Don’t Let The Sun Set On Night Classes

From Scoop: “It was a neat cover-up on budget night. The government painted education as a winner because overall education funding increased by 2.9 percent from $10.5 billion to $10.8 billion. Not bad in the teeth of a developing recession. However most of the extra spending was for capital development for new schools and what was hidden from view was a wide range of savage cuts in all areas of public education.”

National day of action, Saturday 12 September. Join the rally at 12 noon in Cathedral Square.

I spent the first few years of my high schooling at a prestigious private school, before quitting in disgust and spending the remainder of my teenage years in the public education system. In a world where education is the key to social advancement, I was stunned by the comparison.

Going from one to the other, I discovered that my (private school) education was better than that of my (public school) teachers. I am not exaggerating, and I don’t mean to boast, but when I found it necessary to correct my science teachers, I realised our youth are badly ill-served by a starving public system.

It turns out, if you are willing and able to splurge on the best teachers, resources, support staff, and equipment, you can help students a lot more than if you don’t spend enough money on them.

National, and the Right generally, make a lot of noise about private initiative and the importance of lower taxes and lower public spending. On one level they are mistaken, on another they are deliberately lying, and on yet another they are simply hypocrites. To increase public funds to private education, while cutting the amount of public money going back to the public, is an iconic move.

The contemporary Right, regardless of their professed ideals of rugged individualism, stand for the appropriation of public money for private profit. It is that simple, and the methods range from Public-Private Partnerships, to outsourcing of government services, to manipulation of the public’s fear of Arabs, to night class cuts and private school funding.

The point of capitalism is to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich; that is in fact why they are the poor and the rich. All this talk about individual hard yakka is a lie; it is simply not true that a CEO does 10,000 times as much work as a janitor. Even if one accepts that people should be paid according to how valuable their work is (which I don’t), ignoring the different opportunities afforded by, say, private schooling, involvement in upper-class families and social networks, and the cultural badges of accent, dress, gender and skin colour that allow someone to secure such valuable work… is simply wilful ignorance. Ignorance that serves the valuable purpose of allowing the upper class to persist in the delusion that they deserve such a large slice of the pie that there is no longer enough for everyone else.

It sickens me that anyone can rationalise cutting night classes, and public education funding generally, in order to give more money to the already privileged. Having had access to that privilege myself, I can only say that the entire public education system should be as well-funded. Even the vicious morons that populate New Zealand’s upper class can benefit from such an education; how much better it would be for people who will actually have to work damn hard to get anywhere in life.

Links

Education funding to communities slashed – Scoop
Day of action – Uprising against night class cuts – Scoop
Taxpayers should not be funding Private Education – Scoop
Handouts to private schools appalling – Alliance – Scoop
NZ Tertiary Education Funding – A short history – Scoop
Tertiary Education Funding in New Zealand: Part II – Scoop
Nat’s plans for private school funds deplorable

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2 Comments

Filed under Current Affairs, Government policy

2 responses to “Don’t Let The Sun Set On Night Classes

  1. erin upbeat

    This is an appropriate post for Adult Learners’ Week/He Tangata Mātauranga. http://www.aceaotearoa.org.nz/index/Adult%20Learners%20Week/Details/Latest%20News/
    To give some perspective to these cuts…

    “Adult and community education” (ACE) funds have been cut by $12.8 million, leaving only a measly $3.2 million. This means that a 16-week night class, which used to cost about $80 to attend will now cost up to $240.

    And yet… private schools have been given a huge leg-up of $35million! This is nearly three times the amount of ACE funds cut!

    So, what’s behind the decision? It seems to reflect a menacing idea that some kinds of education are more valuable than others. In this case, that night classes in cooking or art are hobbies and so shouldn’t receive public funding.

    If only traditional ‘skills’ education is valued, we end up with a system that exists purely to produce human resources and serve the economy. Arrgg pretty disturbing. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I’d kind of hoped education was at least a little bit about building community, increasing wellbeing, and giving opportunities for people to step into their potential…

    Even more disturbing is that the cuts don’t just hit hobby classes in art and cooking (bearing in mind that even these have enormous value. Consider a person with a disability who perhaps does not have a job or qualification. The classes give a chance to learn alongside other adults and be part of the community, to develop useful skills for living independently, to build confidence and beat depression)

    “Adult and community education” also includes sign language classes for family, friends and colleagues of the deaf; and ESOL classes, where refugees and migrants learn English. It’s ironic that budgeting classes, also offered, will become too expensive.

    Will the people most likely to benefit from night classes be able to afford them? I doubt it. The way the cuts exclude those who are already marginalised is shattering.

    Oh, and by the way, it’s not just ACE funding that’s been cut. Funding for literacy and numeracy classes, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10589986, for extra therapists in schools that provide for severely disabled children http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10589986, and for tertiary scholarships http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED0906/S00007.htm has been cut too.

    In a more personal note: tomorrow I’ll attend an IEP (individual education plan) meeting for a boy with severe autism. His ORRS funding has been cut by a huge 7 hours of teacher-aide time a week, but he can’t safely be at school alone. Basically, this means that unless the school digs into their own budget even further (they’re already compensating for this child), or the parents cough some more money out their asses (they’re already ‘topping-up’ the funds by thousands each term to keep their child at school), this boy can’t be in school full-time. These kinds of stories are really common. Just more evidence of how under funded the education sector is.

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