Ministry u-turn on reading
I applaud the Ministry of Education for beginning to adopt a systematic phonics-based approach to the teaching of literacy in New Zealand (NZ Herald, August 19).
It is a disgrace that this has not happened earlier given the large body of evidence that this approach is helpful for all learners and crucial for some. We now have recent solid research out of Massey University, which found children taught by explicit and systematic word strategies significantly outperformed the comparison group in terms of reading and spelling.
My own children's experience of the existing approach has been one of failing to learn to read, spell and write competently at school, with an associated sense of failure and anxiety. The current teaching encourages looking at the pictures and "guessing" words from context rather than decoding them. Our experience with decodable texts at home has been hugely positive and empowering. The kids love reading the books because they can actually read them, no more anxiety and exhaustion from guessing. It is essential to learn how to read, and a right of every child.
Jo Kayes, Mt Eden.
How disheartening for teachers and children, when a system of teaching reading - described as "fairly painful" and discarded in 1959 - is being re-introduced
into New Zealand schools (NZ Herald, August 19). There is now a large gap in literacy outcomes for children, but the real reason is not the "reading for meaning" approach.
The Herald article gives us a clue: "Children who start school with less English literacy capital, typically make less progress, than their more knowledgeable peers." These children need the language experience that they can learn about in the "Ready to Read" series. In quoting Joy Cowley's wonderful book "Off goes the hose", I am sure most children could work out the word water, without having to resort to "phonetic sounds".
Many expensive ideas in education are already being introduced and quietly implemented before the real people who matter – the teachers and the children – have had an opportunity to discuss and trial them.
How many of these MOE staff have actually taught in the classroom?
Pam Smith, Sunnynook.
There has been much righteous breast-beating recently about imprisoned criminals' rights to vote (NZ Herald, August 20). However, be aware that uniformed members of the armed forces, while being allowed to vote, are expressly forbidden to express any spoken or written political opinion until they retire. This is a necessary but serious restriction of freedom.
Who are better qualified to influence our political direction: those who defend our people and our society, or those who criminally break its rules?
Hugh Webb, Hamilton.
Let's not get hysterical about the supposed need to censor Tarrant's mail (NZ Herald, August 16). He has as much right as any other remand prisoner who's not been tried or convicted of an offence to send and receive mail, subject only to the rules in section 108 of the Corrections Act. These rules entitle a prison manager to withhold mail in – as the Herald reported last week – a very limited range of circumstances including where there is reason to believe that the writing is likely to endanger the safety or welfare of anyone or promote, encourage, involve or facilitate the commission of an offence.
Surely there is no inadequacy about these rules. There's no need for Kelvin Davis to question whether they are "fit for purpose", or for the Prime Minister to worry about "hateful views".
Expression of hatred, short of encouragement to violence, is no justification for censorship; rather, it is something that people should be able to cope with and tolerate. Despite my hating the political views expressed in a book or other writing it's my right to continue to read it. Let's not get agitated by expressions of hatred without violence or criminality.
Barry Littlewood, Glendowie.
If Simon Wilson (NZ Herald, August 19) considers Auckland Council's debt of $8.9 billion to be "high", would it be fair to use adjectives closer to "unsustainable" or "hyper-indebtedness" for a true debt figure closer to $13b when calculated using generally accepted accounting principles?
And, with Auckland's residential rates often absorbing around 25 per cent of a pensioner's tax paid total income, Simon's focus on rates percentage increases rather misses the point does it not?
Larry Mitchell, finance & policy analyst (local government).
I wonder how many people will stop and do the due diligence of reading through and understanding Simon Wilson's comments on what Auckland Council, under the leadership of Phil Goff has achieved so far (NZ Herald, August 19). Simon has helped considerably to unwind and actualise their progress. But are we interested?
At the moment, from Simon's writing, our operational savings is a healthy $260m and our asset base $34b and growing.
This money needs to be there and used of course for the betterment of the city, especially toward public transport. But, more importantly, it needs to be there to recognise our growing responsibility for climate change and its mostly unknown effects on the city.
Emma Mackintosh, Birkenhead.
Letters from your two correspondents , René Blezer and Marie Kaire, imply that poor food labelling is why many people are obese (NZ Herald, August 19). While I would agree that there is room for improvement in food labelling, I think that is not the cause of obesity. The cause of that is people stuffing down too much food. Anyone who does not know too much sugar or fat is bad for you has been living on a desert island. Go into any café and watch what some people eat.
J Longson, Kawerau.
"Nine long years of neglect" has been the constant cry from the present government when referring to National. How would they have dealt with the Global Financial Crisis and the two major earthquakes in Christchurch? Would they have formed a committee to study the problem for two years?
H Robertson, St Heliers
Dame Lesley Max's plea for us all to be better informed about the Holocaust is absolutely right (NZ Herald, August 19).
For anyone to be ignorant of the greatest crime in history is inexcusable. Study of the Holocaust should be in every education curriculum, and not just that addressing what the Germans did. We should also learn of the part played by other European nations in the execution of Holocaust atrocities, including the long history of utterly merciless European anti-Semitism that gave rise to it.
But since such a full and frank study of the Holocaust would reveal another essential truth, that its genesis lay in centuries-old Christianity-inspired persecution of Jews, that's not likely to happen. Which is a tragedy because it would also reveal another important truth, that Palestinians played no part in the Holocaust and should not be paying the price for it.
M Evans, Tamaki.
I am in total agreement with Dame Lesley Max on her comments regarding the Holocaust (NZ Herald, August 19). Nations feel uncomfortable with a sordid history and like to bury references to such events.
A few years ago my son hired a German girl in her late teens to look after their two children for a short period. She was a pleasant young lady, bright and well educated. I was brought up in the shadow of WWII and all its impact on today's world, so I am interested in hearing what someone had to say, even though we were generations apart.
I asked what she thought of the war, her response was "what war"? I responded with, "you know the Second World War, the last really big one". Her response was "those are the Hitler years, we don't talk about that time".
It is obvious that an uncomfortable period of history for the German people is being avoided and subsequent generations have little knowledge of that period (unless they actively seek after it). If a nation that denies or covers its past does so long enough then those mistakes may well be repeated. As unpleasant as these events are to remember we must do just that, remember, never forget them. Only on that basis will we avoid a future repeat.
Roger McCall, Taupo.
Short & Sweet
As a teacher approaching the end of his career, I had to laugh at your front page headline. We would all like to think we are riding the arrow of progress but suspect we are just drifting back and forth on the tides of fashion. Martin Ball, Kelston.
Great to see Mickey Mouse has moved back to Australia after only one week in New Zealand. Greg Moir, Kerikeri.
Just loved the analogy Phil made in his column regarding the Wallabies and the dead cat bounce. Made me laugh out loud. Deb Curtis, Cambridge.
I have a solution to the labelling of packaged food. Just don't buy it. What's wrong with fresh fruit and vegetables? Ailsa Martin-Buss, Glen Innes.
Acclaim to Dame Leslie Max for her reminder of the now often easily forgotten horrors of the Holocaust. We must remember to commend the survivors and their strength to recover and contribute to normal life. Angela Wilson, Remuera.
If the Government was to announce policy without having costed it and set aside funds, John Roughan would criticise them. They can't win. Michael Smythe, Northcote Point.
If anyone has the expertise to cover the spat between Australia and Pacific Island nations, it should be Heather du Plessis-Allan. She has displayed a knowledge of Pacific affairs essential to in depth coverage that is the hallmark of talk-back radio. Ian Findlay, Napier.
The answer to poverty in New Zealand is contraception. Karola Wheeler, West Harbour.