letters · politics

A letter I wrote to the Minister of Education re: sexual consent education, and its response.

In response to a rape jokes scandal in a New Zealand school, the then Minister of Education Hekia Parata ruled out compulsory consent education – saying that it was best addressed in the family.

I sent an email to here, and here’s the response I got.

I wrote:

Hi Hekia.

I write to regarding the comments you made as reported in this RNZ article: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/326678/wellington-college-students-suspended-for-rape-comments

“Today, Education Minister Hekia Parata ruled out introducing compulsory education around sexual consent in high schools, saying the subject was best addressed in a family setting.

Ms Parata said the issue was a conversation for parents to have with their children, and schools had the freedom to supplement the pupils’ education if they wanted to.”

For context, I’m 31 year old pakeha male.

I think this is a disappointingly regressive attitude.

I got my sex education in 1997-2000. It covered use of condoms, STIs and pregnancy. I wish it had covered sexual consent, because there are certain regrettable situations I’ve been involved in which consent education might have prevented.

I think compulsory consent education is a no brainer, if not a bit of minefield to navigate.

All the best,

David Johnston

The response: (PDF)

Dear David

The Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, has asked me to reply to your email of 15 March 2017 about the introduction of compulsory education around sexual consent.

Teaching children and young people respect for others is a responsibility for all of us; something they learn at home and school, both in what they are told, and what they observe around them.

As part of this shared responsibility, The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that schools work with children and young people on the skills they need to navigate personal relationships and sexual identity.

Sexuality education is a compulsory part of our health and physical education curriculum, which schools must deliver in Years 1 to 10. The Ministry of Education expects schools to follow the guidance we issued in 2015, this can be found at http://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-HPE/Policy-guidelines/Sexuality-education-a-guide-for-principals-boards-of-trustees-and-teachers This guidance spells out what should be covered by sexuality education. For secondary schools, that detail sets out a clear pathway through topics including consent, coercion and sexual violence.

Our guidance puts identity and sexuality firmly in the context of relationships with others. It covers the skills of self-knowledge, assertiveness and caring that are central to healthy relationships. Students learn about personal boundaries in sexuality education. From the beginning, we expect schools to teach children to identify safe and unsafe touching and the importance of respect. By Years 6 to 7, students are identifying pressures from others and developing assertiveness strategies.

Schools are required to consult with their communities every two years, or more often, about how they teach sexuality education. It is one of the reasons there is variation from school to school in teaching this subject. Any teaching programme discussing consent requires an understanding of empathy and respect for others’ feelings. So at the heart of sexuality education, again from a young age, is material on affirming the feelings and beliefs of others.

Many secondary schools and communities include consent in their sexuality education. Many schools also hold forums outside scheduled classes where important issues such as consent, coercion and safety in intimate relationships can be debated and discussed.

We encourage all schools to look at what they are doing on sexuality education with their school community.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Glen Johnson
Acting Group Manager Pathways and Progress Early Learning and Student Achievement

It’s an interesting response – pretty comprehensive and pro-consent education – and completely at odds with Hekia’s comment.

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letters

I wrote a letter to a news media company about distasteful content. Here’s their response.

My email (sent September 4):

Hi, I’d like to formally complain about this article you published, regarding a serious assault that took place in South Korea.

http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2017/09/woman-cut-off-husband-s-penis-because-he-played-golf-too-much.html

 newshub.PNG

The article concerns a man whose wife cut his penis off.

The accompanying image you elected to use – a vegetable being cut up, essentially makes a joke of the assault, trivializing it, and doesn’t demonstrate the sensitivity that is appropriate.

Domestic violence is a serious issue, once that is exacerbated by cultural attitudes that prevent people from seeking help about it. As a media outlet, it is irresponsible to contribute to this attitude, by treating it like a joke.

It is also insensitive to any similar victims of domestic violence seeing their circumstances being treated this way.

Please treat this email as a formal complaint.

Can you please check your policy/guidelines for how you handle cases domestic violence, and tell me if your standards were adhered to in this case.

Yours sincerely,

David Johnston

Their response (Recieved September 29):

Dear David,

Thank you for you complaint about the Newshub article at the attached link. The MediaWorks Standards Committee agrees that the stock image used for the article was inappropriate and we apologise for the offense it caused you. Immediately after receiving your email we raised your concerns with the editor of Newshub online. The image was removed and the staff member responsible counseled.

We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and once again apologise for the offense the article caused you.

Kind regards,

Robert Dowd

For the MediaWorks Standards Committee

I’m pleased with this response. It’s unequivocal, and it mentions that the staff member who published the article faced some kind of feedback. I would suggest that the email I sent may very well have a tangible effect on how domestic violence is portrayed in the media.

 

letters · politics · Uncategorized

Cannabis and its relationship to funding gang activity: My letter to Paula Bennett and its response

Hi Paula – I write to you in your capacity as Minister of Police.

 

In this Stuff news article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/90502569/police-hit-back-at-cannabis-haul-criticism

 

The officer involved said something to the effect of “Removing cannabis and grow operations hit crime rings where it hurt most, their finances”.

 

Would you agree that legalising cannabis and allowing the free market to sell cannabis, would be a more effective way to remove this source of funding from gangs? After all – I don’t believe that gangs make much money from selling alcohol.

 

 

Kind regards,

 

 

David Johnston

 

 

The response:

 

Dear David,

 

I am writing on behalf of Hon Paula Bennett, Minister of Police, who has asked me to acknowledge your email of 17th March 2017 concerning legalising cannabis.

