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Maxim Institute - real issues 14 December 2006

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 235 14 December 2006


Britain's breaking down
Maori immersion schools deliver good results
A flawed vision of collective security

IN THE NEWS Treaty claim deadline set Committee recommends Easter Trading Australia lifts ban on cloning


Britain's debate on poverty and family breakdown was electrified this week by a new report into what used to be called "the condition of England"; examining the causes of poverty, crime and addiction, and how to tackle the problem of social disconnection.

The Conservative Party's Social Justice Policy Group, chaired by former Party leader Iain Duncan-Smith, has released a report titled Breakdown Britain; an in-depth analysis of social disconnection and its causes, including family breakdown, addictions, joblessness, educational failure and indebtedness. The report highlights the vital importance of civil society in dealing with these problems and examines the relationship between social policy and its consequences.

The report affirms the central importance of marriage in halting the cycle of family breakdown and producing good outcomes for children. Identifying the "three d's" of dysfunction, dissolution and 'dadlessness', it traces the well-travelled road between family breakdown and poverty, welfare dependency, crime and delinquency. It follows the evidence, stating that politicians can no longer ignore family structure and that marriage is a vital social glue. Recognising that children find their connection in families, the report also flags a move away from "child-centred" policy toward "family-centred" policy and affirms the importance of relational connectedness.

Reports like this affirm what we intuitively know. Family breakdown has a social cost. Marriage is a strong protector against poverty and homelessness and is important for social connection. Young people raised with two parents have better outcomes. And government bureaucracies can't help people as well as families, friends, neighbours, communities and good Samaritans can. Having boldly stated the obvious, the British conservatives now face the challenge of doing something constructive about it.

Read the report, Breakdown Britain

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The Ministry of Education has just released a new report, He Kete Raraunga, describing pupil achievement in reading, writing and mathematics in Maori Medium Education, drawing on data from the NCEA and asTTLe (an assessment tool). The report loosely defines Maori Medium Education as schooling where pupils are taught in Te Reo Maori for more than half of each teaching day.

One major finding was that pupils with longer periods of immersion in Te Reo Maori are more likely to have higher levels of achievement. The report also emphasised the link to the family, finding that those pupils who speak even minimal Te Reo Maori at home achieve better than those who speak none.

While there are different vehicles for the delivery of education to Maori pupils, it appears that immersion schools are delivering favourable results. This new report follows previous Ministry of Education research which has found that Maori pupils in immersion schools perform well in the NCEA and historically have achieved better in School Certificate and Sixth Form English, science, mathematics and Te Reo Maori than pupils in the English medium classes or immersion classes of mainstream schools, or in bilingual settings.

These early NCEA results should not be treated as definitive of achievement at immersion or bilingual schools; the sector is still small and in its infancy and a handful of pupils or one school achieving highly can skew results. However, it does show that immersion schools may be providing a solution to the problem of under-achievement of Maori pupils.

Schools need to have increased freedom over their operations to enable them to easily choose to become an immersion or bilingual school or to offer an alternative curriculum and examinations to best suit their pupils. It is also critical to address the problem of teacher retention and supply in immersion schools and in Maori education generally, by extending successful professional development programmes and by introducing flexible pay arrangements to address the problem in full.

Read the report, He Kete Raraunga

Write to the editor


Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the past 10 years, is stepping down at the end of 2006. In his last address to an American audience, he indirectly criticised US foreign policy and outlined five principles for international order: collective security; global solidarity; the rule of law; mutual accountability and multilateralism, and reaffirmed the role of the UN in fostering global security and the rule of law.

The main idea behind collective security is that each country opposes acts of aggression by other countries, knowing that other countries will oppose any aggressive acts that it commits. This premise is flawed because it assumes countries will commit to opposing aggression against the current world order even when that would be inconsistent with or irrelevant to their national interests. Screbrinica, Rwanda and Darfur all show that the collective will of the so-called "international community" is worth nothing when wilfully opposed.

The internationalist view of collective security espoused by Mr Annan is overly optimistic about human nature. In reality, international politics is much more sombre. Optimism must be grounded in a healthy scepticism of global governance. Prudent statesmen know that there will be a compromise between the demands of justice and what can actually be achieved among countries in any given situation. The demands of the "international community" always come a distant second to national interests.

Collective security and multilateralism is an approach to international order that is very difficult to put into practice. It is a utopian and unrealisable vision. While in some cases the UN will be the most appropriate organisation to keep the peace and enforce law, every country, including a "great state" like the US, can work just as effectively towards the objectives outlined by Secretary-General Annan through bilateral negotiation, alliances and regional organisations. The way to peace does not of necessity, pass through New York.

Write to the editor



A final date for historical Treaty of Waitangi claims has now been set with the passage of the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Act 2006. Historical claims must be filed with the Waitangi Tribunal by 1 September 2008. The government says that the deadline will give greater certainty and facilitate resolution of claims. Most parties appear to agree; the Bill passed by a large majority, 104 – 9 votes, on 7 December 2006

Read the Treaty of Waitangi Amendment Bill


The Commerce Select Committee reported to Parliament this week on two Bills proposing to allow trade during Easter. The first would allow territorial authorities to choose whether to be covered by the Bill and allow trading on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The second Bill relates only to Easter Sunday and would give territorial authorities, in consultation with their community, the option to trade on this day. The Select Committee recommended that both Bills be passed.

Read the Bills and the Select Committee reports:

Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Easter Trading) Amendment Bill

Easter Sunday Shop Trading Amendment Bill


Last week Australia overturned its ban on therapeutic cloning, despite both the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition casting a vote against it. The passing of this controversial bill will permit scientists to create cloned human embryos from which stem cells can be harvested for tissue transplant. The new leader of the Labor party, Kevin Rudd, was reported as saying he found it very difficult to support a law that allows human life to be created for the single and explicit purpose of experimentation and ultimate destruction. The Bill passed in the House of Representatives with 82 votes in favor and 62 votes opposed.

Read the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2006


"What Samuel Johnson said of a second marriage should caution those who wish to rely on collective security as a basis for an enlightened world order: it is a triumph of hope over experience."

Robert G. Kaufman, Professor of Political Science

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