Friday, April 30, 2010

And I thought it was plate tectonics!

But now I know better:

"Iranian Cleric: Promiscuous Women Cause Quakes (Iranian cleric blames women's immodest dress, promiscuity for earthquakes, urges repentance)"

What baffles me is that Muslim communities around the world swallow this garbage, and expect to be taken seriously by others.

I have long been of the view that much of the western world (or at least our wee corner of it) had moved beyond this sort of medievalist nonsense, and had stopped blaming the victim for rape.

I'm old enough to remember a landmark case in NZ in which a woman who happened to have been wearing a mini-skirt at the time, was raped while walking through the Mount Victoria Tunnel in Wellington. The defence case was that the victim had 'provoked' the rapist! I can't recall the outcome, but do remember being both amused and appalled at the argument.

But such arguments are, of course, an integral part of campaigns aimed at the oppressing social groups - accuse them of having provoked the oppression in the first place, and that provides a justification for the oppression, while simultaneously re-inforcing the need for the oppression.

And what is this Muslim belief, or social practice, but part of a concerted campaign to oppress and keep oppressed Muslim women?

So, how to react? One approach is in this news-story from Belgium, headlined "Belgium set to ban veil", a move similar to plans in France. It appears to be premised on 'security' issues (terrorists hiding behind veils and the all-encompassing burqa) but it's proponents also argue that the burqa is a 'walking prison' for women. My view is that it is, but only for those who wish to wear something else but are 'compelled' by social pressures to wear it.

The normally level-headed Amnesty International apparently oppose the Belgium move, arguing it violated rights to freedom of expression and religion and set a dangerous precedent. Of course it is a denial of the right to freedom of expression - that, after all, is what the burqa and the veil are about - denying women the same rights enjoyed by males in their societies.

The difficulty for western societies, like Belgium, France, and New Zealand is that they will be vilified by Muslim communities for taking such a stance in terms which are deeply offensive (I resent being called an 'infidel' and threatened with death because I disagree with someone else's views), but are prohibited by their own civil and human rights laws from responding in the same (usually carefully orchestrated) manner.

So, the dilemma is how to protect the rights of some communities to continue to deny some of it's own (and others) exactly the same rights; or how to balance directly competing rights?

An alternative approach is the one sparked by the Iranian cleric's claims - ridicule and derision - the "boobquake" approach - although there can be road-bumps along the way. Find it on Facebook or at

And before you accuse me of being 'anti-Muslim', let me say I find the medievalism of many Muslim views as offensive as I do the continued refusal of the Pope to acknowledge and act constructively to repair the damage his clerics have done and still do, or the Catholic church's failure to acknowledge that it's medieval views on clerical celibacy are part of it's paedophilia problem, or the simple-minded racism and xenophobia of the murderer jailed in Christchurch this week. It is the intolerance I find offensive.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yee Haa

It's Feijoa season again!

Let the harvest begin!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Qualified Success?

The Sunday Star Times recently ran a story it claimed was derived from the National Statistics published about secondary school qualifications. Part of the story was the table shown below.

It interested me because it raises the question of what sort of schools are identified by the media as the 'top'.

A simple research exercise produces the following breakdown:
* Nga Tawa Diocesan School - Nga Tawa is a Year 9 -13 integrated, Anglican girls' boarding school - International Baccalaureate Diploma or NCEA
* Rangi Ruru Girls' School - Rangi Ruru Girls' School [is] an independent girls’ school - Rangi Ruru offers the NCEA.
* St Cuthbert’s College - is an independent Christian day and boarding school - The International Baccalaureate (IB) [and] NCEA
* Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Mangere - a Kura Kaupapa Maori, a state school - unknown but certain to NCEA
* Samuel Marsden Collegiate School - is an independent girls’ school - All students work towards NCEA [and] Cambridge International Exam courses (CIE) are offered. Students may take up to three CIE subjects
* Woodford House - is an integrated school for boarding and day girls - Cambridge
* St Oran's College - is an integrated college for girls - NCEA
* Roncalli College - is an integrated coeducational Catholic school - NCEA
* Diocesan School - is a private Composite private School for Girls (Years 1-13) - International Baccalaureate Diploma or NCEA
* St Margaret's College - is an independent Anglican girls' college - NCEA or IB

In other words, 8 of the 10 are Girls schools. 4 are Integrated schools and 5 are 'independent' or private.

Only one, the Kura, is a State School.

All NZ schools are accredited to offer NCEA courses. But a number offer others, either as well as or instead of NCEA. So of the SST's Top 10, 4 offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and 2 the Cambridge International Exam (CIE).

Of course, this narrow approach of looking only at the 'pass rates' at each level (& for University Entrance) is misleading. Because it completely ignores the performance of schools who, despite the odds, manage to achieve good outcomes for their students. In other words, there are many schools at which students achieve results which are ahead of expectations. There are a host of reasons why students face difficulties in achieving academic success - just start with home background.

A more meaningful measure therefore, might be to consider the 'value added' by schools. In other words, which is the more 'successful' school: one at which 100% of students will probably achieve Level 1 success and in fact do so; or one at which 30% of students will probably achieve Level 1 success but which achieves a 'pass rate' of 48%? Which school added the greatest value?

The difficulty with this concept is establishing how this can be measured! It is too complicated for mass media to contemplate, which is why they resort to simplistic measures such as that used by the SST. And by doing so, they perpetuate lazy thinking and a distortion of the value of the work done by our schools.

And now watch what happens with the new 'National Standards' in primary schools.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Antique Linen, and Embroidery

A christening gown, perhaps worn by my grandmother, who was born in 1884 (not 1886 as the note suggests). If that is correct, it would have been worn by Annie Agnes Clearwater, born 10 December, 1884.

I also have a hand-embroidered night-gown, which may well have belonged to mother's mother also.

There is also an embroidered square of very fine fabric, perhaps silk. It was probably used as a scarf, and may have been brought home from Egypt by one of mother's uncles after service during World War I.

Finally, there is another scarf, this one even finer, without embellishment. It does have a delicate knotted fringe.

It's Yew-time

We have a Yew tree by the front porch. Each year it needs to be trimmed. Each year I trim it quite hard. And each year it grows back.



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monarchs to Admirals

You know by now I am a little taken by Monarch butterflies, especially when they come visiting our garden.
So you can imagine my delight when I discovered one on the swan plant hidden inconspicuously in the front garden.

The other day, however, I was taken aback to discover a Red Admiral in the front garden, busy feeding on flowers.

Glorious colours, and spooky patterns on the wings.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I remember that too!

A recent post on Sarah Rose's blog recollects an incident when she was young.

A common dilemma faced by working parents with young children is what to do with them when they aren't well enough to go to creche or school, but are well enough to cope with time at work with Mum or Dad. Our solution was, on occasion, to take Sarah Rose (and later Charlotte) to work with us.

Sarah Rose was a very self-possessed you child, and I remember her being very self-conscious when at school with me. It happened a couple of times, and I always thought she was torn between enjoying being fussed over by other teachers, and being the object of comment by students.

The only thing her memory got wrong was my students weren't allowed to call me 'Sir'!