Attention, fellow Stalinists! We’re rumbled!

Over the weekend, Judith Sloan posted a reasoned, referenced and thought-provoking article on the Catallaxy Files on the state of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Australia.

Oh, no, sorry. She actually posted this.

Now I usually don’t work up the energy to respond to an individual piece on my chosen profession (most likely due to a lack of proper education from my second-rate university), but in this case I felt the need to address one or two of the points.

Apologies in advance for any typos or errors of fact – these must be expected of anyone as dim-witted as an early childhood teacher.

Sloan has appeared to have just noticed the Federal Government’s implementation of the National Quality Framework for ECEC. It did only commence in January 2012, so to have noticed its existence by June 2013 is a credit to Sloan and her undoubtably first-class tertiary education.

Sloan’s incisive analysis of the sector and its “dim-witted” Minister, Kate Ellis (possibly the worst insult: direct comparison to a politician), identifies rising costs and issues around the freezing of the Child Care Rebate.

But she holds off on the truly terrifying revelations until the next paragraph. Children of one of her relatives, she informs us (presumably visibly shuddering as she types) are sent home with a weekly newsletter, informing the innocent and fear-stricken families of what has happened at the centre that week.

Now, in centres I have worked at and managed I used to send out similar missives. I can only now apologise to those families, and indeed the nation at large, for this weekly campaign of terror. It is clear now that the positive feedback from families and sense of community that was generated by these updates was in fact a smokescreen, lies stammered from the mouths of mothers and fathers clearly suffering from the most recent onslaught.

Sloan then pounces on a quote from a Centre Director, caught out in what I can only assume was a moment of drunk pleasure after printing out that week’s newsletter, speaking about working to ensure “the consistency and quality of services provided to children and families across the country.”

Pointing out the very real and tangible similarities with a framework supporting children’s learning, health and safety and the worst excesses of Stalinist Russia, Sloan finally unravels the dark heart of childcare centres and preschools everywhere.

I can only for my part say that I would happily be doing more to indoctrinate the mindless future-socialists under my command, if only my second-rate education hadn’t left me with only the barest understanding of Socialism itself. It’s some kind of Facebook or something, right?

Now there are those of my colleagues who will speak about the importance of having a robust framework around the safety, wellbeing and learning of children in a sector where over a million children attend some form of early education and care.

Some of those colleagues might even foolishly (and confusingly) point towards recent events in Ireland, where a combination of loose regulation, low-paid and overworked staff have led to direct institutional harm to children.

I have even, shockingly, heard that early childhood teachers working with young children raise the quality of their learning and their potential future prospects. Often in the same breath as people telling me that targeted and play-based learning sets children up for future education, and is particularly needed for vulnerable children.

We can only own up now, and implement Sloan’s prescription of “greater choice, diversity and competition”.

After all, the ultimate expression of capitalism is farming out the education and wellbeing of children to the tender mercies of the free market.

What can possibly go wrong?

By Liam McNicholas

I am an experienced early childhood teacher, writer and advocate. As well as managing community not-for-profit early childhood operations in a variety of roles, I have advocated for children's human rights; the need for investment in early childhood education; and for professional recognition and wages for those working in early childhood education and care.

I am available to be commissioned for freelance writing, editing, event speaking and consulting work.

16 replies on “Attention, fellow Stalinists! We’re rumbled!”

Thanks for writing this.

Sloan, for not the first time, really failed to see the wood for the trees in that piece. Astonishingly for a free-marketeer she failed to identify there IS choice in childcare; a choice between regulated, safe childcare and riskier alternatives like family daycare or other child minding.

Astounding as it may seem to her, I am glad that there is government involvement and willingly pay extra. For that I get certainty of supply, regulated safety and health conditions. If government got out of the way we would have none of those things, and choice would actually be diminished. If you don’t want to pay extra for regulated childcare that option is and always will be available for you. If you want the cost t go down, remove regulations. In that she is right, but she’s wrong to think that people only want lowest cost childcare.

Thanks for this Liam, my Manger and i watch the Question and Answer clip today and are still totally outraged by what she had to say.
your article had me in fits of laughter and i thought it was very well said. – kept up the great work !!

typo – you left out an “of” possibly in this sentence?
Thanks for this article. I don’t want child-minding, I want early education, intelligent carers, who can assist with pre-reading, health, social development etc, for my children. Thanks again.

Liam, as a retired primary teacher, I find your writing pithy and witty….keep up the good work young man…

Eloquent as usual Liam despite your ‘second rate university education’. The Sloan piece leaves me perplexed. Does she really not know about the overwhelming body of evidence from the likes of Heckman etc? Where has she been? Or is this wilful disregard for the evidence in an atempt to cause harm? Or is she politically alligning herself with what she hopes will be a gig in a new government? Please lets us know your reasoning Ms Sloan?

Liam, your second rate uni clearly failed you as you are, ahem, articulate. And witty.

As you posit, I have 2 children who’ve been loved, nurtured, educated and inspired by day care in unimaginably supportive ways, but I guess I’m a one off.


Thanks for your blog post Liam, it made me smile after all the storming around and ranting I did after watching qanda. I must say how bright the wit of Ms Sloan that she need the question repeated three times before she could answer it. Thanks again Liam

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