Children denied education may need to be taken away


While visiting extended family in NZ recently, I shared one end of a dinner table with another transplanted Yank and his Maori wife. Not surprisingly the conversation soon turned to the social ills for which Alice Springs is now internationally renowned.
First we more or less agreed that grog problems, wherever they are, will remain intractable until those in authority bite the bullet and acknowledge that there are among us some who simply should not be granted access to alcohol, “rights” be damned.
Then I offered my opinion that any meaningful progress out in the remote communities, and in Alice when those communities migrate to town, has to start in primary school.
I qualified this by saying that any such start becomes difficult if parents do not support their children by ensuring they get to school every day, and that this is unlikely if the parents themselves are uneducated and have no tradition of schooling.
We agreed that this is the cycle that has to be broken. At this point the 14 year old son of the couple with whom I was speaking was asked why he thought education was important.
At first I thought this might be a trick question. A 14 year old can often find any number of reasons why it’s not important to go to school.  Instead he replied: “Because without education nothing changes.”
And there you have it. Without education what you have at the start of your life is all you will ever have. At best, you will live a recipient’s life; a life seeped in resentment and spent on the outside looking in.
But with education all of life’s myriad possibilities are at least potentially within your grasp.
And so whatever this or any government does to not just encourage, but to insist, on school attendance needs to be fully supported.
If that means taking kids away from parents who can’t or won’t allow them to learn and out of communities that are unable to support a school, and placing them in an environment where daily school attendance through the long years of childhood is not optional, then so be it.


  1. Is this man serious? Shades of the early fifties. No one, absolutely no one has the right to “take away” a child from its family unless the child is in physical or moral danger. Persuade the family, yes, but remove by force … never.

  2. Yes the 14 year old was correct. Anyone thinking different should read debates first making attendances compulsory.

  3. You have both sides of the coin in just two comments; residential schools or voluntary education for aboriginal children. Canada and the USA have both had, and are still flipping this coin. Do what you may, this question has no satisfactory or consummate answer. The children are the losers as the “powers that be” continue to debate the pros and cons incessantly. I hope you have better luck than we have had.

  4. It astounds me that after all previous efforts over generations and decades: “the answer” is given to Hal from across the Tasman Sea, within the humble family of a transplanted yank, Maori spouse, and said from an unassuming 14 year old prophet! And at a time just after the celebration of the saviour’s birth!

  5. @Terry
    Posted January 12, 2014 at 11:54 am
    Firstly, with the advent of cell phones and more social media outlets offering instant contact than I can name, no one will ever involuntarily disappear again. At least not in a civilised nation like Australia, and long may she remain so.
    And, yes, I am serious. A better question would be how many generations are we prepared to throw under the bus while we indulge in ideological experiments?
    And while we decide that, let’s pop the kids into a school somewhere so they can get an education. That way when they come of age they can join the debate in their own right, instead of sitting in jail wondering why, and resenting that they have no life.


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