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Maxim Real Issues: No. 170, 18 AUGUST 2005

Maxim Real Issues: No. 170, 18 AUGUST 2005

Who's responsible for values education?

The rise of "moral issues"

Something completely unrelated to the election

Test your knowledge on MMP

Political Forums coming up

Who's responsible for values education?

Since 1993 the Ministry of Education has said the school curriculum, through its practices and procedures, will reinforce the commonly held values of individual and collective responsibility which underpin New Zealand's democratic society. These values include honesty, reliability, respect for others, respect for the law, tolerance (rangimarie), fairness, caring or compassion (aroha), non-sexism, and non-racism.

As concepts who would argue? Well, for a start the problem is they have no context. They are a mixed bag and are far too abstract. They are a mix of some of the cardinal virtues, general legal principles and politicised values. A new list has been drawn up by the Ministry and will be sent out to schools next year for consultation, apparently in response to a perceived failure on the part of parents to instil such values in their children. That means the Ministry has been consulting about values for 12 years. Why has it taken so long to find agreement? Research released in the Maxim Parent Factor: Freedom for schools report, found that 84% of parents believe individual schools should be allowed to teach their individual community's positive values.

Values - or better still, virtues - must be taught in context. Human beings have a moral imagination and an intellect that informs the will. Virtue has always been a consequence of beliefs which have stirred the moral imagination before they could influence behaviour. Values can only be taught in the home or in the school within a framework of a belief that understands what it means to be human. And that might just be religious. A secular and relativist education system will always have little confidence in declaring what it means to be human. Consequently, values will always be determined by consultation and rest on the lowest common denominator of group agreement. They will not stir the moral imagination. Not even the best teacher is able to compensate for a parents failure to model good character on a daily basis on the home.

The rise of "moral issues"

The essential problem with the Sunday Star-Times survey of the public's views of morality is that, like much of the political debate over "moral issues" lately, it rests on an assumption that some political issues are moral but others not. Sexual issues, for example, are considered moral, but economic issues allegedly are not.

It is unhelpful to make a distinction between moral and non-moral issues, and even more unhelpful to suggest that law can be made in any context other than a moral one. Every decision appeals to some standard of right and wrong and affects human lives.

The belief that a society's morality determines its success or failure is thousands of years old. Though many seem to have lost sight of that fact, it does not change reality. Morality still has a public usefulness which should be obvious. If we lose a belief in permanent things, each generation is left to generate its own morality by nothing more than consensus.

The consequence is that "morality" simply becomes a matter of personal choice. The best we can do is have a morality of low-level consensus. What was obvious to previous generations is now ignored, if not condemned. The wisdom of the ages is readily discarded in the insatiable quest to be "relevant" and "modern".

Ideologues hold the position today that all moral beliefs are of equal value, and consider that it is a major function of law to protect self-identifying groups. They ignore the relationship between marriage and the welfare of children and its power to create wealth. Moral neutrality is held to be the only viable option. But nobody is morally neutral, not even the State. There will always be conflicting moral visions in any society, and the State will always be driven by one or the other.

In the past we were shaped by the Judeo-Christian belief in human dignity, man created in God's image and the rule of law. The individual virtue of each citizen gave content to the natural link between freedom and responsibility. Now, the State decides what constitutes morality and what does not.

Something completely unrelated to the election

Business, charity and celebrities have come together with a creative way to try and reduce domestic abuse against New Zealand women. The "Handle with Care" range of women's nightwear, designed by Trelise Cooper and marketed through the Ezibuy catalogue, was launched yesterday. Sportswomen, actresses, and other celebrities modelled the garments, which will raise money for "Preventing Violence in the Home."

Not only is the idea creative, it affirms the dignity and uniqueness of womanhood, while hopefully fostering a positive social outcome for vulnerable women and children. It is pleasing to see this latest initiative to help fight domestic abuse came from concerned people within civil society.

Test your knowledge on MMP

1. Two parties each win 30% of the party vote. Party A wins no electorate seats, Party B wins 20 electorate seats. How many seats will each party get (assuming there are 120 MPs in the House and no discarded votes)?
a) 36 56
b) 36 36
c) 30 50
d) 36 46
e) 0 20
2. To enter Parliament, a party must either win at least one electorate seat, or win what percentage of the party vote?

a) 1%
b) 3%
c) 5%
d) 10%
e) 50%

3. If Party C wins 1% of the party vote, and wins 4 electorate seats, how many seats in Parliament will it get?

a) 1
b) 2
c) 3
d) 4
e) 5

4. What does MMP stand for?

a) Many Members of Parliament
b) Mixed Members of Parliament
c) Mixed Members Party
d) Mixed Member Proportional
e) Muddled, Messy Parliament


1. B
2. C
3. D
4. D

Political Forums coming up
Whangaparaoa Monday, 29th August
Wellington Tuesday, 6th September
Central Auckland Tuesday, 6th September
Wainuiomata Thursday, 8th September
Whakatane Friday, 9th September
Cambridge Wednesday, 14th September
For more information about these and other political forums, visit www.maxim.org.nz/events


Man seems to be capable of great virtues but not of small virtues; capable of defying his torturer but not of keeping his temper.

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