Imposed Ignorance

By David

Home-schooling has never appealed to me. My mother taught in New Zealand’s public schools all her working life. I was educated in three state primary schools, four high schools and two universities. My daughter, Jane’s education was the product of two decile ten primary schools, one decile ten high school, a decile two high school and the same public American University that educated another product of the Lydiard system of training, Peter Snell. That all adds up to a pretty watertight public education pedigree.

However, while I might not have any affinity with the home-school movement I would certainly defend the right of home-schoolers to do their thing – liberty demands no less. There are 6517 home-schooled students in New Zealand. That’s a big number; equal to New Zealand’s two biggest high schools (Rangitoto College and Mt. Albert Grammar) and two of my high schools (Wairoa College and Thorpe High School, Wisconsin) all added together.

One of the 6,517 home-school students happens to be a senior member of the West Auckland Aquatic’s swim team. Abigail is seventeen. I’ve coached her for two years. Her work ethic is huge. In her last two Lydiard type build-ups of nine weeks and six weeks she has averaged 95 and 90 kilometres a week. In two years her best time for 200 meters breaststroke SC has improved from 3.04 to 2.48 and LC from 3.05 to 2.51.

And Abigail wants to enter the Swimming New Zealand’s Secondary School Championships. And Swimming New Zealand has decided it is in swimming’s best interests to deny Abigail and her 6,516 fellow students the opportunity to take part in their meet. This is what their Neanderthal rule says, “Students must be enrolled as bona fide students at the school of representation and study at least 80% of the programme.” As far as Swimming New Zealand is concerned Abigail and her fellow home-schoolers are non-students; they do not exist.

New Zealand was founded by Polynesian and European people who left their homes looking for a new start; searching for what became known as a “fair go”. But the suits that run swimming in New Zealand today could not be expected to understand the cultural importance of that term. Most of them are Miskimmin’s recent acquisitions; imported here on fat salaries and into positions of privilege. For them maintaining the status-quo, preserving their recently acquired positions of importance is what matters. Giving young New Zealanders, who choose to be educated outside the mainstream, an opportunity to compete; a chance to take part, is the last thing they’d do.

Well, there are some facts about the participation of home-school students that the foreign imports that now run Miskimmin’s sporting empire need to understand.

Many home-school students do not have the option of attending a public school. They live in areas of New Zealand that are so remote; so isolated, that daily travel to a school is not possible. Why Swimming New Zealand would want to make life even more difficult for these young people is beyond me. Their only crime is that their parents chose to farm inaccessible tracts of New Zealand. Tracts that if they were not farmed would not generate the national earnings necessary to pay for those in Swimming New Zealand who deny rural children the right to compete.

Along with the rest of us, home-school parents pay the taxes that fund the New Zealand school system and Swimming New Zealand. For whatever reasons, home-school parents chose not to use public schools for the academic education of their children. But that decision does not justify denying home-school students the right to dip into the public education system to support their children’s sporting ambition. Who on earth decided that participation in public schooling involved accepting the whole package? Why can’t students chose to be involved in just athletics or just music or just art?

As long as the home-school student has acceptable grades, pays any applicable fees and is accepted as a sport’s student by the high school of their choice, I can imagine no possible reason to exclude then from interschool sport. I can’t even imagine why Swimming New Zealand would get all out of shape if home-school students were entered as a separate team. Because their academic education takes place around a kitchen table, should not preclude them from joining their class room peers in a Hamilton swimming pool.

Swimming New Zealand has a responsibility to provide young people with the opportunity to participate; to be inclusive. I have no idea how the rule to exclude home-school students from inter-school sport ties in with the 2013 Swimming New Zealand’s Constitutional objectives of:

  1. Encouraging people to participate in the sport of competitive swimming.
  2. Identifying talent from all levels within and outside competitive sport.
  3. Provide pathways from regional to international sport.
  4. Promote sport for purposes beneficial to the community including the education of those involved in the sport.

Swimming New Zealand excel themselves in riding roughshod over their own constitution. For years they’ve been at it. If the rules don’t suit their personal agenda; if they want to do something that’s totally unconstitutional – then they just flout the rules. They do it anyway. And so it is in this case. Excluding Abigail and her mates from the Championship is unconstitutional.

Swimming New Zealand probably doesn’t appreciate the talent they ignore by snubbing 6517 home-schooled New Zealanders. The best example of what I mean comes from the United States. That country has over two million home-schooled students. It also has a far more inclusive policy towards their involvement in sport. Several of the swimmers on my Florida team were home-schooled but swam for a local high school in interschool sports. But the best example is an American football player called Tim Tebow. He was home-schooled but played football for his local high school, the Allen D Nease High School. He went on to play at the University of Florida, won the Heisman Trophy as the best university player in the country and now plays for the New York Jet’s. One of the nation’s best football players would have been lost to the sport if those that run Swimming New Zealand had been in charge. I wonder how many “flowers are born to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the desert air” because the occupants of Pelorus House are stupid.

Also in the United States a substantial number of court rulings have considered the question of home-school students participating in high school sport. Most courts have ruled that eligibility for a high school sports team is a privilege, not a right. I have no doubt New Zealand courts would reach the same conclusion. And so, Swimming New Zealand fear not. I am not about to file papers in the Henderson District Court to secure Abigail participation in the Secondary School Swimming Championships. However, Swimming New Zealand’s Constitution and the history of New Zealand for providing its citizens a “fair go” demands that you provide Abigail with access to this privilege. Your generosity would be good for your soul and for the sport.