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New Hope for Education Sufferers

by Christopher Chantrill
May 01, 2004 at 8:00 pm


SIXTY-FIVE million years ago, who knew that the magnificent dinosaurs would soon be extinct, and that the little furry things in the bushes would inherit the earth.  Today it is the education dinosaurs that plod majestically around on the fruited plain, scarfing up all the food in sight.  But you wonder about those very energetic rodents scurrying around in the bushes.  What are they up to?  Maybe this time it won’t take an asteroid to change the world.

The dinosaurs won a great victory in 2003 when the New York State Court of Appeals decided for plaintiffs in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York, reported by Sol Stern in City Journal.  Apparently lack of funds is at the root of the education problems in the state, and the courts have decided that the state better do something about it.  Across the Atlantic, however, The Economist reports that Sunny Varkey, a wealthy entrepreneur from Dubai, is cranking up his Global Education Management Systems (GEMS) firm to provide low-cost private education in Britain.  He wants his GEMS to have 200 schools operating in Britain within five years.

What, you may ask, does a smooth gulf state operator know about education?  Quite a lot, as it happens.  Varkey’s parents moved from Mumbai to Dubai in 1959 and opened a school to teach English.  A few years later, in 1968, they opened “Our Own English High School” which grew by 1977 to 400 students.  Varkey, newly returned from England with genuine British A-levels found himself working two jobs: driving the school bus in the early morning and then rushing to his 9 to 5 job at the Standard Chartered Bank.  Pretty soon after that he started his own business, the Chicago Maintenance Company.  By 1980 he was part owner of the Dubai Plaza Hotel.

In the mid 1980s, bureaucracy caught up with his parents.  The Dubai government wanted Our Own English High School to operate in a purpose-built facility or close down.  The solution was for Varkey to take over his parents’ school, move it into portables, and build the new facility.  Now he was in the school business.

Today, Our Own English High School (link) is a “GEMS managed school,” part of a worldwide operation that, according to Gulf News, “educates more than 30,000 students in 97 countries supported by a 3,100 strong staff” from 40 countries.

Now Varkey is coming to Washington DC, where “he has acquired a 30 acre site.”

It has to be just a question of time till Democrats demand a blue ribbon commission to figure out why the Department of Education failed to connect the dots on the Vast South-Asian Education Conspiracy. 

Meanwhile the education blob is continuing on its merry way throwing more and more money at education.  New York State Senate Majority Leader Bruno took a break from “testy” negotiations to figure out how to implement the 2003 Court of Appeals decision to announce that it might “be best to let the courts decide how to overhaul education funding in the state.

Oh good.  Let’s repeat the Kansas City schools disaster in New York State, and let a judge and a court master wreck the school system with court mandates and management incompetence.

One of these days America’s mothers are going to get fed up with their ingenious efforts to manipulate a lousy system into giving their kids a decent education.  One of these days school choice is going to break out of the basement and the media will discover they were for it all along.

One of these days, the tabloid media is going to discover teachers and government workers as a good source of material.  You can already see the lie of the land in Britain’s avant-garde Sunday Telegraph, where former government worker Leo McKinstry noted recently that the worst serial killer in the world was a National Health Service doctor, and the worst female serial killer an NHS nurse.  Here in Seattle, of course, we have our own Mary Kay LeTourneau, a public school teacher who achieved notoriety merely by impregnating herself by a teenage student.  And why not?  Did not Jean-Paul Sartre and the Beaver sample the customers as young government lycĂ©e teachers back in Old Europe 65 years ago?  What harm did it do them?

As we blunder along trying to band-aid the system that Horace Mann built 150 years ago to cure the Boston Irish of their Catholicism and their fecklessness, the fact is that it is past time to have a national dialog on education.  Should schools make Good Citizens or sensitive artists and poets?  Should they churn out lefty activists or adventurous entrepreneurs?  Perhaps we could take a giant leap of faith and let parents decide what kind of education is best for their children.  Just kidding!

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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