Seven Sharp undermines Government, educators, schools, teachers and parents

The Government and the Ministry of Education plus many schools and teachers have been working hard setting up learning from home programmes and resources ready for Term to start today.

Last night Nigel Latta on Seven Sharp undermined a lot of this, saying if kids didn’t want to do any school work they should be allowed to sit and watch TV instead.  Apart from sending the opposite message to kids on the importance of keeping up with studies, this also undermined the battle we have been making here to reduce excessive screen time and get a lazy teenager off the couch for at least part of the day.

Many parents and grandparents and caregivers have already been doing some teaching from home and preparing children for schooling from home when the term starts.

On the eve of term 2 Seven Sharp had an item they are now promoting as  How to cope with kids learning at home during the lockdown

Term two will begin with online classes soon with Nigel Latta providing some tips for stressed parents.

We decided to watch this with a 15 year old grandson who we spent some time with yesterday preparing for the start of the term.

The message from Latta completely undermined this and the work we have been doing over the last three weeks.

Asking “How much home schooling do children really need during the lockdown?” Latta replied:

“Well, the simple answer is none. Need versus want.

“So there’s some kids that will want to do school work and that’s great because teachers have worked really hard and there’s lots of good content for them to do, and if they want to do it, and they enjoy doing it, and it’s easy for the parents to do, and it doesn’t add stress, great, do it.

“If you’re trying to juggle work and a bunch of other things and the kids don’t want to do it and it’s just adding stress, don’t do it, and it will do them no harm at all.”

So kids listening to that who don’t want to do any school work will figure that stressing their parents may get them off.

Hillary Barry:

“That will be so reassuring for so many parents, honestly, because as we go into this third week that seems to be the growing anxiety amongst adults who have children at home, that they’re worried kids are going to fall behind during this period”..


“Yeah. They totally will not fall behind and you absolutely shouldn’t worry about this. We’re talking about a few weeks, and honest my boys are older now but if my boys were school age, little kids age and they were at home, and they wanted to do school work, I couldn’t be saying ‘Are you sure? You could just watch tele like’, like literally, honestly that’s what I’d do because it would just be less stressful.

“If kids want to, and they enjoy it, great, do it, and teachers are working really hard to put good resources online, but your kids will not be any worse off…”

“The most important thing is keep your home calm and settled, and that’s the thing that will be of most benefit to your children, and don’t add in fighting and anxiety about school work when you don’t need to”.

The message I get from this is that kids should be able to choose what they do, and if they don’t want to do something and watch tv instead all they need to do is kick up a fuss and cause stress to get their own way. Parents battle against this all the time.

Given the choice most kids will choose not to do school work. A lot of kids would choose not to go to school. But there are good reasons for guiding them with their activities, and not just letting them lie on the couch watching television all day.


“Your job, if you’re a parent your most important job has nothing to do with anything else, it has to do with you providing a safe and calm environment for your kids.

“And if that means no school, and more playing and a bit more screen time or maybe just playing games as a family or helping doing some baking or whatever, that’s completely fine.”

Of course that’s all fine, many parents and caregivers have been doing all that for the last three weeks with their kids. But that doesn’t mean letting kids do whatever they want to do, and not doing things they can’t be bothered doing.

“…honest to god, I’d be saying to my boys, ‘there’s tele, we could just watch tele, like there’s no one can see us, it’ll be fine'”.

Many parents already have to fight against too much aitting on the couch, too much tv time, and too much device time. They can be useful pastimes and babysitters at time, but if you give kids free choice it can become a big problem – and in itself stressful.

Up until here it was vague about which age group Latta was referring to. There’s a big difference between the needs and free choice of 5 year olds versus 18 year olds. He was next asked specifically about secondary school kids.

So for secondary school kids it’s a bigger deal and they all feel pressure. One of the things I think parents should be saying to secondary school kids is, what we know from what happened after the Christchurch earthquake there was a lot of concern about how that would impact on kids NCEA results, and in fact the disrupted schools NCEA scores went up, they improved after all the disruption and the shifting around from the earthquakes.

I doubt that’s because the kids were given free choice about whether they did any school work.

