Respond with respect

The Dom Post reports:

A group of primary school children who wrote to Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws about the “h” debate are upset that they received a letter back suggesting their teacher be sacked and that they control their anger.

Mr Laws replied to letters from Otaki school children by telling them “there are so many deficiencies of both fact and logic in your letters that I barely know where to start”.

Ngarui Waahitia-Manukau, 12, and her year 7 and 8 classmates at Otaki School’s kura kaupapa unit wrote letters in Maori to Mr Laws at the beginning of August, saying they thought the spelling of Wanganui should have an “h”.

The seven children wrote in separate letters how they were annoyed that Mr Laws would not change the city’s name.

A fierce opponent of any name change, Mr Laws replied to the children that he would take their views seriously “when your class starts addressing the real issues affecting Maoridom particularly the appalling rate of child abuse and child murder within Maori society, then I will take the rest of your views seriously”.

He added: “Perhaps sacking your teacher for allowing such misapprehension to flourish?”

In handwriting at the bottom of his letter, Mr Laws wrote: “PS Controlling your anger might be a start!”

This is a silly response by Michael Laws, regardless of the merits of the issue the kids wrote on. A politician beating up on primary school kids is never a good look, and personally I regard it as a good thing if kids show an interest in civic issues.

Mr Laws was unrepentant last night. He said the pupils were “put up to it” by their teacher.

“Do you honestly think that children give a continental about how Wanganui is spelt? Children this age care about Harry Potter.”

Class teacher Selwyn Katene said last night that the children decided to write and he did not tell them what to say.

A much smarter response would have been to invite the kids to come up to Wanganui for a visit, and meet some of the locals who will explain why they don’t want the spelling of the name to be changed. That way they would start to learn about how there are two sides to every issue.

UPDATE: I’m tardy in pointing out Roar Prawn broke this story yesterday.

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