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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 83

Maxim Institute

real issues.

this week: No. Eighty-Three 2 OCTOBER 2003

* The Paul Holmes saga
The reaction reveals where our society is at.

* 'Vying for Our Children'
A new book probes the thinking behind the curriculum taught in
our classrooms.

* A brothel next door?
Local councils are now bearing the brunt of bad law.

The Paul Holmes saga

There's no doubt that Holmes's comments on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan were out of order. How much damage he caused though, is a moot point. There are at least two issues here - what Holmes said, and the reaction to what was said. It's the latter that is most revealing of where we are at as a society.

The petition signed by 54 academics to have Holmes sacked is an example. Why do academics assume they have more authority than anyone else? They are adept at creating and preserving climates of opinion. In this case it is their politically correct judgement on the affects of the comments and what should happen as a consequence.

Also informative are the numbers of complaints. The Broadcasting Standards Authority has received at least 86, which has been described as 'unprecedented'. It has been reported that the Human Rights Commission has had 10 complaints. TVNZ says it received 300 complaints for the comments made on NewstalkZB and more than 1,100 calls applauding Holmes's apology on his Monday night show. For the level of furore caused the number of complaints is surprising low, especially those received by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

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To try and learn from this saga a former Race Relations Conciliator asked: what will serve the interest of nation building in New Zealand best? "A sacked Paul Holmes and many bitter people within a polarised nation or a contrite Paul trying to atone and redeem himself?" It is perhaps encouraging that the number of calls TVNZ received applauding the apology was almost four times the number of complaints.

'Vying for Our Children'

An important book for parents and educators was launched this week by Maxim Institute written by our education analyst Paul Henderson. Vying for Our Children explores the philosophical currents which have shaped the present curriculum in New Zealand schools.

The author argues that the political environment of the early 1990s (which led to the New Zealand Curriculum Framework in 1993) witnessed an unprecedented confluence of the political left and right and radical change in education. The result was a focus on skills and assessed outcomes, as well as political correctness and a devaluing of teaching and subject content.

Vying for Our Children presents a balanced critique of these philosophical influences, highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses. The book highlights the most important question in education: rather than asking what children can do, we should ask what are children becoming? Among the 13 things found wrong with the curriculum Henderson says it: kills history; removes hard-graft from learning; bends education to political correctness; fosters indoctrination; and trivialises education to focus on the needs of the economy. In conclusion Vying for Our Children calls for new curriculum guidelines to be written.

Vying for Our Children will be available in book shops around the country from next week for $24.95. Copies can also be ordered by calling Amanda in our Auckland office - tel 09-627 3261. Maxim Partners can purchase copies at a reduced price of $20.00

To read a one-page summary of the book visit:

A brothel next door?

The reality of what the Prostitution Reform Act (passed in June) means in practice is now being felt throughout the country. Local councils are now dealing with the complex and difficult task of deciding where brothels should be situated. Sponsor of the Prostitution Act, Labour MP, Tim Barnett continues to promote a 'harm minimisation' approach and is offering his opinion on councils' business.

Meanwhile the taxpayer funded Prostitutes' Collective is in overdrive lobbying councils: particularly in Auckland City Council which has proposed prohibiting brothels in residential areas and within 250 metres of sensitive places like community facilities and schools. Tim Barnett this week criticised Auckland City's draft by-laws saying, 'they will be contributing to harm by producing just the sort of moralistic, lowest-common-denominator rule which dominated the old law'. Mr Barnett says Auckland City's approach rejects the key concept of harm minimisation.

But the Prostitution Act itself failed to acknowledge that prevention is the best way to minimise harm. Even if communities do not want brothels in their area, a complete prohibition isn't possible because the law made the trade a legal activity. Thus councils have to site brothels where they think they will have the least impact (or cause the least harm) for all residents. All law is based on moral understandings (even if implicit) and by nature, law either encourages or discourages an activity. Not consenting to brothels in residential areas is entirely reasonable. As councils are required to consult with ratepayers on this issue, now is your chance to have a say.

To view a Maxim article on this issue by Communications Director Scott McMurray, click on:

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

To pass a law and not have it enforced is to authorize the very thing you wish to prohibit.


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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society

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