Letters 13 October 2012

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13th October, 2012 Leave a Comment

ENTREPRENEURS WITH GUMPTION

“The buck starts here” (September 29) reminded me of the characteristics all entrepreneurs need to possess, such as courage, creativity, determination, self-belief and a willingness to take risks. But there is also something else about Kiwi entrepreneurs: they seem to have an extra ingredient possibly best summed up by the word “gumption”. Kiwi entrepreneurs have initiative, guts and spunk. They have a can-do attitude, even when others claim something can’t be done. Kiwi entrepreneurs definitely have gumption. I teach business studies at an Auckland school, and I was pleased to read Phil Veal’s comment about the change he has noticed, with young people talking more about business ideas than rugby. A quiet revolution has taken place in our schools: a revolution superbly led by the Young Enterprise Trust and several innovative programmes such as the business school at Onehunga High School. Now we have a business studies curriculum and an educational mandate to create a “culture of enterprise”. Creating this culture won’t be easy, but teachers throughout the country are embracing the opportunity to get students thinking about and interacting with business ideas. And students are giving things a go. They’re taking ideas and making them happen. It is an exciting time to be a business studies teacher and we look forward to witnessing the emergence of many more Kiwi entrepreneurs; entrepreneurs full of gumption, taking on the world.
Mark Snoad
Business studies teacher, Ormiston Senior College
(Auckland)

“CLOSE UP”

TV1 frequently trumpets its news, current affairs and reporters as the best in New Zealand. What an opportunity it now has to prove it. For years, experienced broadcasters have argued for a half-hour news format followed by a “flagship” half hour of hard-hitting, compelling current affairs, instead of the “fluff”, padding and tabloid nonsense masquerading as “news” that viewers have had to put up with in the hour-long format. Let the advertisers, who seemingly control programming, have the 7.00pm entertainment slot. It’s a no-brainer, TVNZ: if you have the guts to make this decision, viewers, staff and advertisers become winners. And watch TV3 follow suit.
Christopher Bourn
Retired broadcasting producer and department head
(Richmond, Nelson)

As Saturday night Coronation Street had to be dropped for that essential watch Come Dine with Me, I’m certain yet another food show will replace Close Up next month. So, Campbell Live, here I come. A better solution would be to give us Coro five nights a week from 7.00 to 7.30pm, as they do in the UK. At least that way we wouldn’t fall even further behind the UK. Anyone else in favour of that strategy?
Murray Hunter
(Titirangi, Waitakere City)

NATIONAL STANDARDS

Further to the theme of the October 6 Editorial on National Standards, there are many powerful reasons that primary schools should not have literacy and numeracy levels reported in league tables. Apart from the obvious problems of unreliability of teachers’ judgments when the standards are so vaguely expressed, and the unfairness of judging lowdecile schools whose children are so clearly disadvantaged, there are many less-obvious reasons that educators should resist this flawed policy. What politicians do not understand is what happens inside schools when “lowstakes” assessments, intended for better learning, are replaced by “high-stakes” assessment, for public accountability. Only those who work in schools will appreciate how the pressures on teachers will change the priorities of the classroom, inevitably for the worse. There is much research on the impact of high-stakes assessment in primary schools overseas, and the results are all bad. For instance, if the assessment is confined to two or three components of the curriculum, other subjects are gradually neglected. If the assessments require teachers to report how many students have reached a particular benchmark, then those who have achieved it, and those unlikely to do so, are increasingly ignored. If the judgments are tied to particular tests, directly, or indirectly (as in New Zealand), then students will be coached repeatedly on those tests, thus undermining their future value. If the results are to be reported in the press, then many schools distort their results to paint a more positive picture. If young children who start behind others are repeatedly told they are failing, their self-esteem and attitudes to learning are affected. Such labels are extremely hard to shake off. If schools lose their better teachers and students to schools with apparently higher achievement levels, morale inevitably suffers. Not surprisingly, the gaps between high- and low-achieving schools only increase, and worst of all, national achievement declines. International OECD surveys confirm these trends. Is our minister ignorant of such findings? League tables may gain votes for politicians, but they will destroy the hard-won positive culture of individualised learning that exists in our primary schools. We must learn from the mistakes of others.
Warwick B Elley
Emeritus Professor of Education
(Rothesay Bay, Auckland)

A RIDGE TOO FAR

The worst thing about the TV series The Ridges is seeing 18-year-old Jaime living her life seemingly under her mother’s control. Grow up, Jaime. Let’s see the real you.
Margaret Bongard
(Grey Lynn, Auckland)

People take their life chances based on talent, inclination and availability. No one’s going to offer Sally Ridge a job at Woolies. Rather than disdain the Ridges for being in work, we can just change channels.
Alan Beck
(Dunedin)

WELFARE REFORMS

It is naive and ill-informed to argue the welfare changes are about “championing vulnerable people” (Editorial, September 29). These reforms are shaped by a punitive and authoritarian approach to welfare in which children’s needs are at the bottom of the list. Why has child poverty beenreduced to parental obligations and parental employment, and what will happen to children whose mothers can’t get work, even when that work is consistent with their children’s needs? The editorial is conspicuously silent on child poverty at a time when that has become one of the central issues facing this country. It echoes the Social Development Minister’s rhetoric in which it is implied that all benefi ciaries fail to care adequately for their children, despite evidence to the contrary.
Mike O’Brien
Convenor, Child Poverty Action Group

