What would Pope Francis do?

shc-office-sign

I am a product of the Catholic schooling system although have not been a part of the Catholic Church since I was 16 and have not considered myself a Catholic since then. I am proud of my association with my old schools (St Peters College Years 7 to 9 and Sacred Heart College, Years 9 – 13) and have nothing but good memories from them especially whilst boarding at SHC.

I have never wanted to associate myself with the Catholic Church once leaving school, not for any particular reason other than I found it boring,  not very relevant to my life and lacking in inspiration. However recently I have found myself drawn to the new Pope and am excited about the direction he seems to be taking the Catholic Church in and whilst I am not fully ‘on board’ with everything he says, it’s obvious to me that the direction he intends to take the Church in is less regressive than previous Popes.

One of my greatest joys in recent times was hearing Pope Francis talk about the dangers of capitalism, the need for the wealthy to look after the poor and the concern for what he calls the “idolatry of money.”

It is with the knowledge that the Pope has significant and public concern about how the poor are treated, and the obvious links he is making to money and how it should be distributed, that I was extremely disappointed at receiving an email from SHC this week asking, among other things, for donations towards a $70,000 Grand Piano for their new music department.piano

Now looking around $70,000 might be a very good price for a top end Grand Piano, I spoke to someone today who sold them as was told that they can range between $150,000 and $350,000 so I am not saying this is not a “good deal” I am challenging SHC on whether it is important at all.

I found a Grand Piano online for under $12,000 and I am sure the best upright piano, that many music departments would drool over would be far less than $70,000. What would Pope Francis do?

I don’t want this to turn into a ‘smash the Catholic Church’ conversation, it’s not my intention to give them a black eye, but as someone with 17 years ‘behind the pew’ I think I can gently tap you on the shoulder and say, “have you really thought this one through?”

SHC is in the suburb of Glen Innes which is one of the poorer suburbs in Auckland. If you look at the make up of the community you will see that the only demographic it is ahead in compared to the Auckland and National averages is “people earning under $20,000” and that nearly 60% of the homes there are not owned by those dwelling in them. This is a struggling suburb.

Graphs

On top of all that with there being a lot in the news at the moment about people sleeping in cars I have to wonder how a school, who claims as a part of their Special Character that their culture “is centred on the person of Jesus Christ” can bring themselves to be comfortable with spending $70,000 on a single musical instrument.

Many will also ask about the wealth that the school is literally sitting on. SHC is situation at 250 West Tamaki Road, Glen Innes. The records show that this property has a Ratings Valuation of $65,500,000 of which the land alone is worth over $40,000,000. Again I understand the idea of being ‘asset rich’, but your property is likely worth over $100,000,000 on an open market. At what point do you stop and at the very least ask a question about liquidizing some of your assets to better your amenities?

I also do not want to suggest that being charitable, and giving to whatever cause you deem important, is not a good thing and I understand how much not-for-profit groups, schools, charities etc…rely on donations. All I am asking is that if Pope Francis had that $70,000…what would he do?

Here is an idea SHC, and I’m not being a curmudgeon here and saying “Don’t do it” to your Grand Piano. How about you raise the $70,000, purchase the one I found for $12,000 and then cure over 130 people from leprosy?

At the moment you can donate $432 to the Leprosy Mission which cures one person from leprosy. The cure includes locating them, caring for them, curing them and then supporting them into positions where they can support themselves. What would Pope Francis do?

If you don’t like the Leprosy Mission, how about World Vision, what about Rainbow Youth, do you like Tearfund? There are a myriad of opportunities out there that, in my opinion, would be grateful for the help to help others, all whilst the students of SHC can still sit at a $12,000 piano that 99% of New Zealanders would never be able to afford and 99.99% of New Zealanders wouldn’t hear a difference between.

And if the question “What would Pope Francis do?” is a bit existential, then what about “What would Jesus do?” maybe that’s a little easier to figure out.

Please can we stop talking up ‘election bribes’

Key and Cunliffe handing out the presents at election time

So today Labour has promised to eliminate school donations by giving “an annual grant of $100 per student for schools in lieu of voluntary donations” to finally make primary education free in New Zealand. I like this policy, I applaud this policy, I endorse this policy however, as you well know, I fight for politicians to be consistent.

Just 2 days ago, or “aggggges ago” as it is seen in the world of politics, both Russel Norman and David Cunliffe were deriding John Key for offering election bribes in the form of roading projects.

Can we please settle this once and for all and can I ask you politicians to stop looking like idiots, they are either all ‘bribes’ or none of them are. You decide and move forward accordingly.

John Key you cannot go on Larry Williams or Duncan Garner this afternoon and call ‘free education’ a bribe unless you accept that your roading projects are as well, and Mr. Cunliffe you must acknowledge your offer of $100 per student to families is a bribe or Nationals focus on two lane bridges are not.