 

Your correspondence has been noted, however the legalisation of Cannabis is not on the government’s priority list.

 

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Minister of Police.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jeff Penno

Like with my letter to Andrew Little, it seems both National and Labour hold the same position with cannabis – ‘it’s not a priority’.

letters

I’m considering leaving New Zealand: my letter to Andrew Little, and its response.

I wrote Andrew Little (leader of the opposition in New Zealand, as well as Jacinda Ardern (deputy leader), Grant Robertson (spokesperson for Employment) and Clare Curran (spokesperson for ICT)  an email:

Hi Andrew, Jacinda, Grant, Clare.

I’m a 31 year old IT professional who’s been working in Wellington for four years since I graduated with my computer science degree.

I’m writing to tell you why I’m currently looking for work in Melbourne.

Firstly – there’s the standard reasons many New Zealanders leave New Zealand:

– I’m hopeful that I’ll earn more money in Melbourne.

– I’m yet to have an OE and I want to see the world.

There’s also the IT specific reasons – I enjoy the culture of Wellington – but a lot of the work here tends to be for government, which isn’t the best place to do IT. It seems that Melbourne (and cities like Berlin) have a more exciting, fast paced IT culture.

But also another reason I’m looking at moving. It’s really hard to find cannabis in New Zealand. 

 

I know this sounds absurd – but hear me out.

Firstly – be aware that it’s much harder to find cannabis now, than it was ten years ago. The Guardian even wrote about it. 

I think that this is probably the result of the police being good at their job, and career criminals finding it it more profitable to be involved with meth than cannabis, as well as the relative isolation and small population of New Zealand.

I think often politicians adopt the attitude that ‘Yes, cannabis is illegal, but it’s tolerated, we turn a blind eye to it, and its illegal status doesn’t really affect those otherwise law abiding citizens who smoke’. But this isn’t actually true. Let’s look at the options someone like myself has:

– Not use cannabis. (I’ll address this in a bit).

– Purchase cannabis on the blackmarket. This puts me in the awkward position of having to ask the people I know if they know where to find cannabis – and – in my experience, they don’t. I end up having to purchase some from gang controlled tinny houses – where it’s low quality and very expensive.

– Grow my own. ‘Grow your own’ appears to be the growing sentiment in the cannabis community. The problem with this is that it doesn’t suit everybody’s living situation. For example if you have a strict landlord, or you have flatmates, then you’re inviting trouble. I could rent a grannyflat for the purpose of having the privacy of growing on my own cannabis, but this would be around $200/week extra – or the cost of $10,000 a year.

Now you might say ‘if consuming cannabis is so much trouble, perhaps you’re better off not smoking it’. And you might be right. Where I’m currently at, I’m considering that smoking cannabis isn’t right for me – I tend to get more done when I’m not smoking.

However – I don’t need prohibition to make that decision for me. Even if I’m not smoking cannabis – I still find it frustrating not being able to make that decision for myself. Also, even if I’m not smoking regularly – I might want to smoke over the New Year period at a music festival – but the cannabis situation is so dire in New Zealand that I might not have that option. I’m better off attending a festival in Australia, if smoking weed is something I want to do at it.

So – I’m considering leaving New Zealand – for opportunities abroad, not just solely for the availability cannabis. But the cannabis issue feels the straw that breaks the camels back. It feels like politicians (except for the Greens) don’t really care about what’s important to me, or many of other New Zealanders, and that’s incredibly frustrating.  I get that Labour, quite rightfully feels like housing is a more important issue – but Labour can address more than one issue at a time – and I wish that they’d tackle this low hanging fruit already.

David Johnston

Here is Andrew Little’s response:

aaaa

Dear David Thanks for writing about the decriminalisation of cannabis. Labour’s key priorities are housing, health, jobs and education and that’s where our focus is.

I’m personally very uncomfortable about increasing access to cannabis, particularly to young people. The scientific and medical evidence I’ve seen says that most of the cannabis available in New Zealand has high THC content and for still developing brains, that poses health risks. Finding a formula for decriminalisation that means you could mitigate those health risks would be extraordinarily difficult. We will not make holding a referendum on cannabis a priority when in government.

We firmly support cannabis products being available for medicinal use, however, where its use is prescribed by a GP or specialist where a person has a terminal illness or chronic pain.

Thanks for writing

Yours sincerely

Andrew Little

Leader of the Oppostion

PDF

letters

Letter: Legalise ecstasy to improve safety

Date published: October 1, 2015

Relates to: ‘Dr Death’ chemical found in illegal drugs sold in Wellington

2015-10-28 15.55.52

Text: 

The recent case of contaminated ecstasy pills highlights the flaws of drug prohibition and makes a case for their legalisation (Deadly chemicals found in drugs, September 28).

Consumers of legal and regulated drugs can be assured that the drug they are consuming is what is said on the packet in the dosage stated.

While drugs like ecstasy do have their dangers such as addiction, so do all drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication. Research shows MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy pills) to be a much safer drug than the likes of alcohol.

Alcohol routinely kills people through overdose, causes people to cause bodily harm to themselves and others, and has a high addiction potential. Even given these dangers, many of us consider alcohol to be useful drug to assist relaxing and socialising.

Similarly MDMA is considered useful to assist therapy for PTSD, relationship therapy and other mood related functions.

The main danger that ecstasy users face, is not the danger from the MDMA, but from any potential other chemicals introduced by unscrupulous dealers cutting their product with other drugs. This danger would be resolved by allowing MDMA to be sold subject to regulation like other drugs.