But for those who lived through the fourth Labour govt, there is an awful sense of familiarity in the way the author intersperses shrewd insight and examples of decisive leadership with an over-enthusiasm for currently-popular business theories. I do think we got off very lightly when Lange pulled the plug on these guys in his second term.
The stuff on education is interesting, as the book gives an insight into where ACT's (ie, National's) current education policy is coming from. Prebble approvingly quotes an article by Rodney Hide about visiting his old school, in which three things stood out for me:
1. Rodney is outraged that teachers consider themselves better qualified than him to educate children, writing:
"So here's a guy in walker (sic) shorts who's never left a classroom telling me that I'm not astute enough to look after my own son's education, or to know what he wants or what he needs."
In fact the guy wasn't telling him that at all - he would, after all, be welcome to home school his son and I doubt any of those present would have cast doubt on his ability to do so. What they were actually telling him was that if he wanted to send his son to their school and benefit from their expertise, he would necessarily have to accept that they had expertise to apply, and let them apply it. This is not difficult to grasp, nor unreasonable, and one can only feel a great sympathy for Rodney's doctor, car mechanic, lawyer etc if he subjects their expertise to the same level of contempt.
2. He recommends to the school that it should teach
"The virtues of western civilisation, the Ten Commandments, how to do sums, how to read and how to write."
This is just bizarre. The last three are already taught at every school so can be ignored; the first is so vague as to be useless without some more precise definition of exactly what these virtues are and a test of whether the rest of the nation's parents would agree with the definition; and the second - what the fuck? Of the Ten Commandments, the top three, ie the highest priorities and most important commands, are that you must put no god above Yahweh; that you must create no images or likenesses, nor worship them; and that you must not take Yahweh's name in vain.
In other words, a future leader of the ACT Party recommends that one of the main tasks of public schools in a secular country is to tell the children which god they must worship and some ground rules they must apply to that worship. This is at such a level of batshit crazy that nothing ACT/National offer as education policy should suprise us.
3. This whole weird ACT belief that parents have no choice where to send their kids to school may have started here. Hide writes:
"It was at this moment that my desire to have the power to choose my own son's school rose from something that would be decent and right to a desperate need."This one is even more bizarre than the desire to see schools teaching the Ten Commandments - Hide already has the same ability to choose his son's school that he does to choose an electrician or a plumber, so his desperation for a freedom that he already has just makes him look nuts.
I presume that what lies behind it is the erroneous right-wing view that school zoning is a means of preventing parents from choosing schools. It's actually the reverse - zoning is a means of preventing schools from choosing parents. In fact, the right-wing view is so obviously, plainly and unmistakably wrong it always makes me look for ulterior motives. Presumably there isn't one, but if National makes Rodney's dream come true, by abolishing zoning and issuing parents with vouchers to spend at the school of their choice, what would actually happen is the schools would do the choosing and those parents with kids who are not very bright, have expensive special needs or are just plain likely to cause trouble would be scratching to find a school in bad enough shape to be willing to take their kids. I guess that does tie in with ACT's vision for NZ - social Darwinism - so no ulterior motive is necessary.