Internet access

"Left behind" ( NZ Herald , May 15) reports on a survey performed by a company that connects schools to internet services via their "secure" network. Their own survey shows lower home internet access in our poorest schools. But research from Australia shows that tablets are eroding digital skills. International research shows that children from lower socioeconomic groups have far more screen use, and when given internet access for learning at home, parents are less able to provide supervision and their recreational screen time further increases.
Expert discussion in the Herald has noted that there are
significant concerns with the use of digital technology in schools, and that we need caution before we further disadvantage children. Yet again our educational performance has declined in the previous year.
Philanthropists funding device access are well intended, but we need to stop, and consider whether this is the right move for all children. Should digital technologies be limited within school hours, with homework off devices, particularly in the early years? When the use of screens requires a balanced approach, expecting parents to monitor and ensure balance when many say they are struggling to manage is problematic. NZ children have way over the recommended screen use, Network For Learning does not ensure secure site access, children and teens use devices in school for recreational and inappropriate content. We need to consider this issue with more thought.
Angela Scott, Grey Lynn.

Bullying reduced by valuing diversity

Research around the world including New Zealand is showing that old definitions of bullying ( NZ Herald , May 13) that emphasise repeated hurtful actions and a desire to exert power over another are inadequate to explain how bullying is more of a relational phenomenon.
What this report shows is that the " softer" acts of aggression such as exclusion and name calling and put downs, based on highlighting some kind of difference are the more common forms of bullying that students experience.
Racism and gender discrimination are logical expressions of this but it can even be as subtle as the choice of music or sports teams or religious expression. Bullying surprisingly therefore can be strong amongst friendships and is no longer the domain of the standover tactics of the playground bully.
Central to any effective initiatives to eliminate bullying is the dynamic involvement of the student body.
Evidence is overwhelming that, where schools value diversity in all its forms, students feel safe and can learn without fear. Where expectations for learning success are high, coupled with high levels of support from staff and students, results are correspondingly high.
Schools might be effective in making the rules, but ultimately it is the students who decide what kind of relationships will produce the kind of school that is bullying-free, which this report has called "student leadership, agency and voice".
Michael Williams, Takanini.

Smoking and poverty

Drawing on a report from Dr Marewa Glover of the Centre of Research Excellence, Michael Neilson reports (NZ Herald, May 14 ) that Maori paid a "disproportionate amount in tobacco tax". That is untrue. They simply smoke more tobacco but pay the same tax rate as other smokers. The answer to avoiding this tax is simple. Stop smoking.
I am of Maori descent. I smoked from an early age. My father and my brothers smoked and I followed their example. Then I stopped smoking, and my brothers and my father stopped as well. No more tobacco tax and a lot more money to spend. I wonder how I could ever have afforded to start smoking now. Many can't afford the habit and they can less afford more important things as a consequence. It is the bad example of others that starts them smoking and should not be blamed on poverty.
Harvey Rosieur, Howick.

Health services

Your correspondent Ericson List ( NZ Herald , May 14) is wrong regarding ACC and doctors' performance. A return to the ability to sue doctors would degrade care, raise costs and reduce standards, mainly via avoidance of challenging cases, excessive prescribing, and a drive toward "defensive" medicine whereby doctors over-investigate symptoms of little or no relevance, often at great cost to both the system and the patient. The US statistics for health care make sobering reading with a falling life expectancy and rising costs far in excess of the economic ability to fund. The result has been high quality health care for only a proportion of the population. Doctors in New Zealand are highly regulated and subject to stringent independent oversight from multiple bodies including ACC. Rather than suggest financial accountability through the courts to raise standards, we should turn our attention to addressing the very real systemic challenges of a population who relentlessly needs more heath care whilst we have an economy that simply cannot afford to supply everything that is desired in a system stretched to its limits by multiple constraints including workforce.
Andrew Connolly, Mt Eden, former chairman, Medical Council of NZ.


All day pass

Once upon a time... before Auckland Transport made some so-called improvements to their bus system, it was possible to buy an All Day Pass so for a set price one could travel anywhere on a bus in any direction as many times as needed in that day.
It was also possible to buy a Family Pass. Two adults and two children or one adult and four children. Again, all day, and for as many trips as needed.
Auckland Transport - in its great wisdom, by its actions - has made sure it encouraged families to use the family car.
I am supportive of the suggestion to allow children free transport on buses. In fact if it was available on weekdays the congestion on Auckland roads would be greatly reduced. It would mean more buses to carry the extra passengers but I believe it would be worth doing.
In the meantime, surely it is possible to design a feature that allows the former systems to be reintroduced? An All Day Pass and a Family Pass need to be reinstated.
Gillian Dance, Mount Albert.

Economic thinking

It was interesting to read Peter Lyons' excellent "Limited economic thinking costs" column ( NZ Herald , May 14) the day after attending Kate Raworth's invigorating "Doughnut Economics" talk at the Auckland Writers Festival.
Will our Wellbeing Budget show the world how to begin actioning this essential shift in economic evaluation? Will the Herald 's business journalists help us to create a sustainable future by broadening their focus beyond GDP?
Michael Smythe, Northcote Point


I must leap to the defence ( NZ Herald , May 15) of TVNZ's Educators . I'm a teacher - past my three score year and ten, though not my used-by-date - and I loved it. Satire, parody, whatever. It was very funny, well done Jess and cast. I was reminded of the excellent UK comedy (2002) called Teachers .
Heather Mackay, Kerikeri.

Rail crossings

I completely agree with the Albert-Eden Board's bid to get waiting times at level crossings shortened ( NZ Herald , May 14). They seem particularly prolonged at Woodward Rd and I have often been tempted to get out of my car to see if there really is a train or whether the flashing lights and barriers are faulty. It is also a problem at all three crossings since there is space for only a limited number of cars to queue, creating congestion and further danger.
Todd Moyle's claim of a "knock-on" effect is not explained and seems nonsense as train running and waiting times at stations would not be affected. And why does a review of something so basic need a long and complicated review? He is clearly not interested in responding to the Board's request and is hiding behind a veil of excuses.
Ian Dally, Mt Albert.

Synthetic drugs

It's sad to see artificial cannabis getting confused with the natural once again.
Is there even a "spit" saliva-test that can detect these dangerous chemicals that bond so crudely to the endo-cannabinoid receptors in the body and overpower this sensitive bio-feedback system, even causing heart attacks in youthful abusers?
Does a roadside test for them even exist, given that they are constantly changing?
Can cops actually test for impaired performance from these chemical drugs and the "bullet-proof arrogance" of meth-affected drivers, where the driver may have been awake for 24 plus hours?
Please don't blame deaths caused by other drugs on natural cannabis, which tends to make drivers more cautious.
Brodie Andrews, Titirangi.

Protect minorities

I heartily agreed with Professor Gledhill's commentary on hate speech ( NZ Herald , May 14) when he said that government has the "need to protect minorities whose interests might be undermined by selfish or powerful majorities". As one of the tens of thousands of gun owners who was squashed by the majority when my guns were arbitrarily seized from me, I surely know what he means. Unfortunately, it was the "democratic form of government" that he has such faith in that led the charge and did the seizing.
Greg Beck, West Harbour.

Short & Sweet

On Folau

God spoke to me. He said, "Israel Folau suffers from public brain farts". Scoff all you like.
C C McDowall Rotorua.

I'm sure the legal fraternity will be itching to test the novel "we've got no budget for it" defence promoted by Sean Sweeney .
Mike Newland, Matakana.
On pollution

Those lovely shiny things that we drive to work every morning are one of NZ's main polluters. Makes you think doesn't it?
P Skipworth, St Johns.
On Vodafone

If I was the new owner of Vodafone I would fire the (un)help desk and start again with local helpers. After eight years, they lost this customer!
Derek Paterson, Sunnyhills.
On journalism

It is quite a long time since I have enjoyed such good, in-depth investigations and journalism as featured in this week's editions. It justifies subscribing to the NZ Herald .
Esther Bowden, Flagstaff.
On dentistry

Free basic dental care for community card holders and their families, with a huge tax on sugary drinks, would be far more sensible than giving some lucky students - many undeserving - free tertiary education.
Pamela Russell, Orakei.
On strikes

To the children of those striking schools: Strike for climate change during those days when teachers are striking.
H Harwood, Orakei.
On bullies

Until any bully is reprimanded, denounced, and called to apologise and repent, we will go nowhere.
John Ford, Taradale.