If you have to teach appropriate . . .

March 14, 2014

Teachers’ Council’s disciplinary tribunal member and principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh, wants appropriate behaviour with pupils to be a mandatory part of teacher training.

. . . Mr Walsh says there are basic rules to guide teachers’ behaviour.

“They don’t need to be a friend of a student – and there’s a distinction between that and being friendly. Secondly, use of social media: it’s not appropriate for a student to join your Facebook page, to text students late at night in the weekends, to accept gifts and whether it’s a good idea to attend a 16th or 18th birthday party of a student.” . . .

This has been prompted by a blurring of lines between what was acceptable between teachers and pupils.

Teachers have accepted gifts of underwear, and invitations to students’ birthday parties – and later claimed to be unaware such actions were inappropriate. . .

Good grief – aren’t teachers supposed to be responsible adults and role models to their pupils?

If you have to teach them what’s appropriate in teacher-pupil relationships are they the appropriate people to be teachers?


No tolerance for corruption

January 2, 2014

Friends from overseas opened a bank account here.

It was going to take a couple of days before it was activated by which time they were going to be somewhere else.

The teller said if they left the money with them she’d deposit it as soon as the account was activated.

They had no hesitation in giving her the money but said if they’d been in their own country they wouldn’t have trusted the bank staff.

We take such honesty for granted here but it isn’t something about which we can be complacent.

In Monday’s ODT (not online) Bob Jones recounted examples of corruption he’d encountered around the world and concluded:

. . . I mention all this given the outrageously light sentence of nine months’ home detention accord on utterly specious grounds to Christchurch policeman Gordon Stanley Meyer. Offering to trade fines for sexual favours is not simply sleazy, as the judge seemed to view it. It’s about a principle which is absolute, regardless of its nature or monetary dimension, It behoves the police commissioner to appeal this ridiculous sentence so that wiser heads can send a vitally important message, namely the corruption is corrosive, strikes at the heart of civil society and will absolutely not be tolerated.

New Zealand has regularly tops Transparency International’s index as the least corrupt country in the world.

The only way to stay there is to ensure no tolerance for corruption.

UPDATE: the column is now on-line at the NZ Herald.


Is he respected as a person of good sense, character and integrity?

December 27, 2013

Questions are being raised over Len Brown continuing to be a JP.

But Alan Hart from the registrar for the Royal Association of JPs says it’s not that simple.

. . . “Whilst individually we find difficulty in how they reconcile that behaviour with being a JP, it’s not wrong,” he says. “It’s not legally wrong, it’s not morally wrong, it’s just people behaving as people do.” . . .

Len Brown’s actions may not have been legally wrong but I beg to differ with Mr Hart over whether they’re morally wrong and while it might be what some people do, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

That ought to matter when a JP:

. . .  should be of good standing in the community (which is not to be identified with material prosperity), and should be respected as persons of good sense, character and integrity.

The problem is that Brown is a JP because he is mayor.

. . . Mr Hart said that JPs appointed as a result of their roles were not covered by the federation’s rules, including its code of conduct.

He can’t be sacked as mayor and as long as he’s a mayor he’s a JP even though he’s clearly demonstrated his standards aren’t those not just expected but required of other people holding the office.


Right to cheat?

June 23, 2013

Attempts to stop students in China cheating in their exams led to a riot:

. . .When students at the No. 3 high school in Zhongxiang arrived to sit their exams earlier this month, they were dismayed to find they would be supervised not by their own teachers, but by 54 external invigilators randomly drafted in from different schools across the county.

The invigilators wasted no time in using metal detectors to relieve students of their mobile phones and secret transmitters, some of them designed to look like pencil erasers.

A special team of female invigilators was on hand to intimately search female examinees, according to the Southern Weekend newspaper.

Outside the school, meanwhile, a squad of officials patrolled the area to catch people transmitting answers to the examinees. At least two groups were caught trying to communicate with students from a hotel opposite the school gates.

For the students, and for their assembled parents waiting outside the school gates to pick them up afterwards, the new rules were an infringement too far.

As soon as the exams finished, a mob swarmed into the school in protest.

