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Principal’s Eligibility Shouldn’t Depend On Ideological Litmus Test

At the invitation of the Ministry of Education, the Free Speech Union has issued a submission opposing the proposed Principal Eligibility Criteria. As currently drafted, the criteria stand to impose specific ideology requirements on prospective principals, infringing on the rights of freedom of speech and conscience of those within New Zealand’s educational system, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

“Requirements that applicants “Show a commitment to being anti-racist” is indisputably ideological and subjective. Being anti-racist may be a commendable quality, but it means different things to different people, and it is not appropriate for this viewpoint to be required of principals.

“Principals’ rights to hold or not to hold particular beliefs is protected by s21 of the Human Rights Act 1993. They must not be forced into a particular viewpoint.

“Likewise, the following requirements from the criteria all presuppose a ‘correct view’ of highly disputed subjects: ‘Understanding the impact of colonisation on education in Aotearoa’, ‘Respecting and integrating kaupapa Maori and tikanga Maori’ and ‘being a leader who brings Te Tiriti o Waitangi to life in the school, as the founding document of a bicultural Aotearoa New Zealand’.

“Schools should be places where intellectual diversity is fostered, and all young people can consider a wide range of viewpoints. Enforcing a monopoly of ideological perspectives will make students shallower and less prepared for life after education.

"As part of our mission, the Free Speech Union aims to encourage a culture of tolerance and open debate, essential for intellectual progress and human flourishing. We urge a re-evaluation of the Principal Eligibility Criteria to address the concerns raised in our submission.”

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