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You have the right to remain silent

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(This was a critique I published in my personal blog, to the Right To Free and Compulsory Education act when the act was enacted a few months ago. It’s proper place is in this blog. )

The Right to Education act is being criticized in some quarters as being inadequate. The point of my criticism however is that it is an atrocious attempt by the Indian state to extend it’s iron fist into what should essentially be a private responsibility. The fact that it only mirrors the Socialistic form of public education already prevalent in some western countries does not justify it.

The name of the act – Right to Free and Compulsory Education. Calling a compulsory provision as a right demands an enormous perversion of the language – an art that the Socialists have mastered. I would attempt to show that it is not a compassionate measure and would not deliver the results it promises. It would in fact turn out to be a massive Social engineering experiment by the socialists who would stop at nothing in their missionary zeal to achieve compulsory mind-numbing Soviet style equality in this world and reduce all humanity to mere numbers.

( Before reading this critique please take time to read through the act first. It is available for download here )

First of all there is no such thing as a free lunch. As long as schools,teachers and books do not grow on trees, education cannot be free. But I will come to that later. Even assuming that this huge,bloated,corrupt,inefficient,constantly under deficit government has the resources available to finance this monster, there are a lot of other serious flaws. So though I do not accept the idea that government should have anything to do with providing education, I would try to prove that they are not honest even about that and are only going to destroy an entire generation.
In Chapter III of the act it is stated that all non-enrolled children will be compulsively enrolled in the neighbourhood school ( which the government shall ensure exists ). Now the concept of neighbourhood schooling is a tried and failed concept in the USA. Their socialistic public education system is a perfect example of how government interference can destroy a proud,productive people and reduce them to couch potatoes. Today American kids score low on every indicator of talent. (American higher education system is world class still. And that’s because it still offers choice to students, the universities are autonomous and run mostly on their own funds )Their neighbourhood schools are recognized to be the breeding ground of anti-social elements. The problem with compulsory enrolment in neighbourhood schools is that it removes the parent’s right to choose the school for their kids or not to school them at all ( Again when did these communists care about our rights? ) So even if you know that the neighbourhood school is filled with thugs, even if you fear that the monstrous teachers there would cane your kid to death, you have no choice but to place your child at risk. ( Any person who knows the state of government and aided schools in India would testify that I am not exaggerating. There are millions of horror stories )
So what does the act do to remove these fears? It provides for School Management Committees which some respectable people have hailed as the only good aspect. But I am not so sure. These communities are supposed to be constructed with three-fourth strength being parents and the remaining being teachers, local representatives and some education workers. On surface this sounds a good idea. Indeed it is welcome that parents have a greater say in running the school ( Do not forget that they still do not get to choose the school ). And the act also provides for the transfer of the physical assets of the state schools ( government schools ) to be transferred to these committees. Another welcome step. But I do not for a moment believe that the communists included this provision out of any respect for parents or property. I suspect that this is an experiment they are conducting on communal ownership of property. Now in a free society, people can choose whom to buy from. This is called consumer’s sovereignty. In a communist society, this is replaced by blackmail. If the “people” are not satisfied with a product/service they get, the only recourse they have is to threaten the producer of the good/service. This is the fundamental concept of communism. In place of the right each person had over himself, the communists give each person a right over every other person except himself. So the SMCs here too have been granted arbitrary powers to control the teachers. The SMC is supposed to ensure that the teachers are diligent and disburse salaries to them. Now the act also states that the teachers of state schools will be state cadre. So they will have to be paid bloated, union-hiked government school wages. So SMC actually does not have much say in this matter and will be powerless in the face of the powerful teachers unions. As a further addition the act also stipulates that the teachers should not be transferred once appointed. With all these vastly reduced powers, the SMCs would be owners only in name. The frustrated parents would make SMCs just a community of grievous individuals. So the stage is set for never ending conflicts between teachers and SMCs. Another dream of communists- a society filled with unresolvable conflicts.
The monstrous provisions of this act are yet to come. The act is a huge infringement on the rights of private schools. It stipulates that even unaided schools should allocate 25% reservation for weaker sections ( Another undefined word ). The government promises to reimburse the education subject to a maximum of what it costs per child in government schools. We know the state of government costs. The government schools actually put a negative cost on children by destroying their initiative. So the cost they fix will not be considered sufficient by private schools. How will they treat these kids forced upon them? Again the answer is simple. Define a term equitable education and threaten them to provide it. ( I seriously pity the kids who are going to be forced into schools like CV and SBOA. Even most middle class kids find the culture of these schools too hot to handle. And you are seriously going to take a boy from the slums and force him into the same school as a girl with killer looks wearing the trendy low cut tops? And then you are going to jail him for eve-teasing? Again how sick can you get? )
