I spent the weekend visiting friends in Palmerston North – firstly catching up with a blogging friend and his new wife, who was amusingly literally barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen :-). Then stayed the night with a couple of old university friends, and their family.
I am known for mocking Palmerston North with similar enthusiasm to mocking gingas. However I do have to say on this occasion, Palmie was rather nice. While for me personally I would go batshit insane living there, it is not a bad place if you have kids. For an affordable price you get a decent house and section, kids can play on the road (so to speak), the neighbourhood is pretty safe. So not the place to live if you enjoy an active nightlife perhaps, but pretty good if you have rugrats.
Talking of rugrats, or their more advanced form, children. The friends I were staying with had three kids. And it transpired over drinks that one of the ten year olds had written a letter to John Key and a letter to John Campbell over the class size issue. I was initially amused and impressed that she had identified John Campbell as being as powerful as John Key and written him also.
I did quietly start to wonder though whether or not this was a 10 year old expressing her own view, or had some teacher unionist ranted about the evil Government in class for weeks on end, and encouraged these letters. So I asked her mum how she heard about the issue, and decided to write to the two Johns on it. Mum redirected the question to said daughter, and the answer came back that she learnt about it from watching the television news. I was pretty impressed that a 10 year old watches the TV news, let alone gets motivated to write on an issue.
But the best was yet to come. When asked, why she wrote on this issue, she explained that it was because of her own experiences with class sizes. She started off at Karori Normal school in Wellington which had a fairly small class and got help with her spelling and reading which she had been struggling with. Then the folks moved to Australia and her school there had 30 kids in it, and she fell behind with her spelling. Then they moved back to NZ, and her class was much smaller again and in one year of a smaller class with some dedicated assistance, her spelling improved by over three years of ability.
She didn’t want other kids to fall behind with their spelling, as they might not be able to get a job when they leave school, so she thought it would be a bad thing to increase class sizes.
I was hugely impressed that a 10 year old would not just learn about an issue through the media, but would apply their own personal experience to a situation to drawn conclusions on the issue, and want to share them with the PM (and John Campbell!).
Now of course that doesn’t mean I agree 100% with Miss Ten on the issue. I certainly agree that a class size of 15 and a class size of 30 (which were her experiences) will definitely have an impact on student achievement. It would have been interesting to see if she would have accepted a trade off of just slightly bigger class sizes, if it meant all her teachers were as good as her favourite teacher. But I didn’t want to enter into a debate on the issue, in case I lost
My first letter to the editor was at age 14, calling on Merv Wellington to introduce a 4
year school term term school year (I was 20 years ahead of my time!). I think it is a great thing when young Kiwis are politically aware, and form their own opinions on issues (as opposed to their parents or teachers opinions). Now by this I don’t mean they join a political party and spend all their time being a political activist (that is best left until 18). I mean they are a normal kid who enjoys doing all the things that other kids of that age do, but on top of that they also have demonstrated an awareness and understanding of “adult” issues, and can discuss them intelligently and rationally.
I drove back to Wellington via Wairarapa. It takes a fair bit longer, but the scenery is worth it. Much nicer than SH1. On the way back did a quick loop track to see the ANZAC Memorial Bridge. The only thing that spoilt those beautiful Wairarapa roads were all the Police cars on them!