“I picked up my son at midday [from his exam]. He started crying. I asked him what was up and he said a teacher had frisked his body and taken his mobile phone from his underwear. I was furious and I asked him if he could identify the teacher. I said we should go back and find him,” one of the protesting fathers, named as Mr Yin, said to the police later. . .

. . . According to the protesters, cheating is endemic in China, so being forced to sit the exams without help put their children at a disadvantage. . .

I don’t think we’re in danger of riots over measures to prevent cheating here.

I’d be very surprised if it was this rife but I couldn’t be confident that there is none.

If people think they have the right to cheat they must think it’s right to cheat.

If they cheat at one thing, how can you trust them not to cheat in another?

Hat tip: Kiwi In Canberra


Can’t be complacent about corruption

April 2, 2013

An Argentinean visitor looked out the kitchen window of our crib in Wanaka and commented on the absence of a fence between the lawn and the street.

She asked if we had a  burglar alarm, camera or other security measures.

I said no and that sort of thing would be rare in most parts of New Zealand.

It isn’t like that in Argentina where most homes have alarms, bars on their doors and windows and most people use deadlocks even when they’re home.

The next day we were with an Argentinean who lives here and she told us of hosting two of her countrymen when one realised he didn’t have his money belt.

It contained not just money but credit cards and his and his brother’s passports.

One of their friends remembered he’d taken it off in a bar the night before. The host rang the bar and was told the manager had left a note saying she’d found a money belt the previous night and would take it to the police.

The tourists couldn’t believe that someone would be so honest and that the police could be trusted with the money belt and its contents too.

I am very pleased that we live in a country where most people are honest and are institutions are too but Transparency International reminds us that we shouldn’t be complacent about corruption.

The New Zealand public sector has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the least corrupt in the world. On the day of its 100th Anniversary, Transparency International (New Zealand) warns that there is no room for complacency in the quest towards higher standards of governance. Later this year, Transparency International NZ (TINZ) will publish its Integrity Plus National Integrity System report, which looks at twelve key institutional pillars covering Parliament, political parties, the executive, the judiciary, the public sector including local government, key watch-dog institutions, the media, law enforcement agencies, community and voluntary organisations and business.

“The fact that many government agencies are contributing funding to support the study indicates that the public sector also recognizes the importance of maintaining a high integrity society, and is not complacent about the risks to integrity in today’s more globalised world” says Suzanne Snively.

“National Integrity System studies have been carried out for the last 10 years or so, in countries all around the world” says Suzanne Snively, co-director of the research project for TINZ. “We conducted a study in New Zealand back in 2003 and, as with that study, we will again be going beyond a narrow focus on corruption to assess New Zealand against best practice standards of transparency and accountability, taking account of our unique constitutional and cultural features. Emergent findings are beginning to be identified. For example, the Office of the Controller and Auditor General and the Ombudsman are particularly strong in terms of transparency and accountability. TINZ welcomes the just announced increased level of resourcing of the Office of the Ombudsman”.

There have been significant developments in other areas of public life since the 2003 report as well, such as the creation of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in 2007, as well as in a number of areas where the 2003 Report recommended changes. These include the introduction of the State Services Commission survey of public servants, the strengthening of the governance framework of Crown Entities, the establishment of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the introduction of reporting of tax expenditures, and, updated codes of conduct for Ministers and Crown Entities in 2008. But the picture is not all positive with a number of concerns raised in the 2003 report remaining unaddressed, while new areas of risk to integrity have emerged.

“In this time of budgetary restraint” argues Suzanne “as the public sector faces reductions in funding, transparency and public engagement it is more important than ever to ensure that the best choices are made about effective ways to economise and innovate so that they impact in a way that improves service delivery”.

To test integrity systems, the NIS assessment includes some in-depth research into private sector organisations to assess the strength of their business ethics and processes. To compare them with the public sector, this means drilling down into specific areas such as exporting processes and financial transactions.

TINZ will be holding a number of events this year to engage with New Zealanders throughout the country to discuss its findings about public, private and community sector integrity systems. “All members of the public are welcome to go onto our website now and comment,” says Suzanne. “New Zealand’s reputation for integrity and anti-corruption remains high in the international arena, but that does not mean that it is perfect and it does not mean that it can’t be improved. Integrity in public life increases trust, which is essential to maintaining a healthy and participatory democratic country”.

