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Maxim Institute Real Issues - 18 March 2004

Maxim Institute

Real Issues - this week: No. One Hundred and Two 18 MARCH 2004


* Family worries become our primary concern

* Equitable outcomes in education - a grand deception?

* Evidence article: "Diversity: a modern tyrant?"

* "Sing-a-long" a mockery

* PC Forum in Christchurch this Saturday: Register now!

Family worries become our primary concern

What worries New Zealanders, a survey commissioned by Tower/TNS, has found a significant change in the number of people who worry frequently about family. In 2003 the incidence rose by 12 percent to 39 percent. The survey found that 49 percent of young New Zealanders worry frequently about their families. Also 39 percent of working mothers are definitely worried about the 'stay at home mum' becoming a thing of the past. Tower noted that it is young women who have increasing concerns.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says the results indicate that "changing roles and responsibilities at home and at work are shifting the focus of our worries away from money, towards the family." He also said "It illustrates what we have felt all along that the New Zealand family needs all the support it can get."

There are good reasons for an increased worry about families. In the last twelve months we have seen several tragic high profile cases of family breakdown; the Care of Children Bill which redefines family; and the establishment of the Families Commission to conduct research on family issues. The challenge for government is clear. It needs to understand that marriage and family are the crucible in which human identity and meaning are forged.

Equitable outcomes in education - a grand deception?

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has made it clear that education should encourage diversity in all areas - except achievement. The HRC discussion document, The Right to Education states that education must promote "equitable achievement outcomes" for all learners. Submissions on this document closed this week and will form part of the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights to be finalised later this year.

The focus on equitable outcomes rather than equitable opportunities is problematic. What is an equitable outcome? Does it mean that all children must achieve to the same level? Children have different abilities, strengths and gifts and will not progress at exactly the same time and in the same way. In addition, the focus on equitable outcomes may create artificial and undesirable circumstances; for example, the lowering of standards so that all students achieve to the same level.

This is a grand deception. Sooner or later reality will hit and students will be judged on their achievement. This will occur at university, in other tertiary training, or in the workforce.

The focus must be on providing all children with opportunities and encouraging them to achieve to the very best of their abilities, even if this means they achieve differently from their peers.

Evidence article: "Diversity: a modern tyrant?"

Diversity has become mainstream politics in many nations. It has also become mainstream social policy in economics and above all in education. "The radical diversiphile message, tamped down into more civilised language and sweetened with kinder rhetoric, has become one of the key cultural positions of our time," says Associate Professor of Anthropology, Peter Wood, writing in the latest issue of Maxim's quarterly magazine Evidence.

"The friendly side of diversity, talked up by politicians and relentlessly pushed by schools, presents cultural differences as enchanting. It emphasises that differences between ethnic groups are always benign and that tensions are due to misunderstanding or to a history of injustices committed by the West. And it offers images of an encompassing unity: if we respect differences, we can all enjoy a wonderful society together. But as their soothing message unfolds, diversiphiles are also busy advancing another agenda: allocating public goods according to ethnic identity, and quotas, preferences and set-asides for members of minority groups."

"In Western nations, diversity seems to act like an acid that slowly dissolves cultural unity... It promises tolerance, but delivers a cascade of resentments and insecurity. It promises "inclusiveness," but delivers division and separation," says Dr Wood, of Boston University.

"Sing-a-long" a mockery

A tax-payer funded "sing-a-long" course raises issues about the accountability and strategic direction in New Zealand's tertiary institutions, as well as providing a good chuckle.

Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne has reportedly been paid $11 million of tertiary funding to provide a free eight week course to "enhance learning of Maori language". Students once enrolled are given their own waiata songbook and then asked to sing along with songs on the radio from the comfort of their own home.

Who is going to check that students sing? How will we know if they have sung correctly? What will constitute passing the course? No problem. There is no qualification at the end of the course, no external regulation, no record of pass rates and no record of whether people even complete the course.

An estimated one quarter of Gisborne's population was enrolled in the course last year. Minister for Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey has stated that he will act on these kinds of issues as soon as they come to his attention. In light of the projected $115 million "blowout" in funding for community education this year, the end of the "sing-a-long" could be near.

PC Forum in Christchurch this Saturday: Register today!- Maxim Institute 2004 Forum - Political Correctness: end of an error? Christchurch this Saturday, 20 March and Auckland 27 March. It will be an engaging and entertaining day exploring the impact of PC on New Zealand society.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Josef Stalin (1879-1953)- Ideas are more dangerous than guns...We do not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?


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