Simple ah?

A powerfully, disturbing diversity excercise

This video is powerful, disturbing, uncomfortable and I think a must watch for everyone who wants to learn a bit more about how a minority might feel.

The teacher is Jane Elliot. Jane is also a diversity trainer who developed the Angry Eyes Exercise otherwise known as the “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise to teach students what it feels like to be a person of colour.

This video begins pretty abruptly, where one of the students who’s been singled out based on eye colour is extremely frustrated. The exercise shows how when an uncontrollable attribute, in this case the colour of someone’s eyes…or indeed the colour of your skin…effects you when you get treated in a prejudicial way.

I am way underselling this and trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about…I think you should just watch the footage.

The Youtube clip has a write up that says

Racism is a system of advantage based on race. Do you believe white racism exists? Do you believe black racism exists? How has white racism adversely affected the lives of black people in America? How has black racism adversely affected the lives of white people in America? Black people or any minority race can hate white people all they want but it has no power to impact a whole group of white people.

Centuries of slavery followed by systemic racism—such as share cropping, black codes, Jim Crow—have acted as “virtual re-enslavement” policies that continue today. The practice of lynching was done by families, women and children, who would smile and grin at blacks being hung, or tied to a truck with their bodies dragged through the streets until the limbs came apart. Although not everyone is traumatized by a particular incident, slavery is not about one incident but a lifetime of incidents.

Brown Eyes-Blue Eyes Experiment – “The Angry Eye”
By Ms. Jane Elliot

One terrifying statement in the video, and I hope you made it right the way through is when 80 year old Jane Elliot says “things are better than they were when I was 13…they’re not as good as when I was 50.”

Malala Yousafzai Interview

Malala Yousafzai the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan for wanting an education, who since has spoken to the UN and has become the youngest person every to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Price had a three part interview on The Daily Show last night.

Comedy Central doesn’t allow embedding in WordPress (if you can help with this message me) so here is part one of the interview that someone has put on YouTube, and below are the links to Comedy Central where you can watch both parts on their site.

Part One of the interview on Comedy Central

Part Two of the interview on Comedy Central

Part Three of the interview on Comedy Central

If you want to know more about Malala Yousafzai you can check out her book and her foundation

Criminal Minds creates a stir in the ex-gay community

criminal mindsThis Monday night there is one of the most controversial episodes of Criminal Minds ever. Certainly in America when it aired February 20th it created a storm.

The episode is called ‘Broken’ and its premise is that a homosexual man, who was forced into ex-gay therapy as a young man. It didn’t work and he now as an adult has an identity crisis.

The guilt and anger that the UnSub fights internally where he wants desperately to be able to be with a woman, but his physical inadequacies to perform sexually with them drives him to kill.

This drew much ire from a sector of the Christian community in the US. The sector that agrees and believes that homosexuality is a choice. You can Google it yourself to see the plethora of blogs, articles and opinions but here is a typical example of what has been written.

A former homosexual who founded Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays says Hollywood’s latest attack on people who leave the homosexual lifestyle reveals how much “gays” fear those individuals.

“They are so afraid of people discovering their sexuality and realizing that no one is born a homosexual and learning that they can actually change if they want to,” said Greg Quinlan about the issue raised by a recent episode of CBS’ “Criminal Minds.”

Now let me make this clear, Criminal Minds is a television show, a medium of entertainment, it is not factual, it is not a documentary.

In saying that the reason this episode caused such a stir in the US is that the themes of Broken are not that far from what many believe in what they call the ex-ex-gay community.

From the Huffington Post

The former poster child of the “ex-gay movement” renounced his controversial past beliefs in an email interview with PQ Monthly last week.

John Paulk, the former chairman of Exodus International and co-author of Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other, said he struggled with rejection all of his life and has been on a journey trying to understand God.

“Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted,” Paulk said. “I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.”

Paulk said he is now greatly remorseful for any harm that he’s caused by his words.

There are not many times I wish I was still working in radio, but this is a talkback topic that could go for a full 6 hour show on Newstalk ZB, or about 6 weeks on Rhema.

There is much out there if this topic interests you but one resource I have found of particular quality is an episode of Our America with Lisa Ling called ‘Pray the Gay Away’. The thing I like about Lisa is that she is genuinely interested in both sides of the conversation, she is balanced and the documentary is a safe place for people from both sides to have a look at this issue.

Here are three short clips from the episode. I encourage you to watch all three

 

 

 

Whatever you think, it’s a fascinating conversation and a good watch on Monday night, but then again I am a Criminal Minds fan.

Criminal Minds, Broken, TVOne, Monday 29th April 8.30pm

NZ Celebrities engage in the Marriage Equality debate

A list of pretty high profile New Zealanders have lent their names, faces and opinions to a campaign supporting marriage equality.