GLOBAL WARNING

Denys Trussell (Letters, October 6) asks how many people use the rapidly shrinking rail passenger service between Auckland and Wellington. The answer, of course, is very few. Could this be because many of us who live along or within easy reach of the line can no longer get on the trains? Most of the stops were axed earlier this year. Apparently, the Overlander is now a tourist service and not a realistic transport option for those of us who prefer trains to planes or cars. It is most frustrating to hear and see the train but not be able to get on it. What a step backwards when climate change is rapidly becoming the major issue both nationally and internationally.
Mary Scobie
(Te Kuiti)

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES

Discussing the September 15 article “Orchestral manoeuvres”, Robin Maconie (Letters, September 29) claims “comfortably tenured academics in our university music schools” should be speaking out in support of orchestral members. Academics I know have been debating this and making submissions to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage about the orchestra review. I spent many hours preparing a submission, and the University of Otago Music Department where I work also made a submission. We made it clear orchestral music needs to be nurtured and valued, and that all music followers would be affected if there were to be cutbacks. We have also responded to a misguided campaign from northern regions that would like to see just one orchestra serving the South Island. This would be disastrous for music in the south, with a flow-on effect to teachers, institutions and musical groups. The Southern Sinfonia, for example, has contributed to the development of many fine instrumentalists, conductors and composers, and has helped launch many fine careers – Jonathan Lemalu, Anna Leese and Tecwyn Evans, to name but three. We have also been appalled at the suggestion the NZSO might be disbanded (fortunately an option that has been discounted by the Government). This is a world-class orchestra and we should be treasuring it, not undermining it. We need it to bring the best of orchestral music to a wide range of New Zealanders. These views have been strongly expressed to the orchestra review and there has been plenty of community debate. I did not feel the need to trumpet my views to the media. However, that type of loud-mouthed lobbying seems to be the way of the world these days, so I guess if you can’t beat them, join them.
Anthony Ritchie
Associate Professor, Department of Music, University of Otago

MAANU PAUL

I had to read the Maanu Paul article (“Legend in his ownership right”, October 6) twice – and there’s only one word to describe my feelings about it: gobsmacked! On first reading, I thought it was a gigantic spoof, but it seems he’s serious. It appears the Maori Council (according to Paul) wants nothing short of ownership of all New Zealand’s natural resources, and it will then proceed to charge the rest of us for the privilege of using them. At least he’s honest about what he wants. Isn’t it time we stopped thinking racially and accepted we are all one people, no matter what our background? Let’s respect one another’s cultures and traditions and look to a united future.
Maureen Sudlow
(Dargaville)

ACC STRATEGIES

Mary Butler (Letters, September 29) implies the “great New Zealand experiment” of ACC that included giving up common law rights to sue is the problem behind people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) not getting compensation. On the contrary, the ACC system delivers far more compensation to injured patients than a tort-based system, because everyone who has had an accident is accepted as eligible for compensation and the huge costs of lawyer involvement are largely avoided. People with TBI would arguably be worse in a tort system because the defendant would explicitly employ “specialists” who were on their side, with not a shred of the accountability that ACC is required to have. The problem is that it makes financial sense to run a system for accidents like ACC, because returning people to work quickly saves money. We cannot afford to extend the ACC system to include sickness; we already spend 25% of GDP on health and can’t afford more. As a result, the law requires there is a line that divides people suffering as a result of an accident from those suffering not as a result of an accident. This is a medical fiction. It is easy at the extremes: broken legs from falling over are covered, coronary artery disease is not. In the middle, it will always be a problem because where the line lies (this was more than 50% the result of accident) is a matter of opinion. This can be tested by appealing an ACC decision and presenting evidence from other experts and having a judicial decision on it – a process similar to the tort law process, except it only has to happen in a small minority of cases. The final point is that although I understand the criticism of “ACC’s experts” and the possibility of bias in favour of ACC’s position, there is no simple alternative. Some years ago, ACC used to ask patients’ practitioners to make this sort of decision, which put practitioners in an impossible position. They either decided it was an accident or they ruined the relationship with their patients, irrespective of the merits of the case. In a country as small as New Zealand, fi nding a truly independent adviser for these cases is difficult. This problem has surfaced because the Government is threatening the integrity of ACC, suggesting it costs too much and threatening to privatise the business. ACC responded by “saving money”, by moving the line in the grey area and by removing cover for some people. The new ACC board can direct ACC to move that line back a little bit. We would be much worse off if we got rid of ACC.
Dr Ben Gray
(Brooklyn, Wellington)

THINKING GREEN

According to recent news reports, the price of used cars has risen because tightened emissions regulations on imported cars have reduced the age of the secondhand cars coming into the country. Good for the environment because transport is a huge carbon emitter, right? But it’s tough for people on low incomes who keep driving (inefficient) older cars because they can’t afford to update to newer, less polluting vehicles. At the same time, brand new supereffi cient small diesels that have lower emissions than hybrid cars and consume less than half the energy in their manufacture have road-user charges applied that make them less cost-effective for averagemileage drivers than much more polluting petrol-engined vehicles. How is this good for the environment, and is this an example of the best we can do in the way of cohesive environmental thinking?
David Cohen
(Dunedin North)

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKED

The Prime Minister is right when he waxes lyrical about the importance of infrastructure and the wisdom of being ready and prepared to attract business opportunities. The proposed new Auckland International Convention Centre is an example. Why, then, is he allowing the destruction of the vital Gisborne to Napier railway?
John Darkin
(Gisborne)

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