents would over the decades have developed judgment in seeking schooling that would best equip their child for adulthood.”
Is it any wonder why no-one takes the NSW Opposition seriously? Why Mr. O’Farrell’s opinion ratings are so dismally low, despite everything that’s going on in NSW? Why anyone with an IQ above single digits on all sides of the political spectrum treats the NSW Opposition as an intellectual vacuum?in
Whilst Labor will most probably lose the next election, this shall be a Labor loss, not a Liberal victory, and I suspect we can expect the third party vote to increase significantly.
In attempting to sidle up to the radical left teachers unions, the NSW Opposition has isolated every parent and child in NSW. By putting pusillanimous petty partisan politics above principle, they have betrayed future generations growing up in NSW. What’s more though, they have seriously, seriously delivered a punch in the guts to their supporters and Liberal Party members. Perhaps Messers O’Farrell and Piccoli are unaware of this sitting in their Macquarie Street Offices, as they spend the days thinking of their time on the Treasury benches, but the Liberal Party membership in NSW – and around Australia – is fuming. They have betrayed their core supporters, and this is a self-inflicted wound they will not easily recover from. Whilst perhaps in the electricity privitisation debate there were political gains to be made in the short term, here there are none. Radical Teachers Unions types will still never vote for us, and we have isolated our support base for nothing. A friend of mine said it best: “It’s taken socialists and the like decades of failure to try and establish a left-wing alternative to labor… It’s taken the libs half a term of O’Farrell.”
This move has been condemned by John Howard, Brenden Nelson, Jane Albrechsten and every Liberal Party blogger on the planet. The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation is is tabling a motion to condemn Mr O’Farrell for voting with the Greens “to hide information from parents about the performance of their children’s schools and instituting totalitarian bans on media reporting”. I am sure it shall pass near or even unanimously.
It’s time for Mr. O’Farrell to ‘fess up, admit he stuffed up, and take a stand for true conservative beliefs.