In the 90 seconds you see…
Tamati Coffey (TV Presenter) and his partner Tim Smith
Anika Moa, Hollie Smith, Boh Runga (Musicians)
Rachel Hunter (NZ’s Got Talent Judge/Supermodel)
Brooke Howard Smith (TV Presenter) his partner Amber Peebles (Radio DJ)
Nigel Latta (Psychologist)
Danyon Loader (Olympian)
Jason Kerrison (Musician)
Jason Fa’afoi (TV Presenter) and his partner Anna and their son Charlie
Pearl McGlashan (Actress)
Ali Campbell (Musician)
Alison Mau (TV Presenter)
Orene Ai’I (Rugby Player)
Dame Cath Tizard (Former Governor General)
Mike King (Talkback host/Comedian)
Oliver Driver (Actor/Presenter)
Richie Hardcore (DJ)
Turumakina Duley (Tattoo Artist)
Amy Usherwood (Actress)
Nick Dwyer (Radio DJ)

But the person I want to mention is Nigel Latta, this is what he says near the beginning of the video.

“See I thought we lived in a free country, I thought my kids were growing up in a place where everyone has the same rights.”

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, please feel free to respectfully engage in this conversation in the comments below.

Hekia Parata speaks a foreign language…or maybe that’s all politicians?

Hekia Parata was on the show this morning and I decided I needed a translator to help me decipher the answers given.

Question – There is a potential for class sizes to increase, is that correct?
Answer – There is a potential for that and we’ve made a conscience decision that one or two extra students in the middle year classes are acceptable if we can, at the same time, raise the quality of teaching across all of the classrooms.
Translation – Yes!

Question – If you’re going to raise the quality of teaching it’s not going to happen by the beginning of next year but class sizes may increase there seems to be a bit of a gap in the logic there.
Answer – Well, we have for the last ten years been raising the number of teachers we have in the NZ education system and in fact the number of teachers have increased at the rate of five times the rate of the number of students and we haven’t had five times the rate in the list of achievements so what we’re saying is we think we’ve got the quantity of teachers about right but now we need to make sure we raise the quality generally across the system.
Translation – Yes

Question – How is the performance pay going to work? Who is going to assess it? How are you going to judge if a teacher is performing well?
Answer – This is a part of a two year work programme which I announced yesterday, the appraisal system if a part of it, our proposal is to collaborate with the sector in the design of it, therefore both the process and features of it are yet to be determined.
Translation – We don’t know.

Question – So we don’t know how we are going to assess them yet, but we have announced that there is going to be an assessment where some of their pay will be based on it.
Answer – So we’re going to collaborate with the sector, the very sector you are referring to in the design of those features.
Translation – That is correct, we don’t know

Question – So we don’t know that answer yet we don’t know how they are going to be assessed?
Answer – Because it is a two year work programme that I announced yesterday.
Translation – That is correct, we don’t know yet.

And it went on….

Question – What education system in the world that you guys have looked at, that has the potential of having fewer teachers and more students, has actually worked for a better outcome for the students?
Answer – Well that’s the point we have to design a system that is particular to NZ so we’re not proposing to adopt any one system, but we’ve certainly been looking at all 65 of the countries with whom we participate both within the OECD, but also in the PISA process, so we would look to see what particular features work in what contect, whether or not they would be appropriate for NZ, but in the end those would only be advice and we would design what would fit the purpose for our country
Translation – ??????????

Question – Are there any examples at all with a government purposely applying a system where numbers of students go up and numbers of teachers come down, potentially, and that improves the outcomes for students, are there any examples of that in the world anywhere?
Answer – Well with respect, education has many dynamic moving parts, our system doesn’t perfectly match anybody elses, our system has a number of features…..[losing interest]…blah, blah, blah…..snoring noises…
Translation – No there are not any examples anywhere in the world.

So here are my main concerns.

Again we have a National government tinkering with an education system, using untested, unproven methods and holding them up as the answer.

Nobody would disagree that there are some people in teaching who shouldn’t be there, but to attack the problem with what is obviously a Treasury based solution, rather than an education based one is nonsense.

To announce a system that is going to grade (some say degrade) our teachers and base their pay on it, to commit to it for next week’s budget, and introduce it as of the start of next year…when you don’t know how you are going to assess the teachers…isn’t only poor politics, it down right criminal

You can listen to the whole interview here, just have you’re translator ready :o)

The Panel with Ian Wishart and Steve Tollestrup

Steve Tollstrup and Ian Wishart talk about what David Shearer needs to do to make inroads into John Key’s domination and paying teachers performance bonuses

The Daily Show with more insight into Palestine become a country in the UN

John Oliver from The Daily Show does a two part story on how when America decided to pull funding from UNESCO as they, along with 100 organisations have recognised Palestine as a country, there ended up being no winners.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s not about Race or Age or Gender or Religion…it’s about Poverty

For a long time I have had a bit of an untested theory. I’ve come to a place where I don’t think the negative statistics in New Zealand are about race, age, gender or religion.  I think they’re about poverty and the by products of poverty.

