Conservative political types, like our Nats, have an essentially competitive model of the world. Willfully ignoring the massive generational continuity of wealth and power, they ascribe all success to “hard work” and inherent virtue, which “justifies” their indifference towards (or contempt for) those less fortunate than themselves. Although most of them don’t know the term, their belief system has its roots in social Darwinism, an ideology which at its most virulent has “motivated ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups”.
Competition is not the answer to all questions. Even in evolutionary theory cooperation has a major role. Not even the most basic primate grouping, let alone our current human society, would be possible without the unifying, moderating and civilising force of cooperation.
Blah blah blah, sorry, just background ruminations as I ponder the Nats’ bull-in-a-china-shop need to break systems that work perfectly well by trying to make them competitive. Case in point, the education system, where the Nats would dearly love to turn the cooperative profession of teaching into something competitive and broken.
Competition between schools already causes enough problems. “Tomorrow’s schools”, introduced under the badge of Lange’s Labour government (by the neoliberal ideologues who went on to found the ACT Party), initiated the competitive process. Popular high-decile schools grew fast, while enrollments at less popular low-decile schools fell. Because popular schools could cherry-pick, local students could be excluded. This was the problem that the school zoning system, introduced by the last Labour government in 2000, was designed to fix. But even that system is being perverted by competitive forces:
Principals and the Green Party are calling for a review of the Tomorrow’s Schools model which they say has caused secondary schools to adjust school zones and cherry pick students.
Concern has mounted after a report by a visiting US scholar found most Auckland secondary schools are zone-fixing – intentionally skewing their enrolment zones to improve their decile rating. Principals say zone-fixing is nothing new and competition between schools has grown since the Tomorrow’s Schools model was introduced under David Lange in 1989.
Fulbright scholar and Associate Professor from the University of Illinois Chris Lubienski looked at 49 secondary schools, comparing surrounding areas with the areas actually included within the zones the schools have drawn. Professor Lubienski said that in 36 cases, the enrolment zones did not match the surrounding population. He said he could only infer there was an intention by schools to distort their decile rating, although he said in the qualitative part of the study, principals talked about intentionally drawing up zones to enhance their school’s market position. … “We found in a vast majority of cases that the schools were serving students who were more affluent,” he said. …
Head of the Secondary Principals’ Council Allan Vester said the issue of schools selectively setting their school zones was not new. … “Unfortunately the market type model also encourages behaviours which, while advantageous for an individual school, can actually reduce the quality of the educational experience overall for the community.”
This problem is going to get even worse with the Nats’ introduction of “league tables” (based on nonsense data). Competition is simply the wrong model for education, and it is going to break a system which is working perfectly well, and very cost effectively in this country.