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Maxim Institute real issues

Maxim Institute real issues. this week: No. Seventy-Four 31 JULY 2003

Contents: * Clean Slate Bill hides the truth The idea of wiping minor convictions is based on flawed principles. * Political correctness in teacher training A leading educator wants to reprioritise teacher education. * Who cares the most? A new unit for teenage mothers while they study at school has the endorsement of the Education Minister but is the idea as good as it looks?

* Euthanasia Bill passes away

* Maxim presentations in Dunedin and Nelson next week

* $3,500 for winning essays

Clean Slate Bill hides the truth It appears the Bible influenced Nandor Tanczos and other MPs to support the Clean Slate Bill (CSB). This bill would wipe minor convictions from the public record after seven years of non-offending. Mr Tanczos claims being 'persuaded' by biblical references to seven year cycles of forgiveness and renewal, but he is confused.

In Old Testament times, every seven years land was left to fallow and special instructions were given in the Law. This was not about the forgiveness of crimes. At the end of the seven cycles of seven years, debts were supposed to be remitted and slaves freed.

As it happens, Mr Tanczos' original bill was tossed out by a Select Committee, although some of his ideas have been incorporated into a similar bill, the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Bill. What's currently proposed however, is not a clean slate because nothing is expunged. Because it's about concealing records of minor offences, a more honest name would be 'The Criminal Records (Concealment) Bill'.

The principle is wrong. It assumes there is benefit, even rehabilitation, in concealing wrongdoing rather than having everything out in the open. The Bill would appear to have the consequence of putting an offender on the same level as someone who hasn't broken the law. Another consequence will be to further undermine the authority of law because it encourages dishonesty and a lack of trust.

Basing a law on a lie is bad practice. The CSB appears compassionate but it actually gets in the way of genuine forgiveness. A better way might be to require that a person not be discriminated against on the grounds of previous minor convictions.

To view Maxim's submission to the Select Committee on this legislation visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/submissions/cleanslate.html

Political correctness in teacher training A Professor of Education at Otago University suggests the overriding emphasis in teacher training should not be academic outcomes or even skills, but on engineering a politically correct populace. Keith Ballard has prepared a paper for a book just published in London (The Challenge of Inclusion: Reforming Teacher Education). It begins:

Inclusive education is concerned with social justice. This means that graduates entering the teaching profession should understand how they might create classrooms and schools that address issues of respect, fairness and equity. As part of this endeavour they will need to understand the historical, sociocultural and ideological contexts that create discriminatory and oppressive practices in education...I suggest that teacher education should include a focus on issues of oppression and specifically should address racism, sexism, gay and lesbian issues and the ideological origins of poverty.

Although he emphasises 'inclusive' curriculum content, the author provides no analysis of what key underlying terms such as 'social justice' and 'equity' actually mean. He's clear though, that the economic reforms from 1984 to 1993 are self-evident 'evils'.

If Professor Ballard's points were implemented, colleges of education and university schools of education would be little more than places of crude political indoctrination. Not only would this deter quality applicants but it would compromise the basic education of our children.

Who cares the most? A new teen parent unit is to be attached to Kawarau College, the latest of six schools throughout the country to have a second chance unit. Announcing the venture, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said: "The Government, by supporting initiatives such as the Kawarau College Unit and the associated early childhood centre, is ensuring that teenage parents can continue with their secondary education while their babies and children have access to quality early childhood education."

On the face of it this looks good, but is it serving anyone's long-term interests? It illustrates the increasing provision of state welfare and support for dysfunctional families - or 'diverse family forms' in government-speak. Teenage mothers without supportive families are generating a need for government-funded childcare. It seems to be slipping our attention that broken families are increasing the state's control of people's lives while costing the taxpayer a lot of money. No-one in officialdom will dare say that a functioning family is a cheaper way of doing things. Neither is the question being asked: where are the fathers, families and communities who should be the first to take responsibility?

As in so many areas of welfare provision, the problem with publicly-funded programmes is that a dependence mentality builds-up, and unless communities are involved, the idea gets embedded that the state will always provide. Someone has to help vulnerable young mothers, but how can that be done without the state taking over? One way would be for committed people within these communities to provide programmes and support. Civil society is all about communities developing self-reliance through committed families and active volunteers.

Euthanasia Bill passes away

The controversial Death with Dignity Bill was defeated in parliament last night by 60 to 57 votes. While it is an emotive issue the Bill raised more questions than it answered and would have set a dangerous precedent regarding terminating human life. We encourage you to write to thank MPs who voted against the Bill. To see how MPs voted visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/euthanasia/mpvotes_euthan.html

Maxim presentations - book now

Nelson and Dunedin are venues for Maxim presentations next week. For details visit our website and RSVP today: www.maxim.org.nz/ri/whatson.html

$3,500 for winning essays - "No Man Is an Island"

We have launched our 2003 essay competition for tertiary students. In addition to prize money, up to four finalists will receive paid summer internships at Maxim. For details visit: www.maxim.org.nz/essay/2003.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Juvenal (Roman Satirist, c. 60-130 AD)

The chief punishment is this: that no guilty man is acquitted in his own judgement.

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