The creeping statist menace

When I saw a headline in the current issue of The Week it looked like they had got an article about Irish Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn. It said, “You are a bad person if you send your children to a private school.”

That is more or less what Ruairi Quinn, with his ideologically-driven Labour Party and the social engineers in his Education Ministry certainly seem to think. Just this month he has unveiled more legislative proposals to cut the ground from under those evil parents who dare to attempt to form their own judgments as to what kind of school might give their children a better chance in life.

Quinn is proposing, among other things, to put a cap in the number of children any school can accept from families of past pupils of that school. In other words, the great statist leveling machine – regardless of whether that leveling might be down as well as up – trumps parental choice, experience, judgment and loyalty to the old school tie.

The quote was not in fact from Quinn. It was from across the Atlantic, but it surely came from the same soviet ideology to which Quinn subscribes where the family, individual preference, and parental responsibility are always sacrificed to the socialist pipe-dream of an egalitarianism totally divorced from human nature.

Jack Jennings on The Huffington Post dew our attention to the Council for American Private Education’s statistics showing us that there are 33,366 private schools in the US – 25% of the total. Because they tend to be much smaller than publicly funded schools, they cater for just one in ten of the school-going population. Nor are they all expensive boarding schools for the elite, the Post told us. The vast majority have a religious affiliation, and the bulk of these are Catholic.

This freedom of choice really annoyed Allison Benedikt on Slate.com. My take on this is simple, she said, “You are a bad person if you send your children to private school.” That parents choose to send their children to these schools because they live in urban areas with bad schools, or because their kids are gifted or have learning issues, or because they want small classes and personal attention and courses in modern film and Mandarin, cut no ice with her at all.  You know who else wants those things? She asked. “Everyone.”

When affluent parents pull their kids out of public schools, her argument went on, those schools lose the clout and resources they deserve. So don’t run away from the schools poor families are forced to depend on. “Send your kids to school with their kids,” and then fight to make things better for everyone.

Poverty is blamed for everything in this world view, ignoring all the other multiple factors which contribute to quality – or the lack of it – in education. In other words, sacrifice your kids to this social ideology which tells us that the state and not the family is the heart and soul of society. The state in all things knows best.

Rod Dreher, on TheAmericanConservative.com, answered her, describing her line as “the educational equivalent of Soviet economics”. Am I supposed to believe I have a moral obligation, he asked, to give my kids a “crappy” education, “when I know something better and higher is available?” For liberals, he continued, all that matters is that “we are united in the state, no matter how stupid, ignorant, and poor it makes us”.

Another commentator pointed out that Benedikt was also mistaken about her basic premise. John Carney on CNBC.com said competition improves education and numerous studies show that when public high schools have to compete with private schools, they raise their game in every way. So parents who send their kids to private schools aren’t doing something wrong – “they are performing a verifiable public good”.

What hope is there that Ireland might escape from the grip of this wretched ideology? Little at present, unfortunately. It appears that Irish social public policy, in health and education particularly, is captive to a clique of unreconstructed ‘sixties and ‘seventies apparatchiks who would have felt perfectly at home in the soviet block 40 years ago.

An Eastern European observer of the Irish scene recently observed that in terms of the onslaught which he has seen the Irish State making on Irish institutions still maintaining a Christian ethos, the Communists in his country 40 years ago were very much in second place. They haven’t gone away, you know.

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