My flatmates know I’m scrolling down my Twitter feed when I start honking and paddling my feet. I have filled it with comedians.
You see, like most people, I love to laugh.
In fact, I went to Ruminator and read the full interview with Jamie Whyte because I so like to laugh. I like to laugh so much that I read the whole thing, guys! I was all like, Omg, that ACT Party guy with the incest, he crazy; I wonder what else he said?!
Now, the Ruminator isn’t what you’d call mainstream media. I mean, it’s a blog – apparently not massively-read yet, but not unknown by any means. So while the author himself was very reasonable, and let the comment pass without too much bemusement, I wasn’t surprised to see that all the screaming and hooting and yelling in the rest of the media – including in the left-wing – has focussed on Jamie Whyte’s largely-unimportant but slightly bizarre comment about incest.
Comment, though. Singular.
There were literally four sentences on the topic: two of them being Whyte’s disinterested response to the question, the other two being the interviewer’s unmoved reaction to it.
The problem with mainstream media, of course, is that they need to sell their
tabloids newspapers, and, well, you know sometimes how people read things without even wanting to? Well, those things are usually the shocking things. If you saw someone in a pair of jeans and a jumper next to someone covered in Kremelta, you’d be like, elbowing your sister in the ribs and hissing, Check out Kremelta guy!!
Be honest. We’re all that audience sometimes. If you go to relax at a bach or cafe and there is a copy of That’s Life and a copy of National Geographic and you’ve only got five minutes, you will grab that lightweight little rag to read Baggy Body Be Gone! or My Ex and His Wife Stole My Disabled Baby! or Ice Addict at 12, Mum at 15! before you pick up the heavy, glossy, educational NatGraph and settle into the couch cushions for some light reading on Trieste: Crossroads of Culture.
This is why the rest of the media focussed on the incest comment (paaaage hits, outrage, interest and giggles), and why that’s what we all know Jamie Whyte for now.
Well, on my search for my own giggles, I read something else very odd that Jamie Whyte said. And it was actually much more alarming than siblings should be allowed to do sex.
“Think of it like this” Jamie, in his stern but ever-so-slightly posh British-tinged voice begins, “when you are poor or unemployed, the Government gives you money, not food… That’s because of the observation that private suppliers do a better job of catering to the needs of consumers than the state.”
[Interviewer:] This doesn’t quite stack up for me, surely food being distributed by the Government would be a bad idea logistically, you have issues of food perishing, for example.
So far, so boring.
But wait. There’s more.
[Interviewer continued.] Education administration is quite different. And besides, food suppliers have one driving force – the profit motive, whereas education is handled by the state because it’s the only party that has an agenda that isn’t the profit motive.
“That’s exactly the problem!” Jamie stops me dead. “Once you remove the profit motive the system becomes captured by the suppliers, they don’t care any longer about what people really want and they are motivated by their own ideas about what people should have. That’s a terrible situation… They’re under no competitive pressure to produce a good product.”
Unlike with his tired opinion on incest, he got suddenly worked up about education not being profit-driven! He evidently really thinks we should have a profit motive for teaching. He thinks the current system is bad because the “suppliers” of education (the Ministry of Education, actually) don’t care about what “people” really want (who? What people? The students? Parents? The good folk of Greymouth?).
He thinks it’s a problem that schools are under no competitive pressure.
Is the man a maniac?
Perhaps he’s worried about left-wing social engineering, that old plague of well-meaning control.
Well, I’m not.
Social engineering is talked about as this terrible thing that we should all avoid. Yet it is the one thing we all fight to control the parameters of. In essence, it is something we all consider vital, urgent and meaningful.
The importance of government-driven social engineering is the reason dry and essentially boring education-related articles are still included in the newspapers among all the hysterical, breathless stories on traffic accidents and mating.
People going on about the NZ education system being “broken” when we are among the top 5 in the world, when the maths and science we teach is so clear and lucid compared to what my generation received? Those people parroting the rhetoric about the low standard of teaching, when these highly-educated and well-trained professionals are working their butts off to provide relevant, exciting learning in an era of unprecedented technology evolving at unprecedented speeds?
Those people complain because they want more say in our social engineering.
All the religious folks who want their Bible studied in our schools; who want kids to learn old-fashioned family values? They are total proponents; they want to do a spot of social engineering, too.
Your stubborn neighbour who wants a return to rote learning and thinks kids should memorise all the dates of all the battles and all the English queens and kings? He wants to play a really crucial part in our social engineering; he wants the stuff he considers important to be what kids learn; he wants to control the direction of our children’s internal monologues and the way they behave.
The rest of us, well, we want Aotearoa’s kids to be hardworking, compassionate, physically active, critical-thinking and problem-solving, healthy-eating, creative, motivated individuals, who hunger for knowledge, and have a can-do attitude, a strong sense of fairness, family, self, and community, a passion for sustainability, and at least some business skills, yeah? (Phew.)
Well, that’s what I want, and that’s what those behind the NZ Curriculum want. The NZ Curriculum is still largely free of input by multinational corporations, uncluttered by competitive interest and moneymaking schemes. Those who have read and understood it realise it is a stunning document, really.
It is absolutely social engineering, and that is absolutely OK.
What the ACT party leader Jamie Whyte wants, instead, is for schools to be profit-driven; to be user-pays; to be run as businesses.
It is terribly depressing that nobody picked up on that line; on that whole alarming paragraph.
Instead, the entirety of New Zealand media, left wing and right, all screamed naughty sex LOL and started giggling.
I think in the face of the danger this man could pose (were he to one day HYPOTHETICALLY head a party that rated more than 0%) we need to do a little innocent social engineering of our own.
So instead of talking about his casual response to a question from a blogger about theoretical (and all but imaginary) rooting siblings, let’s focus on the things he actually thinks, and which are a real threat to our society.
Like six-year-olds in classrooms with sales analysis and business development leading the learning, instead of the decades of extremely high quality evidence-based education our “social engineering” has so far produced.
Like education professionals trying to teach about compassion and community in primary schools run as commercial enterprises, with CEOs, expensive marketing managers, and profit-and-loss reports.
Like school management spending their time and effort on how much money they can squeeze out of parents and communities, sponsors and investors, not in the name of learning experiences but in the name of making a profit for the shareholders – which, you remember, is the cornerstone of a business.
Jamie Whyte thinks that corporations trying to make a buck out of children can provide a better education than that which a democratic government can provide.
Jamie Whyte, the leader of the ACT Party, isn’t a threat because he doesn’t think the government shouldn’t legislate against incest.
He’s far more of a threat because he doesn’t think the government should provide a decent education for its young people.
It’s just lucky for us that, with the ACT Party garnering 0% of the vote, he isn’t really a threat at all.