Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Items

Two items in this morning’s paper made me indignant.

The first was the public pilloring of Obama’s administration over the sacking of a black federal officer in Georgia for racist policies and language. It has turned out that a commentator on Fox TV doctored a documentary, which by not showing the full interview gave a biased and slanted opinion. It was on that presented, falsified opinion that the woman was sacked.

In the outcry, criticism centres on the administration. Maybe senior officers were a little trigger-happy. In the powder keg that is politics people have to act quickly to damp down potential ignition material. Of course, they should have checked.

But there appears to be little criticism of the immoral nature of that ignition material. The officials acted on good faith on an apparent clearly cut and dried case, it was there on the tape. Only, it wasn’t. The tape was not the truth. It was a lie. And the man who compiled it was a liar. And anyone who aided and abetted him is a liar.

I know that cloak and dagger stuff is a component of politics. But there is word called ‘truth’. News channels I believe had the responsibility to present that truth. Sure, they’ll slant the information. But to wilfully tamper with it and distort it into untruth. That is dangerous to democracy. Dr Goebbels would have been proud of the act. I am not.

The second item is that Massey University suddenly closed enrolments for summer school courses. They normally close on 1 November. It was announced yesterday at 4 30 p.m. they were closing at 5 p.m. that day, 22 July. The reason – funding. Places at summer school have decreased from 5,000 to 3400 due to an increase in full-time students. That increase is good. But the consequent drop in summer school is not. Foreign students can continue to apply until 1 November. They pay full fees.

There are several factors. First, good faith. Many people would have assumed 1 November as the date – plenty of time. They will have missed out. ‘Tough bickies’ I can hear the hard-hearted saying.

I’m in favour of open entry in theory. But I have to acknowledge financial realities. If numbers have to be limited there should be some merit system rather than an arbitrary closure of enrolment date.

Again I hear the hard-hearted saying ‘it’s only hobby classes’. It’s not. Some are catch-up or filling in gaps. And for those that are what’s wrong with people broadening their horizons, expanding their minds, learning new skills. Many of those people will be able to make an improved contribution to our society and economy as a result of the value addition of these courses.

Behind the decision lurks the same issue writ larger – full-time students. The idea’s afoot that only those studies that increase productivity are worthy of support. The folly of that argument can be demonstrated. Define those studies. We do not live by bread alone. Nor by circuses. Learning comes in many guises. Improved learning is a necessary adjunct to the society that the politicians would have us aspire to. To narrow the vision is to reduce the number of ways of fostering it.

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