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Maxim Real Issues No. 163, 30 JUNE 2005


No. 163, 30 JUNE 2005

Valuing teachers

"Mainstream" New Zealand?

Schools can't oppose the state that supports them

Tammy Bruce to visit New Zealand

Political Forum road show starts this week

The law depends on morality


Valuing teachers

Parents want to see good teachers properly rewarded. This was the overwhelming conclusion of the research released in Maxim Institute's latest Parent Factor report, Valuing teachers.

The report contains parents' views on teacher pay from a Colmar Brunton survey of 1001 parents. 72 percent of parents believe that teachers who work the hardest and produce the best results should be paid more than other teachers; only 24 percent of parents think teachers should get similar pay rises regardless of their competence; and 70 percent of parents think that if teachers were paid according to their performance, standards would rise.

New Zealand is one of many Western nations facing the challenge of recruiting and retaining high quality teachers in schools. This fact was highlighted in an OECD report released recently, Teachers Matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers.

The OECD report makes some interesting suggestions, including "making reward mechanisms more flexible"; "improving teaching's salary competitiveness"; "using more flexible forms of employment"; and "evaluating and rewarding effective teaching". These ideas are similar to the recommendations made by Maxim in Valuing teachers. Allowing schools to pay their excellent teachers more, in the way that is most appropriate for their community, could help to attract more highly qualified teachers into the profession. It could also help keep outstanding teachers in the classroom and improve the reputation of teaching as a profession.

Parents know the impact a great teacher can have on their child's life. Creating a culture which recognises and values our outstanding teachers is vital for a successful education system. To download a copy of Valuing Teachers visit:
http://www.maxim.org.nz/parentfactor/report2_valuingteachers.php


"Mainstream" New Zealand?

Don Brash's comments about "mainstream New Zealand" have caused quite a stir. Winston Peters believes them to be "perverse", while minority group representatives have labelled his comments "racist" and "anti-gay". As in the first Orewa speech, he has hit a nerve. "Mainstream" is hard to define because it is essentially a relative notion, but it can be given some specification.

The central issue is nationhood. In one sense, all New Zealanders are "mainstream", but here's the rub - the present government has lent conspicuous support to minority groups. There is a real problem here for Labour. Great emphasis has been placed on inclusiveness, but this has only been possible though policies based on division and a notion of separate and plural identities, rather than a more unifying notion as implied in National's principle of "one standard of citizenship for all". Everyone is "mainstream" unless identity as a member of a group is taken as primary.

Labour has tried to bring identified minorities into the mainstream because it believed them to be excluded. It has tried to redefine identity and what is meant by "mainstream" on the basis of group membership, not on the basis of individual rights or a shared or unifying understanding of citizenship. And with a little prompting from National during the election campaign, the wider electorate is now suddenly perceiving an Animal Farm scenario: "we are all equal but some are more equal than others" - and it's here Don Brash's comments have struck a chord.

When people are taught to identify themselves firstly as members of groups, rather than as citizens of a nation, it becomes clear that some groups are larger than others. The danger then becomes the "tyranny of the majority" by the largest group. The irony is that if we identify a group in order to "protect them" we isolate them from other citizens, and make them more vulnerable to the prejudice of difference.

Vulnerable people are best protected by a notion of unified nationhood and individual rights, and not by breaking society up into groups. The danger of the "tyranny of the majority" only arises when society is broken up primarily into groups. So the use of the term "mainstream" as alluding to an exclusive group may be an ominous one, but only when society is viewed according to "identity groups". When used to define the interests of the country as a whole, it can be useful.

It is important for New Zealand that we stop categorising citizens into "groups", particularly in law. If the interests of all New Zealanders are to be protected, then it is important to emphasise "mainstream" but only as it relates to every citizen, not simply to the largest group.


Schools can't oppose the state that supports them

Al-Madinah School in Mangare is an Islamic special character (integrated) school with 360 pupils from year 1 to year 15. But all is not well. According to the school's latest ERO report, its "special character" is compromised by the board's inability to fully implement the New Zealand Curriculum.

The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has dissolved the Board of Trustees after seeing the ERO report which raises concerns about school tone, the education of girls, and the teaching of English and the arts curriculum.

None of this should surprise us. Special character schools are largely the response of a secular government to the belief in the freedom of religion - its faith and practice. Integrated schools, most of which are Christian (both Catholic and Protestant), work happily within a secular state, and in the tradition of the separation of church and state. Indeed, the special character of these schools is actually protected by legislation. About 11 percent of pupils attend such schools in New Zealand.

Islam presents a different problem. There is a great deal of talk about differences within Islam. However, all major schools of interpretation of the Qu'ran believe there should be no separation of church and state. This separates the Al-Madinah school from any of the Christian schools in New Zealand. The only just place for an Islamic school in New Zealand is for it to be completely independent. The state cannot finance a school which teaches a religion fundamentally hostile to it: That is, that the "church" is the state. This disagreement makes conflict between Islam and the Ministry's education goals inevitable.


Tammy Bruce to visit New Zealand

Social commentator, author, radio host and Fox News Channel Political Analyst, Tammy Bruce will visit New Zealand next week, at the invitation of several New Zealanders concerned about perceived 'social engineering'. Tammy Bruce is the former president of the Los Angeles branch of the National Organisation for Women; a lesbian, feminist and activist, she is now outspoken against the "political correctness" characteristic of the causes she was once a part of. For details of the events Tammy is speaking at visit:
http://www.thetammytour.co.nz


Political Forum road show starts this week

Maxim Institute is delighted to be working with people around New Zealand who are organising election debates for their local community as a public service. The road show begins with a political forum in Masterton this week. For details of an event near you visit:
http://www.maxim.org.nz/events


The law depends on morality

To read an article by Maxim Director Bruce Logan published in the Otago Daily Times this week visit:
http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/M050629.php

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Robert Bolt

"Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher. Perhaps even a great one", suggested More. Richard is not impressed. "If I was, who would know it?" More responds, "You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public..."

'True'

Taken from A man for all seasons


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