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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 332

Real Issues No. 332 – Year in Review, Justice, Education

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 332
18 December 2008

Year in review 2008 -- A message from our CEO
Throw away the key?
Targeting the under-achievement in schooling

Address by domestic policy expert Jennifer Marshall
A window on our past

Year in review 2008 -- A message from our CEO

Wednesday, 12 November was Maxim Institute's seventh birthday. Thinking back to that first day in 2001, I clearly recall the excitement and trepidation we felt as we put the paintbrushes down and fired up our laptops. There were six of us then. Bruce Logan's NZEDF office in Christchurch had laid the foundation for the new work and after some weeks of fundraising we were set to go with two offices and enough cash to cover one payroll.

The next seven years were a blur of policy, training, debate, research and new programmes. Like any journey worthy of a life's investment it's had a few challenges, but every one of them has made us better, clearer and stronger.

Right now the economic downturn presents us with considerable challenges and yet at the same time there are policy and debate openings not seen in New Zealand for many years. Our intern graduates are taking up positions in parliament, education, media and law. Our research and policy recommendations are landing on good soil. And our lectures and events are stimulating public discussion as never before.

Times of celebration and of challenge are moments to reminds ourselves why we are here -- and to ask the question -- is what we are doing so vital we should spend our lives on it? The answer is a resounding yes.

If history is 'a record of the great ideas that inform our actions and move us to act,' then the rigorous engagement with those ideas is a great calling indeed. Maxim Institute started with a vision to foster the ideas and leadership to enable justice, freedom and compassion to flourish in New Zealand. Seven years on that vision is clearer still. I trust that you will find in the pages of our Year in review 2008 the recording of a year well spent; of young lives inspired; and of ideas shaped.

We value your support, critique and encouragement. It is deeply appreciated. As an independent registered charity we are entirely dependent on donations, if you are interested in finding out more about how to support us financially, please contact us or visit the secure donation section of our website (https://secure.maxim.org.nz/maxim/index.cfm/About_us/Support_us/Make_a_donation).

I trust you have a enjoyable and relaxing Christmas!

Greg Fleming

Find out more about the work we have done this year and its impact -- read our Year in review 2008 http://www.maxim.org.nz/files/pdf/yearinreview2008.pdf


The Corrections Department has released its briefing to the new Minister, Judith Collins, setting out the 'key challenges and opportunities' in the portfolio. The briefing has two main features of interest -- charting the increasing 'pressure' on the prison system and the growing importance of 'strengthening community based sentences' like home detention and community work, together with more facilities for rehabilitation and a new start. The briefing reminds us of the difficult balancing act required in justice policy.

It is easy to see a community sentence or an attempt to deal with the root causes of crime as a 'soft option' for criminals, particularly if the sentences and services do not command public confidence or respect. And it is absolutely true, good and right that those who break the law, such that they are a threat to community safety, ought to go to prison for as long as necessary. But building new prisons, vital as this is, should not be, and is not the end. New prisons are being built, but so are new drug and alcohol rehabilitation units. More criminals are being caught, but at the same time we are attempting to 'manage' more of them outside prison. As both the briefing and the Government have pointed out, an even greater emphasis on rehabilitation is also needed. The truest kind of community safety is the one in which people do not commit crimes in the first place -- or if they do, we deal with the factors that so often surround crime: bad choices, addictions, joblessness and disconnection. In essence, prison should not just about punishment, useful as that is and punishment should not just be about prison, necessary as that can be on occasions. It is also about finding a better way, and a better life, for both victims and offenders.

If prisoners are released only to re-offend, more victims are created, more lives hurt. If they are rehabilitated, perhaps by being kept in the community under restrictions, then we move beyond simply locking people up and throwing away the key, and give our people the key to a different life -- a life of healthy relationships, a life free of addiction and a safer life for the whole community. That was a goal of the last government and it ought to remain a priority for this one too. The journey to a safer society will not be accomplished overnight. Through a wise and prudent process of balancing interests, we must find the right equilibrium between the rights of victims and community safety, and help for offenders. We should add to our punishment mercy and the grace of a second chance.

Read the 'Department of Corrections Briefing for the Incoming Minister' http://www.corrections.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/227049/oia-bim-2007.pdf


The recent flurry of legislative activity from the Government has included the passing of new education standards which will help in pinpointing and supporting those of our children who are being left behind.

The Education (National Standards of Literacy and Numeracy) Amendment Act allows the Minister of Education to publish national standards in literacy and numeracy. Schools will be required to 'provide information in their annual reports about the progress of students in respect of any national standards in literacy and numeracy that have been published.' This will 'enable parents to be well informed about students' schooling' and to assess individual children's progress against a measurable standard.

Parents and teachers both need to know where children are falling behind in order to provide extra support for children who need help. A standardised set of benchmarks will pinpoint which students are in the under-achievement bracket, and will also allow greater clarity and consistency for schools, parents and teachers. It is imperative the education system does all it can to readily recognise and assist those falling behind, in a transparent and timely manner. Standards will provide a complete and plainly understood picture of where our children are at and how we can best help them. The best way to do this is a unified and clear system of national assessment, perhaps looking to the expectations set for achievement at each level of the New Zealand curriculum, and then testing pupils against them with one unified in-class assessment. Only in this way can the benchmarks fulfil the promise of raising New Zealand's educational achievement.

The detail of the standards should be followed through to make sure that the promise of standardised benchmarks is fulfilled, but the amendment is a big step in the right direction.

Read the Education (National Standards) Amendment Act 2008 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0007-1/latest/versions.aspx

Read Maxim Institute's research paper on 'National standards for excellent teachers, reporting of student progress and NCEA' http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/policy___research/article?id=1574



Jennifer Marshall, Director of Domestic Policy Studies at the US-based Heritage Foundation, will be delivering a lecture hosted by Maxim Institute in Auckland on Wednesday, 28 January on the issue of welfare reform. More details will be available on our website in the New Year. If you would like to receive an invitation to the event then please contact us with your details. (http://www.maxim.org.nz/index.cfm/About_us/Contact_us)

Jennifer Marshall oversees research in education, marriage, family, religion and civil society. She has spoken at national and international forums, testified before Congress, and appeared on various radio and television shows, such as C-SPAN's premier talk show, 'Washington Journal' and Fox News Channel's 'Hannity & Colmes.'

Before joining Heritage in 2003, Marshall worked on cultural policy issues at Empower America, another Washington-based think tank. Before that, she was Senior Director of Family Studies at the Family Research Council and taught at an American school in Lyon, France. Marshall holds a master's degree in statecraft and world politics from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor's degree in French from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where she also earned teacher's certification.


The Alexander Turnbull Library has put online a fascinating insight into New Zealand's colonial past, the letters of the controversial Sir Donald McClean (1820-1877), former 'Chief Native Land Purchase Commissioner' and 'head of the Native Affairs Department,' politician and settler. They offer a window into early New Zealand settlement. Written by a number of people in both Maori and English, and featuring a number of names familiar from New Zealand history, the digitised letters, both from and to Sir Donald, contain gems, such as the following from an early settler in 1845:'... [There is] likely to be a fight with the Natives soon at the Bay in consequence of Honi Heki (sic) having again cut down the Flag Staff and taken away all the Blocks and ropes belonging to the same the sooner it comes to a fight the better as they have now got so saucy there are no living for them. The Governor is such a Weather Cock that it is not safe to do anything.' The letters from settlers and Maori, ragtag entrepreneurs and bishops, show us the period of settlement in all its vivid colour and controversy.

Read the letters and find out more about Donald McClean http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/?l=en


'I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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