Job lost by Nat budget cut for 2nd time – updated

10/06/2009

 The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was seeking an editor for their Women In Agriculture newsletter.

It could be done from home and a very generous salary was being offered – from memory it was about $20,000 which was a lot of money for a very much part-time job in 1991.

The job description could have been written with me in mind. I had the journalism training and experience, was one of the co-founders of WAg in North Otago and still actively involved with it.

I applied, was short listed, interviewed and offered the position. But the offer came with a proviso that funding continued and the Budget a few weeks later cut it.

That was bad news for me as an individual but as a taxpayer I couldn’t argue for continued funding for something which definitely wasn’t necessary and which, if truth be told, shouldn’t have been publicly funded in the first place.

Nearly two decades later another National budget has put paid to another part time job for me. Teaching Spanish night classes has fallen victim to a change in rules for Adult Community Education (ACE) with funds being redirected towards priority areas of literacy and numeracy.

Again while I’m sorry as an individual I can’t argue against this move as a taxpayer because that would mean trying to justify public funding for private indulgences because these are essentially hobby classes.

I’ve been teaching the classes for four years with a Uruguayan friend. We’ve taken it seriously, spent time preparing lessons, provided notes and done our best in the classroom. We’ve enjoyed it and so have our students but the relative contribution by taxpayers and students was brought home to us this year when we discovered that 20 classes had been advertised when we thought we were only offering 10.

The students had paid $70 for 20 lessons but would get a refund of just $5 if we taught only 10 because most of the costs their fees covered were upfront ones, in particular advertising, and the major on-going cost of our wages came from taxpayers.

The classes were fun for our students and us but when there are so many other more important calls on public funds I couldn’t argue that paying for us to have fun was a priority.

Someone in the first lesson always asked how much they could expect to learn and I brought them down to earth by explaining after two years studying Spanish at university, three months of total immersion classes in Spain and five trips to Argentina to practise I have only an intermediate grasp of the language and a rusty one at that.

Even if the students went over what they’d learned between classes, which few if any ever did, 10 or even 20  two-hour lessons once a week were never going to be able to give them any more than the very basics – especially for those who’d never learned a foreign language before and/or didn’t understand how English worked either.

That’s not to say the classes didn’t have value. Apart from enjoyment, the students learned a little about another language and different cultures, they met new people, used their brains and expanded their horizons. But even so I couldn’t put my hand on my heart and say that anything they learned or gained could justify taxpayer funding.

There are many important priorities for education which taxes should fund, hobby classes aren’t one of them .

Stargazer sees this differently at The Hand Mirror.

UPDATE: Labour has launched a petition against the changes to ACE funding.

Bill English responded:

“Keeping ACE funding at previous levels would have meant not funding some of the Government’s other priorities such as special education, literacy and numeracy or skills training for the young unemployed.

“Labour, presumably, would just put the extra spending ‘on the credit card’ like everything else it is promising. Labour left behind about $500 million of unfunded tertiary education commitments, which is one of the reasons we’ve had to reassess some existing funding.

“I challenge Maryan Street to show how she would fund ACE at current levels, meet other education priorities, and stay within Budget,” Mr English says.

Quite.

I’d struggle to make a case for public funding of hobby classes at the best of times let alone now when the country is facing years of deficits.

There is no case now when we’re facing years of deficits and literacy, numeracy and special education are much higher priorities.


Sacked for refusing to walk behind men & wear abaya

28/04/2009

A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.

Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.

Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.

What you do when your beliefs clash with those which  are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.

The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.

Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.

Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.

That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.

 

It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.

P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality  at the Hand Mirror.


Style beats fashion

20/09/2008

Is there any other industry which treats its customers as badly as the fashion one?

They design clothes which suit a tiny, in terms of both number and size, minority of women and in doing so fail the majority of their would-be customers. 

If you regard fashion as art, the unusual and often unattractive creations which are modelled on the cat walk may be of interest. But if you’re looking for real clothes for real life which fit well, suit you and and are practical and comfortable you’re unlikely to find them there or in the many pages of glossy magazines devoted to fashion.

It’s not very easy to find them in retail outlets either because most don’t realise what this billboard points out:

 

 

There are 3,000 million women in the world and only eight are super models. 

But there’s a little glimmer of hope that maybe they’re realising that healthy women have breasts, hips, and bums; and that the majority are considerably bigger than many for whom most of the clothes are designed.

The standard size of a model at Fashion Week is just 8, but today  plus size models  will be sashaying down the cat walk in clothes which go up to size 24.

It’s easy to look good when you’re young and slim. But when time and gravity have taken their toll if you want clothes that flatter it’s better to forgo fashion and opt for style.

In related posts Karl du Fresne asks: Celebration or Degredation? and Stargazer at The Hand Mirror  writes on being out of fashion.


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