The act also stipulates that any new school should be approved by the government. There are already provisions requiring this. But now educating your kids in an unrecognized school that provides cheap, good quality education will be considered a crime. If you are not educating your kid the way the government wants you to, you are not educating him at all. And what are the norms for recognition? It states that every school should compulsorily have a playground. Every teacher should have the degree that government deems appropriate. Now there are lots of charitable organizations, NGOs, Christian missionaries and some Hindu charitable trusts that provide education for the most vulnerable sections of the society. Most of these operate out of houses or other temporary shelters. They employ volunteers to teach who do a much better job than our union patronized B-Eds. Many poor parents are willingly sending their kids to these places instead of the frightening government schools. Now this act would not recognize any of these schools. The bureaucratic machine would step in choking all innovation. It would criminialize charity. And parents would be subjected to community service as a punishment for not educating their kids in a government approved school. Again how do these people have the courage to include all these monstrosities in a so-called right?
After setting up all these draconian arrangements, what will they do with our kids. Who decides what to teach? The act states that competent academic authorities will prescribe a curriculum which the schools have adhere to. Who are these gentlemen? What are their political affliations? How will the kids who have been made to believe that they owe their lives to the government and this act, have any spine? How will they exercise the cherished right to free speech our constitution guarantees? The act states that the schools should use mother tongue as instruction medium as far as possible for elementary education. We do not know how they define the word “as far as possible”. But still this is opposed to the cherished dream of most parents- to school their kids in English. This is not because they hate their mother tongues, it is because English is the global language and a path to success. But isn’t English the preserve of these elites. Masses should love their mother tongue right?
The act also stipulates that no child should be held back in any elementary grade. I am not a great fan of exams. But this provision will surely destroy any remaining semblance of quality in education. Why care to learn if you are gonna pass anyway?
All of the criticism above was directed at the compulsory provisions of the act. The free provisions are equally destructive. How is the government going to raise the 1.5 lakh Crores it proposes to spend over the next five years. Tax us more? But we already have a 2% education cess on all goods right? How to fulfil this promise without angering the already choked middle class? Simple. Deficit financing. Just print more money and put the blame for the inflation that results on forward trading.
The very idea that the government has a greater right over children than parents is nauseating. How sick can these communists get? Who are they to compulsively take a child away from his parents? Who decides what is education? If parents decide to teach their children family trade or home school them or send them to a place that does not fall under the “Government approved” definition of school, who are these people to question that decision? Every decent person must mull over the monstrous provisions of this act. This is a vulgar idea taken straight out of the Communist Manifesto which declares that the children belong to the community as a whole. The left intellectuals scream in pain when some rights of the accused were removed in POTA ( I am opposed to POTA too since it places the burden of proof on the accused. But I am questioning the double standards of our intellectuals here ). Here is an act that destroys the liberties of every decent parent in this country. And the intellectuals are celebrating.
If these people were atleast serious about their stated aim of universal education they would have gone for something akin to the school voucher system being successfully tried out in various places. The concept is simple. Just provide the poor parents with cash vouchers. They can enrol the kids in the schools they want by paying with these vouchers. The schools can re-imburse these vouchers by submitting them to the government. The system is not perfect. It still involves government interference. But atleast it actually helps the poor by removing all the bureaucratic bottlenecks. And parents get to choose. If it is so simple why didn’t our benevolent intellectuals choose such a scheme. This is where their real aim becomes clear. Power. Power over our kids. Take them in young is every totalitarian’s dream.
BJP which claims to defend our cultural values has shamelessly supported this huge assault on our family structure. It is time it got some spine. Conservatism is not about destroying mosques or molesting Christian nuns. It is about defending the institutions we value the most like property,family,business and religion. If BJP truly wants to become a middle class party again it should stand up against this communist assault. This isssue together with the rising demand amongst farmers for re-instatement of the right to private property that our liberal constitution originally guaranteed can propel BJP to the centre stage again.  Is BJP up for the challenge? Can it show that right wing politics is the true politics of the masses? Can it give us our own Reagan?

Addition:

Milton Friedman, that tireless crusader for liberty campaigned endless for introduction of some degree of choice into the American public education system. If compulsory neighbourhood schooling could have such harmful effects in a vibrant participative democracy like America, in a corrupt, unaccountable setup like ours, it will turn out to be a frightening Soviet nightmare. Below is a series of videos that the Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose network published to campaign for freedom in education. Let us demand too that our government leave atleast the children alone.

