Competition, Choice and Market Forces

When it comes to education, governments bandy the word choice around with evangelical fervour saying, amongst other things, they are opening charter schools for us, the parents.


In New Zealand we have heaps  of choice already: Special Character schools, Steiner Schools, home schooling, private schools, bilingual schools, correspondence school, Te kura kaupapa Maori (Maori language schools), State integrated schools, special schools, Health Units, and teen parent units, single sex schools, day schools, boarding schools and more.  How much darned choice does anybody need?

No, it’s not about choice.  It’s about selling off education system to private companies and leaving it to the same market forces that lead to the world economic crisis in which we currently languish. seems to me ironic and somewhat ridiculous that any one believes the neo-Liberal  rhetoric that market-forces will produce the best of anything and will raise our schools to new heady heights of brilliance, given that it was those same market forces that lead to a world-wide economic collapse perpetrated in the main by those bastions of competition, profit and guesswork, the banks.

Improvement by privatisation?


As soon as a school is a business first and a place of education second, you risk trouble.  Privatised schools need your children – they need your tax dollars – so they sing their own praises to the heavens and keep a tightly closed door on what goes on within.  Brilliant.  That should lead to great honest reflection and collaborative work aimed at benefiting our kids.

Oh sorry, I mean that should lead to great profits for someone up top.  Slip of the tongue.

As for competition, as soon as schools are pitted against each other they are be tempted to, at best, exaggerate their standing and, at worst, they just plain lie about their achievements.  You only have to look at the raft of self-funded We Are Fabulous ‘research’ charter schools in the USA have spewed out to see that.  Just like the banks did, strangely enough, just before heaps of them went bust.

In New Zealand we have a great education system.   It’s not perfect – no system is.  But charter schools offer nothing at all in the way of improvement for students and everything in the way of profit for the few.

Competition is not everything.  Choice is not everything.   Privatisation is not the answer.

Bank collapse anyone?


  1. Hi there,

    “seems to me ironic and somewhat ridiculous that any one believes the neo-Liberal rhetoric that market-forces will produce the best of anything and will raise our schools to new heady heights of brilliance, given that it was those same market forces that lead to a world-wide economic collapse perpetrated in the main by those bastions of competition, profit and guesswork, the banks.”

    Actually, considering that you know as well as I do that the recent global economic collapse is a direct result of the U.S. federal government’s policies and the actions of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which isn’t a proper bank at all. Private production and consumption (you know, capitalism) is of course the exact opposite of economic collapse, which is why you know fully well that you’re falsely blaming “fat-cats on Wall Street” for your own troubles which are primarily the result of the OPPOSITE of the free market.

    In case you’re still confused or just pretending to be confused, the government has no proper authority to be in the business of education in the first place. Its only legitimate authority is to protect individual rights (such as my right to peaceably discuss educational issues with you).

    Therefore, by definition, the only moral source of education is from private providers.

    Of course, in a free market, there’s a great deal of variety among private providers (in fact the possibilities are literally endless). You can have expensive for-profit schools, charity schools, job prep schools, college prep schools, special ed schools, schools for gifted students, religious schools (ugh, almost an oxymoron), home education, and now even online schooling. The sky is quite literally the limit.

    Please let me make one more note. The only fat-cats are the public school employees who are guaranteed a paycheck regardless of parent and student satisfaction. For example, I’m blissfully childless, as I always intend to stay, and I am paying the salary of teachers for children I didn’t have and didn’t want. Once all schools are completely privatized, this moral dilemma will never happen again.

    In love of liberty,


    1. Would you be willing to acknowledge that education is a public good? That is, we collectively benefit from an educated populace in numerous ways. For instance, through education, we have the workers necessary to be at the employ, and perhaps the employers of, private business. There are countless other collective benefits of an educated population. In America, states with the highest proportion of educated citizens tend to have more wealth and prosperity than those with a less educated populace. Everyone in the state, and perhaps nationwide, enjoys a bit of that prosperity. So, even though you are blissfully childless, you do indeed owe something to education as a public good. For now, that is your taxes because economics also tells us that there is a significant relationship between the quality of a school and the quality of a neighborhood. That’s another benefit you enjoy. Although I am no sage, I might be able to predict the future of a suburban enclave if the community school closes, or due to dramatic underfunding, it declines in quality. Your property values may plummet, for example. And that can lead to all sorts of other problems for you.

      Now, you say government has no proper authority in the business of education. Ah, yes, that’s because education is not a business.


      1. That idiotic line of reasoning means that everything which capitalism has successfully accomplished must be a public good. Creating toothbrushes didn’t happen in a government agency. It happened through the market. But apparently since it benefited lots of people, it’s a public good and ought to be run by the government. So what ISN’T run by the government then, in your way of thinking?


        Using your line of reasoning, the government now has the authority to decide EVERYTHING.

        That’s exactly your agenda. And that’s exactly why you and other freedom-haters should be stopped.

        In love of liberty.