Let me back up a little and give you an example of a common ‘talkback’ conversation.

The headline reads something like, “Another baby dies at the hands of its caregivers.” This is what happens on talkback; ‘Owen’ from Nelson phones in as this is his pet topic. Within 60 seconds ‘Owen’ has already told New Zealand to “wait and see…they’ll be native…their whanau will support them…you just wait.” Now sadly ‘Owen’ is right far too often, but is his underlying racist bias accurate? Is being Maori a significant factor in killing your kids? That’s where I think the conversation becomes interesting.

I would put to you that being Maori is not as much of an issue in this as many may think. Let me ask you this question. How many wealthy, well educated Maori (or any race) are killing their kids? The answer is, “Not many…if any!”

So if being Maori means you’re over represented in our sad statistics, why are not wealthy, well educated Maori over represented in this, or any, negative social issue?

Poor Maori over represented…wealthy, educated Maori not…hmmmm.

Just for context, contrary to some commentators child abuse is not an issue exclusive to Maori as I demonstrate in this post on my old blog ironically posted exactly one year ago to the day. In there you can read that former Child Commissioner Ian Hassall says…

“Roughly the same number of Maori and non-Maori children are killed in New Zealand.”

Martyn Bradbury came to  the same conclusion in a post in the middle of last year.

No one is arguing that Maori are not over represented, but my question is, “Why?”

Well lets look at another people group.

How many European/Pakeha/White (whatever word takes your fancy) are in these negative statistics? How many Pakeha lawyers or Doctors kill their kids? Again I think you’ll find the answer is, “Not many…if any!” What about Pakeha in poverty, the underclass, white trash…those guys…how do they feature in the negative statistics? Well coming back to my first point, without having had the research or data in front of me, I have assumed, and many of you would agree, that they would be over represented in those statistics, especially compared to their wealthy, educated Pakeha counterparts. I think that is a fair and safe assumption.

Well it has been an assumption…until now.

Today has seen a longitudinal paper released which has followed over 1,200 people for 30 years. The study looked at children born in Christchurch who grew up in either poor, or rich, families

Those from poor families were more likely to leave school without qualifications, have babies before they were 20, commit crimes, go on welfare and have addiction and other mental health problems in adulthood.

Most of these effects were explained by factors which tended to vary in line with family incomes, such as parents’ education, addictions, criminality and marital conflict and breakup, and the children’s own intelligence.

But study director Professor David Fergusson said the effects of childhood income on later educational and career achievement persisted even after allowing for all other factors

So if you grew up poor, you tended to stay poor. If you were poor you were also a much higher chance of being a part of those negative statistics we were talking about earlier. The key factor here is that this extensive study shows us that the main contributing factor to being a part of negative statistic in society is poverty and the by-products of that poverty. Not race.

It also showed that if you were raised in a poorer family you were also more likely to have mental health issues.

The study asked detailed questions about people’s lives which also enabled the researchers to diagnose whether they had depression, anxiety disorder, drug or alcohol addictions or anti-social behaviour.

On average, those from poor families had slightly more of these disorders than those from rich families.

Here are some of the key findings of the report

Schooling
Almost 40 per cent of those in the poorest fifth of families left school without qualifications, compared with fewer than 10 per cent of those in the richest fifth.

Pregnancy
A third of those from the poor families but fewer than a tenth of those from rich families fell pregnant, or got someone pregnant, before they were 20.

Crime
A third of those from poor families, but only a sixth from rich families, committed a violent or property crime between the ages of 18 and 30.

Welfare
20 per cent of those from poor families, but only 4 per cent from rich families, spent some time on welfare before they were 30.

Income
Those from poor families earned an average of just under $40,000 a year by age 30, while those from rich families averaged $60,000.

I wrote earlier in this post that “being Maori is not as much of an issue in this as many may think” but it does impact these negative statistics, but not because they are Maori… because so many Maori are ‘poor’.

What the mainstream media needs to understand, and needs to address, is that these issues, these negative statistics in our society, issues like crime, mental health issues, physical health issues, low education, addiction, incarceration are issues of poverty and the by products of poverty, are not issues of race, age, gender, religion or anything else.

Why are Maori over represented in these statistics…because they are over represented in ‘being poor.’ If more of them are poor…then more of them come up in the negative statistics.

So do we solve this problem?

Well I firmly believe that we cannot solve any problem until we acknowledge the issue and seeing as mainstream NZ would try to convince us these are issues of race…or religion…or age…then we are doomed to keep this sad cycle of negative social statistics going.

Let’s acknowledge the problem, then maybe together we can find a solution.