Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ronald Kitching: Teaching My Kids to Read and Write

I’d like to relate what happened to my three sons when they first went to school. We were at that time living in Mount Isa. We soon discovered that the eldest boy’s reading and writing was not up to standard. Then the second boy’s efforts were likewise, worse if anything, and the third had also started school, and was not doing well at all. It was at that time that the new “look and see” method of teaching kids to read was introduced. Obviously it was not working well, as other people were also complaining. Another problem that exacerbated the matter was that teachers were constantly being changed. My second son, Robert, had seven different teachers in three months. We decided to engage a private teacher to rectify the matter.

I was informed by the state that it was illegal to employ private teachers and that my boys had to attend the state school, or a school approved of by the state. I was informed that the boys all had dyslexia and that was an impediment to learning. In any case, the state insisted on ‘testing’ the boys intellectual capacity.

The eldest boy Peter and I flew to Brisbane and there we spent two days while they tested him. The chief tester informed me very officially “there is nothing wrong with his eyes, his ears or his intelligence, but he has certainly missed out.” “Yes”, I replied, “and he has missed out in your state schools. These days you are not teaching them to read and write properly.”

We had a bit of a ‘go in’ as you may call it and my petty Fuhrer informed me that they were starting a new school in Brisbane for children who had ‘missed out’. “It should be an easy matter for a man like you to board him out close to the school”, she suggested to me.

Naturally I was appalled, as the boy was at that time only approaching 9 years of age.

The lady Edufuhrer then informed me that they wished to test my second boy. So again, Robert and I flew from Mount Isa to Brisbane. I remember that Robert enjoyed this entire episode immensely - like going on a business trip with the old man. Oysters and grilled fish and a tot of vino for dinner at a posh restaurant was right up his alley.

After the two day test the Edufuhrer asked me, “Have you noticed that this boy is particularly intelligent?”. “Yes”, I replied, “we have noticed that he has an extraordinarily good visual memory”. So we chatted about that for a while and then the Edufuhrer noted that again, this boy needed to “come to Brisbane” to attend their new remedial school.

“And when will you be bringing your third son to see us” she demanded. I replied, “I shall not be doing that, as he is like the other two boys, bright and intelligent and it is a huge expense for us to endure these unnecessary trips to Brisbane.

I went on to explain that we would be shortly shifting to Atherton and that there I would find a teacher and engage in a private remedial course at home. Well again the Edufuhrer informed me that that sort of action invited state penalties including jail. I replied that I would have to handle that when the time came, but my wife and I absolutely refused to board out our young children. So the Edufuhrer informed me that it was in my best interests to keep her informed about developments. Of course I ignored that advice.

After buying a home in Atherton we began to look around to purchase a suitable farm where we wished to raise our family. In the meantime the boys attended school at Tolga, virtually a suburb of Atherton. There I got to know a very good teacher who knew how to teach properly. I made her an offer to teach my three boys and she was delighted. We sealed the deal and she advised the Education Department of her resignation at the end of the year, as she proposed to work for me. As a courtesy, I also advised the Edufuhrer that we were starting private tuition at the beginning of the year.

The next episode was when the lady teacher visited me in a very tearful state. She said that the Education Department advised her that if she took this job, privately tutoring the Kitching children, she would never ever be employed by the state again. In short, she was blackmailed. I immediately told her that she was, under the circumstances, under no obligation to me.

At that time, my partner Jack Glindemann and I were operating a gold mine at Wau in New Guinea. I made a visit with a couple of my senior staff and we also flew around and looked at several other possible projects in New Guinea. Curiously, everywhere we went we ran into a few fellows from CRA. Finally we ended up back in Port Moresby and, as I walked out of my room after booking in, again ran slap bang into the Chief of the CRA group. We both laughed uproariously as I accused him of spying on us and he accused me likewise.

So we all adjourned to the bar. After a while he told us that he had organised a dinner party that evening with some friends and asked us if we would like to attend. And so we did.

Quite by chance I found myself sitting next to an adult but small girl from Scotland. As the dinner got going I asked her, “And what do you do Fiona?” “I teach” she replied. “And what do you teach” I asked, “I teach infants,” she answered with a flourish. Then I asked, “Do you like teaching Fiona?” “I love it, I am a born teacher, I specialise in teaching English” was her reply. So I tucked that bit of information away and got to know her a bit better as the night wore on. I was careful enough to swap business cards with her.

Next morning I rang her from the Port Moresby hotel. I suggested, “Fiona, I’d like you to come to the hotel for morning tea, as I wish to discuss a proposition with you”. She answered in a very sharp tone, “What sort of proposition?” I replied, “It’s a business proposition involving teaching. I do not wish to discuss it over the phone as it is a bit involved. If it would make you feel any better bring one of your mates with you.”

And so at about 10 am she turned up with a mate. I told her the story, showed her a picture of the family and she agreed that so long as I paid the airfares and expenses, she would fly from her family home in Hobart to Cairns after Christmas, and stay with the family for a week while she decided whether to take the position or not.

