It is not easy to respond to the kind of simplistic assertions made by the NZ Initiative in the guise of expert opinion (Herald, October 7).
I am 80 years of age, 58 of them working in education. I have read mountains of research, for example, on how the brain develops and how children learn best; I have delved into history to understand why our schooling system is what it is; I have engaged with hundreds of schools, educators and researchers from around the world, and I have written two books on schooling, one devoting a whole chapter to the international tests the institute refers to, and what they mean and don't mean.
What is clear is that the model of schooling invented in the early 20th century is no longer appropriate to the needs of society in the 21st. Being able to quote Shakespeare, recite the theorem of Pythagoras, and solve quadratic equations are no longer the "measure" of success. Building the knowledge and skills young people need to meet the complex challenges of their futures is essential.
I have been involved with a few schools in New Zealand in which students are given considerable freedom to decide what they will learn, but always under the guidance of their teachers. Most are small, private or special character. The students I have found to be among the most knowledgeable, self-managed, confident, articulate, and thinking young people I have met.
It is not easy for mainstream schools to do the same, but I am grateful that many schools in New Zealand are progressively shifting their teaching and learning approaches to better meet the needs of their students and society today.
David Hood, Hamilton.
Millions spent on ads
One must shake one's head learning that the Biden campaign has now spent more than US$500 million on ads this year. And over the past week, he spent $40.3m on television and radio. The Trump campaign spent about $23.3 million.
About NZ$800m was spent by Democrats to try and educate, persuade, inform, wake up a US public.
And that money has been spent when the US has enormous $23-$24 trillion national debt, major fires and hurricane damage.
Maybe these horrendous numbers no longer have much meaning to anyone in the US Treasury?
Let NZ restrain its longterm financial pain, its excesses, its debts and handing over taxpayers' hard-earned cash to US media giants.
Rob Buchanan, Kerikeri.
How to learn
Thank you Barbara Stewart-Brown (October 10) for reminding everyone that there is a way for all children to succeed at school. But 40 years ago we let those in their ivory towers decide that the phoneme base of our language would be usurped by the whole word method. What a disaster for the intellectually, socially, and economically deprived.
What wonderful memories from my classroom time I have of junior children learning without frustration from their phoneme base. The advantaged children learned so much faster and were soon off on their own research, helping others in the class, fully capable of directing their own advancement. And then all coming together as a satisfied group and appreciating other skills some had that did not require a phoneme base.
Oh, what wonderful little people they were, capable of so much and with so much potential. They loved learning.
Bev Woods, Ruakaka.
Cyclone claims false
There have been a number of articles in the Herald about yachts wanting special dispensation to come to New Zealand from French Polynesia this summer to avoid cyclones. Tahiti is rarely affected by cyclones, and even then only in years when El Nino conditions exist. La Nina or neutral conditions will prevail this season and so there is virtually no chance of a cyclone reaching Tahiti. The French Polynesian islands to the northeast of Tahiti are even less likely to experience strong winds and indeed, the Marquesas have never experienced a cyclone. There may be many valid reasons why yachts want to come to New Zealand from French Polynesia this summer, but escaping cyclones is not one of them.
Tony Barker, Glenfield.
Housing market out of control
Columnist John Hawkes (October 9) comments, "The main increase in our wealth is due not to savings and productive investments but principally rising house prices. We must lift low rates of business investment and feeble productivity growth if we are to raise our standard of living." The contentious decision by the RBNZ to further reduce the OCR has again ignited the housing market, now beyond the reach of so many as social division widens. This while issues surrounding healthcare, education, unemployment, housing, infrastructure persist. Meanwhile the favourable finance available to the housing sector deprives those sourcing venture capital; little wonder real estate remains the investment vehicle of choice.
P.J. Edmondson, Tauranga.
No more professional pollies
A four-year parliamentary term is okay but does not deal with the problem. I suggest to limit the term for any MP to two electoral periods, that is eight years. We would get rid of the "professional" politician who has done nothing else but rise through party ranks, having never earned a crust in real life.
K.H. Peter Kammler, Warkworth.
Simon Guinness' Friday letter lamenting "modern liberal ideology" overlooks the near universal human desire to feel special. The 1980s revolutionaries promulgating the mantra "children know what they want" felt very very special indeed. They were exalted as new messiahs recognising the needs of the powerless in schools: the children.
Traditional teachers were accused of being power-hungry, authoritarian, homework-loving, control freaks. Opposing only proved it. Wellington embraced the liberal bandwagon because they would no longer have to recruit scarce subject specialists.
RIP NZ scholastic excellence.
Jim Carlyle, (1980s HOD Science & Maths at Western Springs College), Te Atatu Peninsula.
Kindness? In the Government's quest for the great god Money they have forgotten their own advice to be kind. After reading Saturday's front page on refusing entry to an ordinary yachting family (meaning not super-wealthy) to enter NZ after losing their son in an accident at sea, I have decided to vote elsewhere.
Margaret Braun, Remuera.
Congratulations NZ Herald on Saturday's paper. Excellent articles by a diverse range of contributors. John Roughan's in-depth article on the cannabis referendum, though a few weeks earlier would have been helpful for those early voters; Michael Cullen, an interesting take on the lack of certainty in future government and Bruce Cotterill offering an insider's opinion of our building woes.
Now if only those in government read the Herald and take on board some of the advice on offer, maybe there is some hope of progress towards a more rapid recovery for our great country.
James Archibald, Birkenhead.
Hard work for little pay
When Paul Goldsmith talks about National's tax cuts he always says that the people on the average wage will get $3000 a year and that these are the people working hard and they deserve to get money back, but this implies that people on the minimum wage, and just above that, are not working just as hard. I find this disrespectful of lower-paid workers.
Tony Barnett, Pukekohe.
Debates v interviews
What are promoted as political debates are much closer to an interview than a formal debate. I suggest that in future there are formal moderated debates, two (or more) teams, each of three speakers. Each speaker gets an allotted time and stops when out of time. Interjections are short and sharp. The Leader of each team concludes the debate. Imagine how much more informative the debates in the future could be if Team National was debating with Team Labour and the moot was "We are the best team to lead the government for the next three years".
Jon Eriksen, Newmarket.
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