Editorial: What's in a name? Plenty if it's yours

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Hekia Parata's comments could be broadened to include Cabinet colleagues

Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Is it patronising for teachers to mispronounce children's names? Or is it patronising for the Education Minister to tell the teachers' union she hears that such mispronunciation occurs too often. Probably both.

The minister, Hekia Parata, learned of the poor use of children's names from focus groups of Maori and Pasifika pupils who felt unvalued when their teachers did not make the effort. Her decision to relay those concerns to a representative body of secondary teachers went down poorly because it was taken as a generalisation - an attempt to fire a shot at an organisation which would pride itself on being culturally aware.

Many teachers do get their students' names right. They no doubt frown on any of their number who pronounce names without care. Sadly, those who cannot or will not say names correctly are unlikely to recognise themselves as the subject of her criticism.

The PPTA leadership was all wounded affront, pronouncing Ms Parata's remarks "dangerous".

The danger might be to cordial relations between minister and teachers, rather than to race relations or to children on the wrong end of the tongue-tied or intolerant.

If nothing else, Ms Parata has reminded us of the importance given by all individuals to that most basic of courtesies. And the minister might broaden her target: some of her Cabinet colleagues, including the Prime Minister, are less than agile on Maori and Pacific names and phrases.

- NZ Herald

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