She was only at our home for a day and a half and she told me that she decided that she would certainly take the job provided we reached a suitable financial arrangement. I told her I was astonished that she had decided so quickly, she replied that she was afraid that she may be getting into a situation where she had to deal with the spoiled children of over-indulgent parents, “But I can see that that is not the case”, she observed.

So I bought a used Holden for her to use, fitted it out with seat belts all around, arranged a flat for her in town and at the beginning of the school year the teaching began.

The Edufuhrer was furious, as first of all, she could not blackmail Fiona, as Fiona had never ever had anything whatsoever to do with Queensland Education, she was trained in Scotland. However, the Edufuhrer insisted on ‘testing’ the boys in June and December at an institution she had established in Townsville. I was warned that should the experiment be failing, the boys would be required to immediately return to the tender loving care of the state. Furthermore I could be subject to serious penalties including a jail term as the operation remained illegal.

After the June test she rang me and advised me that I was a very lucky man indeed, as I had acquired an excellent teacher. And after the December test she rang to say that the eldest boy had done 3 years work in a single year. “What do you think of his dyslexia now?” I inquired. She ignored my rude remark and replied that the other two boys were also up to date. “They can now all return to school” she firmly dictated. “No they won’t, I have given up on the state” I replied, “and as Fiona has taken another job on a cruise liner, I have organised another teacher.”

The new teacher was recently married and had already resigned from the Indoctrination department, so she too, was for the time being, immune from blackmail. She too was a good teacher and maintained standards. Meantime the Edufuhrer fumed and plotted.

Then my teacher’s husband received a transfer to the State Agricultural Research Station at Walkamin about halfway between Atherton and Mareeba. At that time the Education department was advertising a teaching position for Walkamin for the beginning of the following year. After discussing it with me she applied, intending to stay the full year with me.

The next episode was when she came to me in tears. She tearfully sobbed, “The education department had contacted me and told me that unless I immediately ceased teaching the Kitching boys, I will never ever be employed by the state again.” On the other hand, if she resigned immediately, she would be placed at Walkamin at the beginning of the next term, six months before the advertised position was to be filled.

Of course I agreed that she should resign and I started my boys at the Kairi State School not far from our farm. If anything, they went down hill again until I started them at All Souls in Charters Towers as boarders after grade seven.

All of the boys were apprenticed at Mount Isa Mines and, after becoming tradesmen, Peter and Robert became Power House Operators there, before moving on to better things. Graham, also became a tradesman, and now, although well versed in practically every form of Engineering there is, is a fully qualified Gas Engineer and holds a responsible senior position with Origin Energy in Sydney.

I am proud to add that all of the boys excelled at their respective trades, winning awards etc.

So endeth the sermon - but hereunder the lesson.

The only reason a system of state education was started in the first place was to ensure that our children learn to read and write to a reasonable standard. But as it is a bureaucracy, it has all got out of hand.

Albert Einstein remained a lifelong critic of state education. It pays to remember one of his many quotations about his personal experience with the state - he explained:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned at school. The important thing is not to stop questioning. The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

If he was around today he would find that his quote is more valid than ever. And that is so, not only in Queensland, and all over Australia, but in most English speaking countries. It is a well known fact too, that all have had, and still are experiencing reading and arithmetical problems with students. The fact of the matter is that in 99.999% of cases, it is not the students who are the problem, nor is it the teachers, but the state. The state resists serious competition. In fact it has abolished it.

State education from primary school to secondary and on to University level has become today, a socialist indoctrination programme.

The essential weak feature of state education is the absence of competition. Every teacher must conform; every student must conform; if they learn anything at all, it is only what the state wishes them to know. And the higher the level the more rigid becomes the framework within which the teachers must conform. Universities have, since Federation become hot-houses of anti-British sentiment and hot-houses of socialism.

About twelve years ago I was living in Chile. There, every Sunday morning I wrote the Editorial for El Mercurio de Antofagasta. In two years except for two essays, every essay was an essay teaching various aspects of the Classical Liberal philosophy. I am pleased to say that these essays were very popular in Chile.

However, on a trip back to Australia I wanted to procure a copy of F. A. Hayek’s “The Constitution Of Liberty”, as I needed it, as well as other books, for reference purposes for my essays. I visited two of Sydney’s leading book stores. There I found the economics and social science departments. There, the only books I could find cramming the shelves were Karl Marx’s “Das Capital” and his and Engels “The Communist Manifesto”, and the standard Keynesian text book by Paul A. Samuelson. And, as a fob to the “outmoded” ideas of the past, were a few copies of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”.

I inquired if there were any books by F. A. Hayek - there were none. Then Ludwig von Mises, again - none. So I tried for Carl Menger, and Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, again, they had never ever heard of these authors and teachers. So when I returned to Chile I ordered the books I needed from the U. S. A.

Even if I was not already aware, it was obvious that economics and social science students here, were and are being trained to be arch interventionists. The real arts of reading writing calculating, let alone economics and the social sciences has long since been abandoned by the state run education apparatus.

At the time of writing, (1995), I noticed that an inquiry is being held to discover why a huge proportion of the youth in this country cannot read, write or calculate properly. So much for the state providing essential services.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story, Ronald - thanks for sharing it with us.