There has been controversy this week around the visit of New Zealand boxer Joseph Parker to a Whanganui school to give a motivational talk to students.

Why is it a good idea to put Joseph Parker in front of any of our schoolchildren?

Why is he famous? Because lots of people like watching violence and an industry has arisen around combat sports to make a huge pile of money for a handful of people and corporations.

What goes on inside the boxing ring is brutal. The manufactured drama and aggressive posturing outside the ring further adds to a culture that glorifies violence and rewards the ability to inflict and withstand pain.


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"I really want to hurt someone and [Dillian Whyte is] the one who's put up his hand to take the beating," Parker told a NZ Herald sports writer last month.

"We sort of miss the feeling of bashing people up."

A search for "Joseph Parker motivational speaker" yields no relevant information. I'm left wondering what he will say to a bunch of impressionable kids.

There are inspiring examples of New Zealanders who have persevered against the odds, believed in themselves and achieved at the top of their fields - in medicine, science, the arts, teaching, social change. Why is school stopping so children can listen to someone who is a world leader at punching people?

No doubt there are a lot of excited kids looking forward to meeting Parker. I hope teachers and parents will provide some context and that it might spark conversation about what makes a genuine role model.

Our kids already have enough examples of hyper-competition and brute force. Where are the medals and trophies for empathy, kindness or co-operation?

I wish New Zealanders would outgrow this knee-jerk hero worship of sportspeople.


So what if someone can take more punches, or swim a fraction of a second faster than the next guy or whack a ball with freakish accuracy?

Those records and titles are quickly eclipsed. There's no legacy left behind that makes for a better world.

*Rachel Rose is a Whanganui-based writer