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Maxim Institute: real issues

Maxim Institute: real issues.

this week: No. Ninety-Seven 12 FEBRUARY 2004


* Thomas or the Fat Controller? - The Prime Minister's speech assumes the will of the government is the will of the people.

* The schooling some don't want you permitted to choose - old prejudices against integrated schools are being revived.

* Marriage benefits women as much as men - the truth is in the statistics.

Thomas or the Fat Controller?

- In spite of a number of obvious and even good things, the Prime Minister's introductory speech on Tuesday was overshadowed by a mantle of ideology. The government is too much like the 'fat controller'. Thomas, the real tank engine of business and trade, runs second. In spite of Ms Clark's claim that families are "our most important social institution", the family remains clearly under attack. The primary thrust for mothers is not that they be given reasonable choice to stay and work at home if they prefer, but that they be overwhelmingly attached to the workforce. Parents - certainly those who benefit from the Paid Parental Leave Scheme - really means mothers.

The assumption implicit in the Prime Minister's speech is that the government runs the country. The will of the government is the will of the people. Education means state education. There is no acknowledgment of falling education standards.

The Prime Minister admits that, "in economic and social development, a one-size-fits-all approach does not get the best results." But that is exactly what this government is doing in education, its policy on women, and as it moves towards making all sexual relationships equivalent in the proposed Civil Union and Omnibus Bills.

There was no awareness in the Prime Minister's speech of a basic social truth: strong families are foundational to economic and social health. But the more government takes over the role of the family, by increasing welfare payments and by determining its shape, the more taxes we must pay. The machinery of government expands at the expense of the productive two-parent family.

The schooling some don't want you permitted to choose

- The Network Review being carried out by the Minister of Education - which is closing or merging hundreds of schools around the country - has had another side effect. It has revived a number of public misconceptions about integrated schools. This week the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists claimed that integrated schools enjoy an unfair advantage; they do not follow the national curriculum, they charge fees and they indoctrinate while state schools are free of dogma. (Incidentally, the Minister of Education wants to bring all integrated schools back under state control).

The truth is very different. Integrated schools do follow the national curriculum. But they also teach additional information according to their special character. Yes, they do charge fees, but that's because the school's owners built the school at their own expense - the tax funds were not drawn on, so integrated schools save the government money. Fees reduce as the loans are paid off, but there will always be maintenance. Parents who send their children to an integrated school are actually paying twice - they are paying for their children to have a quality of education that they believe state schools do not provide, while they still have to contribute taxes to support the state system.

Neither are state schools free of dogma. Paul Henderson, in Vying for our Children, has pointed out convincingly that the state school curriculum is far from neutral. Indeed, it promotes firmly entrenched specific ideas about the nature of knowledge, reality, truth and human nature, all of which profoundly determine what and how our children are taught.

If the government is to give more than lip service to its talk of "diversity", all schools - state, integrated and private - should be financed equally. In a liberal pluralist democracy we must find a way for all citizens to share a common commitment to education. We need to agree to make room for the pursuit of learning in different religious, cultural and pedagogical settings. We must find a way to be fair and equitable so that all parents, particularly the poor, have the opportunity to choose the kind of education they want for their children. To read a summary of Vying for our Children, click on: http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/publication_page/vyingsummary.html

Marriage benefits women as much as men

- Radical feminists view marriage as an oppressive institution that harms women and children. The facts however, belie this view. A recent report from the Heritage Foundation in the USA says that, on average, a mother who gives birth and raises a child outside of marriage is seven times more likely to live in poverty than a mother who raises her children within a stable married family; over 80 percent of long-term child poverty in the US occurs in never-married or broken households; domestic violence is most common in transitory, cohabitational relationships; never-married mothers are more than twice as likely to suffer from domestic violence than mothers who are or have been married.

This is backed by a major piece of Australian research which shows that, far from driving women crazy, marriage protects the mental health of both women and men. Recent analysis was carried out by La Trobe University sociologist David de Vaus of the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing of Adults -- in which personal interviews were conducted with 10,641 Australians. De Vaus says it was clear that married people are the least likely to suffer from any mental disorder; divorced and separated adults are the most prone to mood and anxiety disorders; and never-married adults are the most at risk of drug and alcohol disorders. Differences in mental health between married men and women were of type rather than degree.

Jessie Bernard wrote of women in 1972 that "marriage typically eliminates much of her way of life … and children deliver the coup de grace". De Vaus and mounting research disagrees. It is instead, the single working woman without children who is at considerably greater risk of mood, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Future generations need to be taught about the very real benefits of marriage, and be encouraged to make the best life choices possible.


- For every action, there is an equal and opposite government programme.

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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

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