Month: August 2012

WEEKLY RANT #3

Irrational social media commentary. You know what I’m talking about right? Those serial posters that actually make you squirm and sigh aloud “STFU!” Here’s an example of what I am talking about:

“He was raised in a flawed system of Kantian based method that produced his gay world view to begin with. We need to understand the relationship between what this man does and the gay world view. They both like the same sex and there comes the usual perversions to like in the real world. Some men like little girls and so on, but when a man likes little boys, well, that’s another reality all together”
I mean seriously, WTF? Abusing little boys is worse than abusing little girls? Implying that homosexual men are somehow synonymous with paedophiles? You have got to be kidding. I’m not even sure how this person is relating Immanuel Kant’s philosophy to somehow producing pedophiles.

Kant was a universalist which meant that for any moral principle to be valid it must apply to all people irrespective of gender, race and so on. This is because for Kant, humans are fundamentally rational and autonomous beings. Unless a moral principle has universal application it will not be morally permissible. To make this clear, Kant distinguishes between what he calls the hypothetical imperative and the categorical imperative. The former relates to actions caused by desire, while the latter relates to actions caused by duty. Kant thinks that when we act on desire we are not acting freely, because we cannot control desire, that is the will of nature. However, when we act according to duty our action is guided by rationality and we are therefore acting autonomously. Kant is most well known for his statement that we must not treat people as a means to an end but must treat them as an end in themselves. This is how he differs to utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number) perspectives.
For example: Imagine a situation where there was a tyrant ruler and he was accusing the town of stealing food from his pantry. Now, say he declared that unless someone stepped forward and admitted stealing the food from his pantry, in which case the punishment was death, he would punish the whole town by withholding all the food in the town until the people starved. The truth is that no one stole any food, but the tyrant just wanted to exert his will over the people in his town.
For the utilitarian, the only option is to make someone take it for the team (so to speak), as this would be of the greatest benefit to the greatest number. However, for Kant, this would be morally impermissible because it would be treating the person as a sacrifice, or as a means to an end. It relies on a hypothetical imperative whereby the action is caused by a desire not to be starved.
Kant’s theory is by no means foolproof, but there is no way in which a connection can be drawn between Kantian philosophy giving rise to pedophilia. Since pedophilia would be a hypothetical imperative, whereby the perpetrator acts on a desire, Kant would say he is not acting rationally and autonomously so this action could never be universal and is therefore morally impermissible. Additionally, Kant was a product of his time and was adverse to homosexuality and believed people should only have sex in the missionary position, so still failing to see how the connection was drawn. Idiot. 
I should probably make the disclaimer here that while I am sympathetic to Kantian philosophy in a general sense, I do not share the same social views. Probably, because I am a product of my time and I am unequivocally in favour of equality.  
Anyhow, this is by no means a full picture of Kantian philosophy, but it really winds me up when people are just off the wall with their understanding, or lack thereof when making bold statements that amount to no more sense than you would get from a wood chip.

Brief comment on charter schools

I’ve been a little hesitant to take a position on the implementation of charter schools – the flagship policy of the National-Act coalition and was probably only adverse to the idea based on my own political leanings and the fact that I didn’t really understand what they meant for the education system.

On the one hand, my understanding is that they give parents and in particular minority groups more choice for educating their children, and in that respect are conducive to multicultural policy in NZ. And on the other hand, they undermine the public school system on the basis that the government are implicitly accepting that public schools do not cater to the educational needs of all children in NZ. In providing more choice to parents in respect of education, I am in favour.

The worry about charter schools; however, is taxpayer funding. In effect, charter schools are private schools partially funded by taxpayers with (arguably) no accountability to the taxpayer. In this respect, I am opposed.