We can’t expect our institutions and government to be more honest and less corrupt than society.

That depends on all of us maintaining standards and there is no room for complacency there, even in little things.

When my daughter and I were leaving the supermarket on Saturday we noticed a doll on a counter which looked like one our guest’s young daughter had been given.

When we got back to the house we asked if she’d lost it and were told she had.

I phoned the supermarket and said the doll on their counter belonged to our guests and we’d pick it up.

Our guest was amazed and said that if she’d lost a toy at home she’d never expect to get it back.

We didn’t get back to the supermarket that day and when I went on Sunday the supervisor couldn’t find the doll. She said she’d ask the staff who’d been on the day before and told me to call back.

I went back yesterday to be told no-one knew what had happened to the doll.

Perhaps someone else claimed the doll or maybe when we didn’t come back on Saturday someone thought we weren’t going to.

I wouldn’t call this corruption  but I’m sorry that the impression of honesty our guests had isn’t quite as glossy as they thought and we hoped.

 


What’s appropriate, where’s the empathy?

December 10, 2012

If you’ve been at a 21st or wedding recently you might have been subjected to speeches with content you’d prefer not to have heard and that many would regard as inappropriate for the occasion and audience.

After one such speech, discussion on it ended with the observation – if people don’t know what’s appropriate at social occasions,  how do they behave at work?

The answer for 2Day FM, the radio station which recorded, mulled upon and then broadcast the phone conversation with a nurse about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health, is that they don’t know what’s appropriate there either.

The DJs who made the call couldn’t possibly have anticipated the nurse who first answered the phone would later commit suicide.

Nor could any of those who listened to it and okayed the broadcast.

However, during the vetting process someone should have questioned whether it was appropriate to phone a hospital to ask after the health of a patient, regardless of who she was, then broadcast the conversation with the nurse who gave the information.

Had that question been asked, the answer should have been no.

There’s nothing new about prank calls and they can be funny.

What’s funny is very much a matter of opinion, so too is what’s appropriate.

At Sciblogs, Michael Edmonds has some rules to judge  if a prank is acceptable:

1) The prank must not do any damage, physical or otherwise. If it creates a mess you get to clean it up

2) The person being “pranked” should find it funny (i.e. it must be someone you know and can anticipate a humorous reaction from)

3) The prank must not humiliate the person in any way

4) You must be okay with being pranked in return. If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t dish it out.

Anyone with a reasonable degree of empathy would have realised that the call to the hospital wouldn’t have passed the first three tests.

The question to be asked is not just what’s appropriate, but also where’s the empathy?


Denmark, Finland and New Zealand 1 = least corrupt

December 6, 2012

Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tied in first place in Transparency  International’s Global Corruption Perceptions Index.

While welcoming this recognition for New Zealand, the local chapter of Transparency International is promising that its newly launched National Integrity System assessment will provide a much more nuanced and detailed report on the country’s vulnerability to corruption.

“Our ambitious National Integrity System Assessment will give the most detailed answer yet to the question, ‘What factors cause New Zealand to rank consistently at the top?'” Says Suzanne Snively Chair of TINZ and NIS Steering Group Co-Chair.

Snively continues, “The NIS assessment is more ambitious and comprehensive than any previously conducted. The strong support we are receiving through funding agencies and participants indicates a commitment on the part of New Zealanders to remain a high trust society. New Zealanders are recognizing that not only is this ranking a source of pride, it represents a significant competitive advantage and economic benefits for New Zealand business.”

Lack of corruption is something most of us take for granted.

It’s usually not until we travel to other countries where the institutions and people can’t be trusted as they can be here that we understand and appreciate the value of integrity.

We met the head of an international bank a few month ago and were discussing which countries it operates in.

We asked if it had plans to do business in a couple of countries in South America.

His answer was swift – no, you couldn’t be sure you’d get your money back.

New Zealand’s high trust society is both a national treasure and an economic asset. Forbes magazine ranks New Zealand first on its most recent list of the Best Countries for Business thanks to a transparent and stable business climate. According to Phil O’Reilly Chief Executive of Business New Zealand “New Zealand’s high trust public sector is it’s greatest competitive advantage.”

We need inward investment and we’re far more likely to get it than other countries where transparency, stability and trust are less common.


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