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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 88


Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 88

Contents: * Can CYF be saved? The beleaguered department hit a low this week - can it be saved?

* School closures and 'finger-in-the-air' mathematics The juggernaut of education reform rolls on.

* State-funded religion? The new Ministry of Education-funded mosque in Christchurch raises important questions.

* An invitation to "Moving School Reform Forward" An informal seminar with addresses by Paul Henderson and Norman LaRocque

Can CYF be saved? *** Child Youth and Family (CYF) is the Government's fourth largest department with a full-time staff of 2,149. Of these, 989 are field social workers with 412 in other care functions and 748 in supporting roles. Its current budget is $435.3 million. That works out at approximately $87,000 per child per year. Can we save CYF from becoming an even blacker hole to put money in?

Is CYF really the problem? Certainly it appears to be dysfunctional and part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And what is the problem? We know there is increasing failure in families and we also know child abuse of all kinds is getting worse. CYF's purpose is to "advance the wellbeing of children as members of families, whanau, iwi and family groups." So far, it has been an increasingly obvious failure. It must be - it will not confront an essential and fundamental truth: family form has an enormous bearing on the safety and wellbeing of children. Moreover, marriage is a pre-condition for social survival; not a lifestyle choice.

The problem with CYF is not that it spends too much money, but that its vision, "safe children, strong families, stronger communities", cannot be realised without a natural commitment to the role which marriage plays in Civil Society.

Sure CYF is in need of change. But the greater need in our society is investment in parent training and support. How many more young lives will be wasted before we change track?

School closures and 'finger-in-the-air' mathematics *** With "finger-in-the-air type mathematics", the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has announced that over the next ten years he expects to close 300 schools.

What he has kept very quiet about is that he also wants to gut New Zealand's integrated schools. A double set of terminal blows to the heart of our education system.

A control mindset permeates a Ministry of Education discussion document with the daunting title, An Education with a Special Character: A Public Discussion Paper on the Consolidation of the Private Schools Integration Act 1975 into the Education Act. Submissions on the paper closed last Friday - few schools even knew of its existence.

In brief, the Minister of Education wants to radically revise the Private Schools Integration Act. Arguing that "elements that were originally included in the Act to safeguard the special character of integrated schools from a possibly unsympathetic central bureaucracy seem unnecessary now", the paper proposes that the Minister be given power to reorganise and close integrated schools, something he cannot currently do. With over 300 integrated schools in the country, some 600,000 parents, employees, pupils and interested parties ought to be very worried.

The demise of the Integration Act would be a terrible blow. At its heart it recognises that there is a case for justice in education-that parents who already pay taxes to the state for their children's schooling should not be expected to pay again to send their children to schools of special character.

The Integration Act recognises parental preferences in education. It honours their decisions, and the investment they have made through taxes. In an otherwise heavily regulated sector, this is truly remarkable. If the Private Schools Integration Act 1975 vanishes, many parents will lose the freedoms they enjoy in education as integrated schools are reorganised and/or closed.

For more on school closures, visit www.maxim.org.nz/ri/woodbury.doc to view a response from the Chairperson of the Woodbury School Board of Trustees. Last week Woodbury School featured on Holmes regarding this issue. If you can't read Microsoft Word 97 documents on your Windows computer you can download a free Word document viewer from Microsoft: http://download.microsoft.com/download/word2000/wd97vwr/2000/WIN98/EN-US/wd97vwr32.exe

State-funded religion? *** Speaking at its opening this week, Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett believes critics of the $121,000 state-funded mosque at Hagley Community College in the city should feel 'ashamed'. This is a remarkable comment attempting to silence some very valid concerns.

The state should not be in the business of funding religious worship and practice. All religious groups are free to pursue their beliefs and the state respects that freedom by not interfering. Funding the mosque - which will be used essentially for religious observance - contravenes the statutory 'secular' basis of the Education Act.

There are some disturbing ironies in the situation. Firstly, Tim Barnett has frequently stated his opposition to the validity of religious beliefs, and especially those of monotheistic faiths such as Christianity and Islam. Secondly, the government funding is a recognition (in its own thinking) of the special character of a section of Hagley's student roll.

Why is this going on in a state school? There is currently a legal option open to Muslims or any other religious or non religious group seeking to set up a school with a special character. Integrated schools pioneered by the Catholic Church in 1975 are funded by the state (operations and teacher salaries) but are owned by proprietors rather than the Ministry of Education. But Mr Mallard wants to review integrated schools (see item above). If that means closure, the Ministry of Education might be impaled on its own push for multiculturalism by having to support expressions of 'diversity' in state schools. Perhaps Shinto shrines and Buddhist statues will be next.

No one should feel 'ashamed' for questioning taxpayer funding of the Hagley mosque. It goes against both the spirit and letter of the law. It also exposes important problems concerning the nature and limits of diversity.

For a more detailed article on this issue, visit www.maxim.org.nz/ri/mosque.html

INVITATION

The Maxim Institute and the Education Forum invite you to attend:

Moving School Reform Forward ============================ an informal seminar with addresses by Paul Henderson and Norman LaRocque

Both the Maxim Institute and the Education Forum have recently published reports examining New Zealand's education system. Paul Henderson's Vying for our Children: the ideological struggle for hearts and minds and the Education Forum's A New Deal: Making Education Work for All New Zealanders outline more effective education policies and propose ways in which our education system can be improved.

Calling for a revised curriculum, both publications focus on current dilemmas of New Zealand education policy. What should be the government's role in education? What is the most effective way of lifting our education standards? How can the large performance gap between New Zealand's literate and illiterate children be decreased?

Paul Henderson, researcher with the Maxim Institute, and Norman LaRocque, advisor for the Education Forum, will discuss the ideas put forward in the respective publications at an informal gathering to be held on:

Tuesday, 18 November 2003 at Copthorne Hotel Durham St Corner Durham & Kilmore Street, Christchurch commencing with drinks & nibbles at 5:30pm for a 6:00pm start

RSVP to Denise Gardiner at Maxim Institute by Monday 17 November 2003 Tel. (03) 343 1570 or email: denise.gardiner@maxim.org.nz

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - G.K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936) *** If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything.

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