My view is then, that public schools should be funded to cater to the needs of minority groups as well as provide all parents with more choices for educating their children. It seems nonsense for the government to say in this economic climate we cannot afford to improve the public system school to this extent but we can fund charter schools.
A side comment about the charter school issue though is the way in which a minority party were able to force a policy into implementation. From the coalition agreement it is clear that in order to obtain the support needed from ACT, National preapproved a policy that required legislative changes:
“Hon John Banks will be appointed…with delegated authority to lead the work on charter schools…”

While this tactic is probably not new to politics, it does not bode well for democracy. Remembering ACT only won their electorate seat in Epsom (which in itself took advantage of the coat tailing made possible through a poorly constructed MMP system) and received 1.1% vote overall yet were promised an immense power in being able to determine how taxpayer money will be used in the context of the ACT charter school initiative.  

Overall, my point is that the idea of providing more choice for parents in respect of their children’s education is a positive but in order to do this private bodies should not be able to profit off taxpayer funded institutions.
Just as I was writing this, I was directed to the following link below for further consideration. Very interesting and makes alot of sense (Thanks Holly!).

WEEKLY RANT #2

I was going to start this weeks rant off by  declaring that ‘I’m not one for conspiracy theories’, but decided that I need not, because even with the disclaimer pro-establishment types will characterise my rantings in this way anyhow. I can accept that some of those characterised as conspiracy theorists are completely insane. But I also think that some of these theories are entirely plausible. I have a few reservations about any theory postulating that the earth has been visited by UFO’s and ET’s and I tend to chuck these theories in the crackers bin, but that’s not to say that I think such things are impossible, I just haven’t yet seen a convincing argument or any clear evidence that would persuade me otherwise.  


I am currently doing a stats paper at University and it got me thinking about hidden agendas regarding reports, studies, articles, polls and the like. So I decided to carry out a search to find out where the term conspiracy theorist came from. The first hit indicated that the term conspiracy theory was coined by the CIA. No surprises there, really. he online Oxford Dictionary defines a conspiracy theorist as a person who holds a belief that some covert but influential organisation is responsible for an unexplained event.


I then wanted to find out why ‘conspiracy theorists’ have such a bad rep and I came across this statement: ‘all conspiracy theories are harmful because they threaten the establishment’ WTF? I mean really, WTAF? I’ll just clarify here the general definition of the ‘establishment’ is a group in a society exercising power and influence over matters of policy, opinion, or taste, and seen as resisting change. I was going to point out the big corporations in NZ that would fit this mould, but thought better of it; however, we can at least say that Treasury are a group that fit within the ‘establishment’ and they have an excess of power and influence when it comes to policy in NZ (evidenced by the implementation of Rogernomics in the 1980’s).  


So let me summarise my own findings about conspiracy theory: If a person provides an explanation to an event that is based on evidence that is contrary to the explanation provided by the establishment then this is a conspiracy theory. Additionally, it is considered and conveyed as harmful (by the establishment) because it undermines their power and influence.

So what’s this post really about? In my view, it is time we stopped labeling dissent or discontent with explanations provided by the establishment as conspiracy theory and start categorising them as they are plausible or implausible. 

The Third Sector: Public and Private, its time you met Iwi

It is natural to talk about society consisting of two sectors:  public and private. This derives from the notion that the government and those empowered by the government to carry out a public function are the ‘public sector’ while functions not performed by the public sector are by default the ‘private sector’.

My view is that New Zealand society consists of three sectors: public, iwi and private.

Iwi are most often categorised as occupying ‘private sector’ roles and this is probably the result of the commodification of the treaty settlement process.  By reducing treaty settlements to commercial transactions, little work was done toward rectifying the cultural and social injustices suffered by Maori subsequent to signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. [see Maria Bargh “Maori Development and Neoliberalism” in Maria Bargh (ed) Resistance: An indigenous response to Neoliberalism (Huia Press, Wellington, 2007)].

Before I discuss the three sectors, it is worthwhile outlining some of the underlying issues that prevent iwi as a third sector being acknowledged or even accepted by the wider NZ community.

There will be some reading this who will argue that categorising Iwi as a separate sector in society is racial favouritism promoting separatism and to be honest that is the kind of comment I’d expect from those motivated by those who subscribe to libertarianism or other such ideologies that place their own self-interests at the centre of any debate surrounding indigenous rights and in particular, in the case of New Zealand, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I don’t make that comment lightly either. Those who advocate the ‘one law for all’ (OLFA) have false understandings about what is required of equality. Yes, we can have a legal system that applies to all within New Zealand’s territories, and in fact that is the system we have. The specific details of certain laws require amending for sure, to meet our treaty obligations, international obligations and in response to the needs of society. But to imply that Maori are above the law or not subject to the same law is not only misleading but is absolute nonsense created by scare mongering of the OLFA’s. If Maori were above the law and had significantly more advantages than every other New Zealander then ask yourself this: why are Maori disproportionately represented (in the negative) in all statistics relating to the socio-economic wellbeing of NZ citizens? Because the advantages espoused by the OLFA’s are a myth.

The OLFA argument is premised on the idea of equality. But equality does not mean that everyone has the ‘same’. To treat it as such is in effect to deny equality. We are not simply cutting a pie and giving everyone the same amount, and even if you take that logic we might get the same amount of the pie, but we get different pieces. Equality is more complex than the view proposed by the OLFA’s.

PIE EXAMPLE: Alf and Bill

Alf is an athlete of solid build and requires significant amounts of food to replace the energy lost during his game. Bill is in IT and leads a sedentary lifestyle, and is conscious about gaining weight due to his lack of exercise. Prima facie, it seems fair to give each of them half the pie.  But by doing this, Alf does not get the replacement energy needed and Bill packs on those extra calories. So to balance this out, it makes more sense to factor in those arbitrary considerations. Therefore, it is fairer to give Alf 2/3 of the pie and Bill 1/3 so that they both benefit from their share in the pie for their own reasons.

So to translate this example into the context of this post, while it appears that Maori get more through perhaps targeted admission schemes at tertiary institutions or the Maori electorate voting, this does not mean that the rights of the general public are reduced in anyway, only that sometimes some groups will require more to meet their needs than other groups. OLFA’s suggest that these provisions for different rights are discriminatory and amount to racial favouritism and therefore promote racially based inequalities. This is not true. A good explanation of this is found in the New Zealand Bill of Rights book by Rishworth et al: 

Discrimination and equality are terms that are often used to describe the opposite conclusions that may be reached in analysing government action. Distinctions thought wrongful are said to be discriminatory, while those considered appropriate are said to respect equality. This has led some to suppose that freedom from discrimination and equality are the same thing. But a world without discrimination is not necessarily a world of equality (see Rishworth et al The New Zealand Bill of Rights. (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2003) at 368)

This statement in effect shows that while the OLFA’s view is one law for all, and if successful, it might remove discrimination, but it will not achieve the objective of equality that the rationale behind the argument is premised on.  

While mainstream media are busy reporting that Maori get this, that and the next thing, what isn’t reported or at least properly acknowledged is that Maori live within a system that favours non-Maori culture: the court system, the economy, the political system were all constructed and implemented in ways that benefited the colonial settlers. It is not reported that Maori had their own way of organising themselves legally, economically and politically prior to signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi. And when it is, the self-interested response is that we cannot change what has happened in the past, its time to move on.

But what is moving on? Dispensing with the past since we can’t change it? For Maori to dispense with the past is to dispense of their history, culture, practices and norms. The OLFA essentially advocates for Maori to dispense with their sense of identity and belonging to their culture to avoid racial favouritism in law.  This is hardly equal. It shifts from having areas in law to protect minority interests to having law that reflects only the majority interests.

Now, returning to my point about the three sectors. Iwi (as a grouping) developed in response to colonialism as it gave Maori a stronger voice against the might of the colonial empire. It is evidenced through the implementation of the Waitangi Tribunal and various other forms of legislation and general knowledge within the public domain that the Crown recognises Iwi as its own entity. However, it is incorrectly categorised as a ‘private sector’ entity, which does little more than to corporatise Maori culture in line with the commodification of the treaty settlement process. So if iwi are not private sector then are they public sector? Again, no. If iwi were categorised as public sector agents then it makes no sense for them to be in partnership with the Crown, since they are constrained by Parliamentary sovereignty, iwi would not be a partner but a department or a ministry subject to incumbent governments. However, iwi fulfil an admixture of public like and private functions, insofar as developing businesses and investing (private sector work) and general community work through Marae and other forums (public sector).

My suggestion is that in effect Iwi occupy their own sector that does not sit within either of the formally recognised sectors. Therefore, NZ consists of three sectors: Public, Iwi and Private.

However, this position will only gain traction if iwi recognise their unique role and look beyond treaty settlements as commercial transactions and start seeking rectification for past social and cultural injustices. Once iwi show that they are an active, engaged political, social and economic force, then these preconceived notions of Te Ao Maori as obsolete by OLFA’s can be abandoned. It is up to all iwi to lead the way and take Maori forward (beyond land settlements and proprietary interests) and forging a future for Maori that cannot be deprecated by OLFA’s.

This may involve the convergence of the Iwi Leaders Group and the New Zealand Maori Council, or it may call for a democratically elected body of iwi representatives. But this is a discussion for another day.

WEEKLY RANT – #1

My weekly rant is a new approach to effectively saying what I think. It differs to my other posts since I will not resign myself to a single topic (although I might at times) and its related components, but will consistently flitter from one topic to another unapologetically. I make no claims to assertions of truth and my arguments will likely be largely un-thought out and therefore flawed in many respects. This is opinion folks.


Let’s go back to the 1980’s. The absolute failing of New Zealand politics since the massive reforms that were started by Labour, care of Roger Douglas in the 80’s and refined by National in the 90’s still wreak havoc for the poor and middle income earners of New Zealand.


What did Douglas do? Rogernomics. He took away what he called ‘privileges’ from everyone and decided that ‘user pays’. Why? Because he was a monetarist neoliberal.


Neoliberalism promotes profit over people. It takes power away from the state and puts it in the hands of corporations. It focuses on an unregulated freedom. Two words that imply the same thing right? No, not necessarily. As rational beings we can all understand that there is no ‘absolute freedom’, if there were, we would not have physical, mental or environmental constraints. Unregulated freedom is simply giving an unjustified freedom to corporations at the expense of the worker. It requires unemployment or joblessness in order for any corporation to be profitable, because the labour force itself must remain competitive.  The ethos of corporations is to drive down the wages of the worker down and ensure that top salaries are increased. The effect of a competitive labour force when there is high unemployment is that low skilled or unskilled workers have no chance. What is their option? The benefit (I will return to this point).  This is the kind of policy that Roger Douglas imported into New Zealand political framework at the behest of Treasury. I don’t care what politicians say about their disdain for Roger Douglas, they are liars and they still follow the same ideology he introduced.


The Labour Party continues to fail the left because they are still tied up in this right wing ideology. To be honest, I don’t know what any of the Labour Party stand for anymore, and I am increasingly suspicious of any policy promoted by any party whose main focus is on capital gain.


If that makes me a loony leftist then so be it. But please, don’t put the Labour Party in the loony leftist bin with those of us who actually care about the people, the environment, and the real economy, because they are clearly guided by right winged conservative policy.


However, don’t attack me with your ill-gotten quips about how the left don’t care or know nothing about the economy. A healthy productive economy has healthy productive people and a healthy productive environment within which to operate. Putting money at the centre of economic policy will lead to an unproductive economy, where’s my proof? Look around you. The world is at war over oil reserves: the environment and the people are taking a massive hit from the greed of corporations for mo’ money. So what’s New Zealand’s answer? Well hey, let’s explore our seabed’s for oil reserves and sell them off to foreign interests – we’ll ensure that the risk to the environment is minimised! Well, you f*krs, you should be guaranteeing that there is no risk to the environment, what’s a little bit of spilt oil? It’s too much oil spilt.


So if you right wingers want to blindly follow the lion to the den and go on pretending that the loony left has no substance then get a better argument. Or work story. Or a perm.


