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Posted by Philip Patston on 23 February 2010, 9:58 pm in , ,

Is homework taxing your Whanau Ora?

Originally published on 3news.co.nz | 19 Feb 2010

Just when I was scared I'd have to write 400 words about why the Government might have thought it was an act of economic brilliance to put GST up and income tax down in the same breath, John Key went head to head with Tariana Turia over "Whanau Ora" and Karori Normal School banned homework.

Excellent, because I was totally useless at economics at school (chiefly because I never did my homework), so I'm not qualified to comment about tax changes, but I will anyway - albeit briefly.

My main beef about GST rising to 15% from 12.5% is this: at 12.5% I could divide by 8 to add GST to my business fees and divide by 9 to work out the GST component on an inclusive amount. At 15% the divisors are 6.66666667 and 7.66666667 respectively. What's that about?

I can't do those kind of sums in my head – I didn't do my maths homework either. As for personal tax cuts, I simply hang my head in shame for being part of the business elite who will benefit from both changes. My apologies, New Zealand.

But as I learn to live with my capitalist chagrin, I am trying to quell my resentment that homework looks like it's on the way out. I had to do it every night of my twelve years at school.

Not fair. Ok, maybe fair – after all, we older folk had it pretty easy compared to the hoops kids (sorry, learners) have to jump through with NCEA.

At least we could slack off all year, crank it up during exams and have a fair chance at passing. These days, according to my very subjective research chatting to a few young learners in my orbit, you have to keep up a constant effort for internal assessment during the year otherwise, even if you pass end of year assessments, you can still fail. How stink is that?

Actually, I support the no-homework thing. Taking work home is for politicians and workaholics, not kids. In fact, while we're rethinking homework, let's rethink the entire education system, shall we?

Last week I was at a meeting supporting friends who have a child with unique learning needs. There was lots of talk about this young man not being able to write and therefore not being able to learn.

But hang on. Is it possible to not learn when the definition of learning is "the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, (or by being taught)"?

My belief is that everyone is continually learning, if only through experience. What our education system focuses on and measures is the demonstration of a very narrow band of taught, practiced and studied learning, and it only allows for its demonstration in a very narrow form, namely writing. This is not only seriously out of date in a multimedia society such as ours in 2010, but it continues to ignore our children's diversity. (If you are vociferously agreeing you may enjoy this blog post, otherwise you may not.)

Speaking of diversity, goodness knows what debates will rage over whether the Whanau Ora policy should be applied to Maori whanau only or all struggling families.

I think the key issue here is whether the policy could be viewed as a measure to ensure equality (which is an exception under the Human Rights Act that allows for actions done "in good faith for the purpose of assisting or advancing persons or groups of persons [if they can] reasonably be supposed to need assistance or advancement in order to achieve an equal place with other members of the community".

Getting agreement on that will take long enough that we could also consider this: does Tariana really always agree with the Prime Minister?

Great. That solves it then. I'm off to look for a calculator.