        1. Wow, 267, you really have things twisted around. Before you start calling people ‘idiots’ you need to know a little more of the subject you are discussing (and then I would still advise you against namecalling).
          I am not an Educational historian (I am an Engineer and only a concerned bystander); even so, I feel I know a lot more than you do about this subject, But I am not going to talk pedagogy or what we know about cognitive development of children (which we knew nothing about of when our Education System was developed and we know tons about now). There are volumes written on these subjects that we need not touch. We are talking, here, about public investment in the ‘commons’ – the development of people who feel for and know how to generate more ‘public good’.
          You denigrate the idea that people should be able to look to their government to provide services needed for the public good. Don’t forget, it was the industrialists who lobbied and conspired to get farm communities to send their children to public school rather than home-school them and put them to work in the fields and so contribute to their family’s’ survival. It was the companies — who bought the land for the crops they could raise or the minerals they could dig up — who demanded that public dollars be invested in building schools and financing land-grant colleges. They also gave (and still give) grants to grad students to develop advancements in agricultural methods, chemical processing, and in the various fields of Engineering; these students work for these companies in labs paid for by taxpayers in that state. Would you seek to change how that works also? Education has been pulled this way and that way by powerful industrial lobbies, pedagogical philosophers (like Dewey and Paulo Freier), religious groups, and by many other forces, so maybe you should check a little on whose toes you might be stepping on before you prpose such sweeping changes..
          You are spouting irrelevant nonsense, however, when you compare the production and distribution of “toothbrushes” to ‘Education’ in the 21st century. Do we still have a significant portion of the populace who prefer to make their own ‘toothbrushes’? We are not talking about producing a product for individual consumption, anyway. We are talking about people getting together and managing the process of passing down knowledge of how to live life from one generation to the next. I wonder where you got your education from; I can tell, by the way you write, you do have some education.
          When you say that “the government has no proper authority to be in the business of education” I assume you to mean that the federal government has no authority over state governments in this matter, other than what the states have to agree to in order to get the federal formula grant monies for use in their education budgets. The federal government also gives out discretional grants to the states that carry with them certain contractual-like obligations which, if not met by the states, can be cause for cancellation of grant agreements and retraction of funds. All this federal money only amounts to about 10% of the total cost of education in the country. So, you must be talking about how the states allocate state revenues and that is determined by an interaction of many different state, county and district codes and by the political process in each state (which of course fails many tests of rationality).
          You make another absurd statement when you say: “by definition, the only moral source of education is from private providers”. What is “a moral source of education”? Basically, I guess that you are saying that education is like any other product; thus, it should be available to buy and sell in an unregulated free market. That is patently ridiculous. It also demonstrates a lack of spiritual values and respect for the belief that humans are community-based animals. You demonstrate a belief in Capitalism that is close to that demonstrated by those who follow various religious beliefs, which you show scorn for in your comments.
          Your belief that education, at least at the k-8 level, comes in packages that can and should be bought and sold on the open market, is a bit misguided. Good teachers provide an environment that nurtures and socializes children as well as stimulates their quest for knowledge, teaches them how to access and evaluate sources for that knowledge and how to reason and represent to their peers ways in which that knowledge can be used to solve real-life problems.
          Going through k-8 was where I learned about math and music; art and gardening; history and geography and how to read a newspaper. I also learned how to evaluate as well as learn from my peers. There were good and an occasional ‘bad’ teacher. But, as a student, you learn to get by; after all, making sense about what goes on in a classroom is part of what you are learning about life.
          For every so-called ‘fat cat’ teacher who cares more about his or her salary than the children they teach, there are many more who are dedicated to the point of preparing their own materials, buying needed supplies, and putting in extra hours to teach, test, and grade classes that are 50 to 100% larger than they should be. But this is an intensely interactive world we live in; so, the more people like you spread uninformed and malicious information, the more politicians and government administrators will feel justified in treating teachers like dirt and the more good teachers, with any self-respect, will resign leaving those with less concern who are willing to grovel over the crumbs that the government and the private sector think they can get away with paying; it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Live by the sword – die by the sword. Live by the capitalist god; die without ever learning what life is really about. .
          You want to give up, what the people paid for, to the private sector so they can dummy kids down with excess testing, winnow down the stock of good teachers using children’s test scores (in an invalid procedure for evaluating teachers) and create an atmosphere of fear that is riddled with anxiety. That is not the type of atmosphere that promotes learning.
          The name of the game, for you, then, is ‘buyer beware: get the best for the least. Instead of (or in addition to) the rape of natural resources, we will be seeing the ‘rape’ of technical and scientific newly graduated youth. That is how Capitalist systems survive – by finding an abundance of natural and human resources and convincing consumers that there is a scarcity for things they never needed in the first place. That is why so many left our shores; for cheaper natural and human resources. And that is why they have never cared about population explosion or starvation that ensues.


          1. Wow again, 267. I totally missed that you did a 180 in your original comment. You started out by saying:
            (It seems) somewhat ridiculous that any one believes the neo-Liberal rhetoric that market-forces will produce the best of anything and will raise our schools to new heady heights of brilliance, given that it was those same market forces that lead to a world-wide economic collapse perpetrated in the main by those bastions of competition, profit and guesswork, the banks”
            Then you reverse yourself by saying: “the only moral source of education is from private providers.”


        2. I have to say, a lot of government funding supports valuable research. Take the polio vaccine, for instance. The market did not produce that. Hell, the Internet was a government project. The market, however, gums it up with porn.


Comments are closed.