I’m going to go back to the point about unemployment.  Once our unemployment rate is untenable, this gives the government the excuse to lower the minimum wage. Why? Because they can justify paying less by arguing that New Zealand will see higher investment rates from international or foreign interests. Cheaper labour rates amount to increased investments. Who makes money? The companies. Who loses money? The worker. So when either the National Party or the Labour Party tells you they want to ensure that everyone can get a job – they are lying. They can never guarantee it because of the neoliberal paradigm within which NZ operates. The government will never openly admit that unemployment is good for the (monetarist) ‘economy’, well because that would be political suicide. But it’s true.


The problem is that the governments know with higher unemployment, they will spend more in benefits, so what do they do? They make living conditions in New Zealand unbearable. The effect of this is that the low or unskilled workers migrate to Australia for better opportunities, reducing the welfare bill. They migrate because they are competing for jobs with skilled workers and constantly met with rejection from employers and unsustainable living conditions. The traditional low and middle income earners take massive pay cuts so that those on the top salaries get an increase and the companies’ profit. Alternatively, if they are unemployed and on a benefit they are forced off the benefit into roles that they are overqualified for or where their skills can be transferred and that will provide a barely livable wage. This situation is win-win for a govenrment under neoliberalism.  It does not have to be this way. And, yes, it will take a huge paradigm shift to fix, but would some political party just grow some balls and get on with it!

Do teachers necessarily need a qualification?

First of all, I will just set out that this post is not an endorsement of Charter Schools. What it is, is a discussion about whether it is necessary for all teachers to hold a teaching qualification. I raise this in light of the comments made by John Banks in respect of his Charter School proposal and after consideration of a twitter thread I was reading only moments ago.
One reason for teachers requiring certification is that they are taught the ‘art’ of teaching, how to manage a classroom, how the curriculum works, how to assess work and so on. I suspect the teaching qualification does a lot more than what I have specified and my point is not to ruffle the feathers of teachers or to degrade the qualifications teachers out there have attained.  However, my argument is that having a teaching qualification does not equate to a person being any good at teaching.
One benefit for opening up the education system to non-certificated teachers is the availability of a broader spectrum of subjects thereby improving the quality of a child’s learning through exposure to more disciplines rather than the stock standard subjects our system is currently limited to (unless your in a private school).
I read a legal case and in which a judge determined that an ‘expert’ for the purposes of giving expert evidence in court did not require a formal qualification in his or her field. I can’t recall the name of the case, but it involved a Kaumatua in respect of a Maori customary fishing  and the statement made by the judge was that a person steeped in the lore of his people was a scholar by any standards and he rejected a formal qualification as determinative of expertise and considered such a requirement eurocentric. The Evidence Act 2006 also says that an  expert means a person who has specialised knowledge or skill based on training, study, or experience. Arguably, expertise is equally as good an indicator of the credibility of a teacher as a generic qualification.
If we apply the ‘expert’ argument to teaching, then surely we can accept that in at least some subjects, a teaching qualification is unnecessary provided the unqualified teacher is familiarised with the national standards framework. I’m not proposing that an expert in a particular field will be a better teacher than a qualified teacher, and besides, who or what makes a good teacher is really subjective and defining ‘good’ in this context is probably complex also. 
I’ve seen arguments raised about whether or not an unqualified electrician should be allowed to rewire a persons house, or whether a lawyer should be allowed to advocate in court without a practicing certificate. I’m not convinced that these are good analogies. Almost everyone engages in some kind of teaching in their lifetime and the art is a skill learnt over time. parents teach their children, Managers teach their staff, staff teach other staff, students teach other students, sports coaches teach sports teams, sports people often teach other sports people, the list goes on. My point is that teaching is a broad discipline with multiple sub-disciplines where specialisation may or may not occur, conversely, trades are specialised in their own right. The benefit of having a teaching qualification is that you are qualified to teach across disciplines, whereas if you are a non-certificated teacher you’d be limited to your area of expertise.
So my conclusion is that teaching qualifications should not be disposed of because there are greater benefits for persons who hold such a qualification; however, I do not think it should be a prerequisite that a person holds a practising certificate in order to teach provided they have the requisite skills, knowledge or experience to teach in their respective discipline.