Note:

For informed critiques of the act, visit http://swaraj.nationalinterest.in/2008/10/31/right-to-education-bill-is-flawed/,http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/right-to-education-act-critique.html

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Written by Surya

September 21, 2010 at 3:34 am

The Curse of the Ground – The Zeroth law of Economics

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Reagan exited office right about at the same time my generation came to this earth. And it would not be an exaggeration to say that we are all Reagan’s children. The idea of student politics, ideology, protests, communism, feminism, liberalism and so many other isms is so alien to our generation. Bill Gates is our God. Technology is our religion. Silicon Valley is our holy land. We dream of freedom and wealth, not equality and power. Except a for a few crazy souls like me, no one even cares about politics and economics. In short we are Happy. And that’s because we are Reagan’s children.
If you had not watched the video yet and wonder what I am talking about, please watch it first. After watching, think for a minute about what Reagan is trying to convey via the first anecdote.
Reagan rightly points out that Socialism has no respect for man’s soul. But the anecdote also points out another more fundamental flaw of Socialism – the fact that it arrogantly refuses to recognize the existence of “scarcity”. Now if we all lived in a garden of eden, the socialists might be right in asking why can’t everyone just have everything they might need. Actually that question would be meaningless for when food and clothing and shelter and all other material comforts are as abundant as air, why would anyone even feel the need for them? Do you feel the need to breathe? *. But alas we don’t live in a garden of Eden. Nature is not a sweet mother whose gifts we naughty children are refusing to share. The earth does not yield grains or throw out minerals on its own.  Nature is stingy. The book of genesis in Bible captures this in a profoundly meaningful verse

And unto Adam he said,Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife,and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it :cursed is the ground for thy sake ; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life ; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee ; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field :in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,till thou return unto the ground ; (Genesis 3:17-3:19)

God cursed the earth for Adam’s original sin. Ever since, man has had to toil on earth in order to survive. The garden of Eden was lost to him forever. If we are going to live, then we are going to have to earn the means to live. The idea that any one has a right to food, clothing or shelter just because he was born, makes no more sense than the right to own a yacht that Reagan is talking about. Yachts are scarce? Well my friend, so is food. If that were not true, Robinson Crusoe’s life would not have made for such a gripping read. Why the hell did he have to try so hard, if food grows on trees as the Socialists believe.
Now you are exaggerating. No one is so stupid as to not understand this simple fact, I hear you say. But believe me, refusal to consider this simple fact is behind most of our problems. Why do we have this never ending stream of rights – “Right to Food“, “Right to Education“, “Right to Health”, “Right to Internet” (Yeah you heard it right) ? Do we ever ask “But How?”, when our politicians promise us these? Do we ever ask who pays for it? Or do people believe that there is something called a Free lunch?
If you say that Socialists are not so stupid to fail to recognise scarcity, that leaves us with only one other explanation. They are evil. They want to live off others. They shamelessly lay claim to things that they played no part in creating.  But as Margaret Thatcher pointed out, there is a problem with this – “You eventually run out of other people’s money”. And that brings us to the second anecdote and why we all have a duty to stop the socialists. Like the chicken in that story, there are few people in this society who generate enormous wealth that benefits all of us. ( If it were not for Bill Gates, Computers would have remained locked up in laboratories with no one except some bearded unix gurus understanding them. Were it not for WalMart, shopping would not have become a hobby ). And when some stupid Robin Hood decides to rob these people and “help” the poor, he is essentially hampering the creation of wealth, without being of any use to the society himself. Who knows how many ideas were killed before birth due to India government’s sadistic controls prior to the 90s? Would the great technological revolution of the 80s and 90s have happened even earlier had the Reagan-Thatcher era arrived earlier?
Some economists pretend that taxes have no effect upon productivity. If the guy wants to earn more, let him work more. What is the harm in taxing him higher, he still ends up with more money than he had originally. So he will still work, they say. But men have even more complex needs than that simple chicken. To understand the logic behind why “Atlas” will shrug one day, we need to explore the concept called Opportunity cost. But let us keep that for another day. I leave you now with this thought from Mark Twain

Don’t go about saying that the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Noted in Passing:
* You do feel the need to breathe, when air is in short supply, like under water or high altitudes. Then laws of economics will begin to apply to air too. Researchers living in such extreme conditions are forced to treat air as an economic good and manage their oxygen cylinders economically.

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Written by Surya

September 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm