Losing our religion
Schools exist for the teaching of facts. Education Minister Chris Hipkins is right to work for the end of the kind of religious instruction taught by "Launchpad" (the Churches Education Commission, rebranded), because Launchpad exists to put missionaries in schools to teach that Christianity is true, and truer than other religions.
Religious instruction intended to convey that one belief is preferable to or more credible than other beliefs, or than no belief at all, has no place in a state-supported school (including "integrated" schools funded by taxpayers).
On the other hand, an even-handed exploration of beliefs from the Stone Age till the present, and their effects on societies, is a natural part of the study of human history. It must not treat the monotheism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as in some way true, or truer than other belief systems, simply because it is prevalent in Western society, but instead discuss it alongside polytheism, atheism and agnosticism, none more demonstrably true than another.
And that teaching ought to be a normal part of ordinary social studies, given by the social studies teacher, not by a proselytiser from outside.
John Trezise, Birkenhead.
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The editorial of Wednesday 15 January asks whether "religion deserves to be expelled from schools".
The editorial makes no distinction between "religious instruction" and "religious studies". In fact they are two distinct approaches to religious education.
The Ministry of Education's guidelines state: "Religious instruction is the teaching or
endorsing of a particular faith. It is the non-neutral, partisan teaching of religion which supports or encourages student belief in the religion being taught". It takes place outside school hours.
Religious Studies is stated as "the neutral teaching and presentation of information about religion, sometimes in the context of studying customary and cultural practices in curriculum subjects, such as the social sciences learning area of the New Zealand curriculum or within Te Marautanga o Aotearoa Tikanga-ā-Iwi".
The Minister of Education calls for a national conversation. Which of the two approaches do parents want for their children today? Which does the general public want for its citizens? Which approach best fits our multi-cultural, multi-religious society?
Jocelyn Armstrong, co-chair, Religious Diversity Centre.
There are a couple of things that need clarification regarding the Christian education programme in some state schools.
First, parents have always had their rights protected by having the option of withdrawing their children from the usual weekly half-hour of Bible lessons and the accompanying values component that these schools judge important in life.
Whether parents opt-in or withdraw permission (opt-out), the right of choice is essentially the same, except that some children could miss out by default.
The article referred to stated that teachers could teach about heaven and hell. That is incorrect. The Oversight to the programme have clear rules regarding what is appropriate to mention in schools, and talk of hell is forbidden. The emphasis must be on the love of God and the positive things the Bible teaches.
Rosemary McElroy, Remuera.
Based on Audrey Young's analysis the new Education and Training Bill (ETB) seems little more than another centralising of power.
If the boards of trustees cannot apply logic and pragmatism to setting local zones, then they need a clip round the ear – metaphorically of course. Replacing their processes, however imperfect, with a ministry process is likely to be protracted, meddlesome and muddled by distant interfering bureaucrats.
Whenever has a large public body ever proven to be more efficient then many smaller bodies of a human scale?
Is there actually anything about education within this bill? Where is the emphasis upon learning, as in grammar, Pacific rim languages, mathematics and science – academic disciplines from which every nation draws its future? Or are the hard-working teachers of those subjects now a forgotten and only partially lamented breed?
This government seems to be continuing the global trend of putting itself at the centre of our survival, thereby steadily eroding our self-reliance, and abilities to act and think for ourselves. Education is not the enemy of the people – it seems however to have become the enemy of government, and, at its mildest that is deeply sad, quite apart from the dystopian undertones.
Crispin Caldicott, Warkworth.
I have never seen a cost benefit analysis from Auckland Council or AT for allowing scooters on our streets.
It seems to me both organisations are coy on publishing revenues from licenses and annual fees to the companies involved.
I would say the rush to accommodate these scooter companies would not be quite so pronounced if they could be held responsible for the costs of accidents - reportedly $4 million in ACC costs.
Graham Edwards, Sandringham.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was an accepted and well-practised wisdom concerning swimming at Auckland's west coast beaches: Never swim on an outgoing tide.
Outgoing tides are when holes, rips and undertows are most likely to develop, ergo, a dangerous time to swim.
A couple of generations ago, this was an accepted wisdom but has been forgotten over time and certainly isn't publicised by the present cohort of surf life savers and water safety experts.
This message needs to be hammered home so that surf life savers are focused on deterring people from swimming on the outgoing tides, rather than rescuing them after they get into trouble.
Roger Clarke, Te Awamutu.
Surf Life Saving NZ responds: Considering the outgoing tide lasts for a period of six hours, lifeguards understand that a message not to swim during this time is not practical. Mr Clarke is correct, by comparison the rips are stronger on an outgoing tide. However, our safety messaging is built around simple clear actions that can be applied at all times, hence the message on the outgoing tide is seldom used in our campaigns.
In response to Emma Mackintosh's letter (NZ Herald, January 15) there is much I agree with. However, there have been a number of instances over the years where the deliberate disruptiveness, if not belligerence, of a union has tainted the otherwise important contribution to worker safety and welfare.
Three of these still remains in the collective memory; the 1951 Waterfront strike, the Māngere Bridge strike in the late 1970s, the Boilermakers Wellington Bank of New Zealand building strike which began in 1973. All of which were "a disgraceful display of union domination and ideology replacing common sense" which seriously hindered the common good of the workers and the entire country.
Capitalism is not immune from certain mindsets either particularly from the rampant end of the scale.
It is no wonder that there is a general ambivalence toward extremes that have tainted the otherwise general good work of many unions. As always, balancing the social and economic scales of life is not easy, but a strong national social awareness and cohesion among its citizens and its governance is always required if we are to return to "a once-proud country of human decency" as Mackintosh put it.
R M N Hood, Albany.
I agree with the comments Clyde Scott (NZ Herald, January 15) makes in regards to children gaining political education while they are at school from the age of 12. My only fear is that the material that will be taught may not be fully balanced and may lean either to the left or to the right depending on which government and minister of education is in power.
Certainly, having young people not fully aware of the implications of voting without knowledge would be a calamity waiting to happen. Even my own grandchildren, when asked "who would you vote for" a number of them said "Jacinda", but none of them were in the Mt Albert electorate.
A solid rational background to the political system in New Zealand would certainly be a great step forward.
Dick Ayers, Auckland Central.
Eons of change
Peter Walden (NZ Herald, January 15) is right that the Earth has its own clocks and changes in its own time (NZ Herald, January 15). For climate those changes occur over thousands and tens of thousands of years, not a single human lifetime, as has been seen in the last few decades since his remembered days of ice in Whanganui. Don't forget that climatologists are fully aware of Earth's temperature variations over millions of years (who do you think discovered them?) and are still calling the last several decades of warming "unprecedented".
And yes, Antarctica used to be heavily forested. Back when it was closer to the equator than it is today. Another change that didn't exactly happen overnight.
Morgan L Owens, Manurewa.
No, Earth does not have its own time clock (NZ Herald, January 15). The climate system responds to various forcings, which vary over time, including: output of the Sun; Earth's orbit, tilt and wobble - these alter the sunlight arriving; amount of ice reflecting sunlight; and level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere retaining that energy.
Particulate matter from volcanoes and sulphates from dirty coal can reduce sunlight absorbed - until removed.
What has changed now is the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Nothing else accounts for the warming of the surface and oceans and melting of ice - certainly not volcanoes under Antarctica.
The other factors change over thousands or millions of years, and the current warming has been sudden - hundreds of years - and related to the increase in carbon dioxide, mostly from our oxidising the carbon in fossil fuels.
Dennis N Horne, Howick.
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I wish to provide some background to the "vandalism" of barriers in LeRoys Bush (NZ Herald, January 14).
The public was told that the track would be closed for upgrading work from March to May. It is still not officially open.
The council was warned that starting construction work in March was highly risky because of the impending wet season. The council went ahead with workmen handling large beams of timber on a slippery, muddy, slope with rain or showers daily. The conditions were atrocious and unsafe.
The public eventually became aware that work had ceased and the tracks appeared ready for use. The barriers at that time were like gates so track users opened them and it appeared to the public that the tracks were "open".
Recently, the council decided to install much firmer barriers to make sure no one used the track.
The result of this is a lot of anger among track users and some have taken the law into their own hands.
Auckland Council must accept some blame for this situation. The programme to
upgrade tracks in parks and reserves is admirable, but it has been applied indiscriminately to all tracks, regardless of any need for upgrading. The tracks in the Waitakeres desperately need upgrading but there was no such need in LeRoys Bush.
Laurie Wesley, Birkenhead.
Short & sweet
I agree with your editorial that religion exists and children should know about it. But we live in a the age of globalisation so all religions must be included. Maire Leadbetter, Mt Albert.
Religious studies in schools is not about religions, it is about one religion, Christianity. Our public education is meant to be secular and state schools are not the places to proselytise our children. Ann Graeme, Tauranga.
School kids should be aware of the main religions and evolution but "faith" values could be left to the parents, or not. C Glasgow, Thames.
Those repetitions? Inane. Viewers all glaze over. Gary Andrews, Mt Maunganui.
There are one or two really excellent alternatives online that do not advertise or pester their customers. Gerald Payman, Mt Albert.
Auckland house prices are on the move. Great news if you are a property investor, real estate agent or are a property owner but devastating, bordering on tragic, news if you're a first-home buyer or the new generation emerging from secondary school. Gary Hollis, Mellons Bay.
Our country is awash with sheep, cattle, tourist and now also with CEOs. John James Leur, Torbay.
Unfortunately, I didn't go to Twizel for a holiday. June Krebs, Sunnyhills.