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Liberty Belle: Making Demands

Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Making Demands

Today I spotted this advertisement on the London Underground. It pictured a grumpy-faced little boy wearing an Indian head-dress (as if playing cowboys and Indians), saying, "I want the groceries I ordered. And a puppy. One that plays football!"

Then underneath were the words, 'You spend £4000 a year at supermarkets. Start making demands.'

Can you imagine the New Zealand government running a slightly different advertisement? A grumpy-faced parent is pictured, saying, "I want my child to get an A Bursary. And learn philosophy. In French!"

Underneath (you've guessed it) are the words, 'You spend $4000 in taxes a year on education. Start making demands.'

The advertisements would remind parents that education, and the way it is delivered, should be focused on what they want for their children, not designed to suit what politicians and bureaucrats think is best for every child.

If parents had choice, like in the Nacka municipality in Sweden where the public money follows the child and schools must compete for 90 per cent of their funding, they might have more success with their requests that their children learn to read and write English, before moving on to Maori or sex education.

Whanau and iwi might pool their funding and set up a school where their children are taught as intelligent, competent New Zealanders, instead of being patronised by much of the politically correct garbage that teacher trainees must endure at some training colleges where 'cultural sensitivity' masquerades as racism.

Then perhaps we wouldn't have to put up with the sort of illiteracy some of our university students are displaying. This is an email forwarded to me, and because it's not totally the poor student's fault that her command of English is so appalling, I won't reveal any names. However, in this state of ignorance she should not be at university, but back at school learning English. This is her email exactly as written:

"Dear ***

My name is ***** and I was lucky enough to be in a lecture a few weeks back at *** that you spoke at. Too be honest I had never really herd of you before but after that hour and a half I am now aware of yours and company success's and the about our life.

I am writing to you to see weather I could have a day time contact phone number as I am a student representative on a committee to help organise this years seminar, weather property professionals young and old meet together to expand they knowledge. I believe you would be ideal to be a guest speaker.

If I could contact you buy phone I could tell you in more detail about the seminar and weather you are interested. The reason why I have thought of you is the enthusiasm you spoke with was most enjoyable and you have credited achievements behind you name.

If you could rely back to this address I would greatly appreciate it."

The holder of the "credited achievements" emailed back saying, "Thanks for your email. I have read it a couple of times and I think you have said that you liked my talk and would I be available to talk further to either a meteorology or property group..."

The poor student probably didn't even get the joke. But laughing aside, this is child abuse. If this student had emerged from 10 years of compulsory schooling physically crippled because the sports teachers had taught bad physical exercise, breaking the student's legs and partly paralysing the student, there would be an outcry.

If anyone dares spell Maori incorrectly (or commit the more heinous crime of mispronunciation) they almost get dragged before the Human Rights Commission. But English? Don't worry about the English language - it's the language of oppression, remember?

Parents - and students - deserve better. So parents, start making demands about literacy, because under the present system where families - especially those from low incomes - have little choice, I believe it's going to get worse.

You might remember a few months ago in Liberty Belle I criticised the NCEA, specifically its assessments and grades that don't differentiate sharply between the top students and the various levels below them. I paraphrased my friend from 'North & South', Jenny Chamberlain, who wrote many fine articles on the NCEA and dreaded the day schools had sports days where there would be no scores because it wasn't good for the self-esteem of those students who lost.

Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's happening in England. In Sutton Coldfield the headmistress of Maney Hill primary school, Judith Wressell, has banned parents from sports day. In fact she's abolished sports day altogether and replaced it with an 'activities-based' event. A bit like those management programmes the whiteboard-flowchart-spreadsheet set are very fond of, whereby you all troop off to an island together for several days, throw yourself backwards off logs and trust your colleagues to catch you. (It would never work in politics.)

It seems the British Labour Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, recommended last year that schools replace traditional sports with "problem-solving exercises featuring more emphasis on teamwork and less on winners and losers". If the war was won on the fields of Eton, what will happen in ...? Oh, never mind, it just doesn't bear thinking about.

You really have to wonder what planet these people come from don't you? One thing that really heartened me when ACT was conducting our own Select Committee hearings into the NCEA implementation last year (because the Education and Science Select Committee wouldn't let parents give submissions), was the number of secondary school students who appeared before us to lament the removal of competition. They really wanted to know how well they'd done compared with their mates. They wanted to know if they'd got 76 per cent or 84 per cent. You can take the children out of competition, but you can't take competition out of the kids.

One last thought. How come politicians who promote this "no winners/no losers" nonsense, are quite happy to be the winners - and mock the losers - on Election Day?

Yours in liberty,
Deborah Coddington.

- - Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.

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