“So again their stuff isn’t as fragile as they might think. It’s just about working through with your kids, helping them to kind of calm themselves down and to focus and to do the level of school work they want to do, and again, don’t get into fights with your teenagers about school work either….

“Don’t fight with your teenagers about school work. You should encourage them if they do have NCEA stuff coming up, I’d be doing that if I had teenagers, but I would not be adding stress that I don’t need to add in….

“Your most important job with teenagers is to keep things calm and settled”.

‘Calm and settled’ for many teenagers means doing as they please, which is as little as possible. Stay up as late as they like, stay in bed all morning, spend most of their time on their devices, on the internet and watching TV.

But that can be quite stressful for parents and caregivers, seeing teenagers vegetate and reinforcing laziness and not care about others in the household, and no care about their futures.

Teenagers can use stress, create stress by kicking up a storm, to try to get their own way. Latta has given them a signal that more of this will get them what they want – doing as little as possible.

I’m currently caring for a 15 year old who actually doesn’t mind doing school work when he’s made to, he likes achieving things academically. But he’s bone idle lazy and given a choice would do no school work, wouldn’t help around the house, wouldn’t shower, would live off convenience and junk food, would want to take control of the tv and sit all day on the couch on the internet. After watching Latta he got two more cushions because he was getting a little uncomfortable from lying on the couch.

Latta has undermined what we’re trying to do to instill self responsibility and also joint household responsibility, and to instill a work ethic in a lazy teenager. We’ll work through this and get a school work from home programme organised today, but Latta has made our job a bit harder.

It’s actually less stressful here when teenagers contribute some effort into the household and into their academic futures and don’t complain about being bored and don’t keep asking to use youtube and get more games on their smart phone.


What next?

TV1 has run a 5 night series of programmes looking at the future. They have proposed Plan A – doing much the same as now – and Plan B – making radical changes to how we do things over the next 20 years.

What next?

The last programme is promoting what they have done as potentially a ‘pivotal moment’.

Has anyone watched any of it?

If so has it changed your mind? Has it inspired you to do things differently?

What next?

Latta on what our politicians do

Nigel Latta has had a look at what our politicians (and media and lobbyists and activists) do.

Stuff: Nigel Latta: What Do Our Politicians Actually Do?

We decided to go and look at Parliament because whenever you’re looking at how to solve the nation’s problems, it always comes back to Parliament. 

Politicians are despised but when you spend some time with them, you quickly realise that almost all of them are there because they want to make a difference and do something positive. It’s just that ambition and ego sometimes get in the way. 

And the public mostly sees what our politicians do through the eyes of the media, who tend to focus disproportionately on conflict, disruption, controversy and mistakes.

Our Parliament is based on a clash of ideas and we’ve been led to believe that’s a good way to solve problems, but that’s the worst way to solve problems. It’s not the best idea that emerges, it’s the person with the loudest voice  who wins.

To an extent that’s true but it does require about 60 MPs supporting the loudest voices.

In a perfect world we’d be able to sit down as humans and talk through ideas. We’d just have a bunch of people who aren’t members of any party; they’re smart people, they’re going to talk about ideas.  They’d be genuinely open to any solution rather than driven by ideological views.

Theoretically perhaps, but what sort of people would we end up with as MPs if things worked like that?

The politician who is elected on the basis of a cause will behave very differently than the politician who is there for a career.

The problem now is we have this political class, career politicians whose primary focus is on getting reelected, and because of that they can stay in power for decades.

We seem to be getting a growing number of ‘career politicians’ under our party based system.

We spent some time with Paula Bennett, and regardless of what you think of her as a person or her politics, she works incredibly hard. She oversees a huge budget. And that’s the thing, they do an important job so we want smart people in there.

The public doesn’t see anything of the hard graft that goes on. Instead we are bombarded with images of opponents trying to destroy their credibility and careers, and of the media trying to concoct sensational stories hold them to account.

The bulk of Parliament’s work is in select committees. In the select committee that we sat on, it was the politicians who were being sensible, and it was the public servants who were trying to argue for a position that may have been legally correct, but was not in the actual interests of everyday New Zealanders.

It was the first time I’d seen MP’s as the sensible ones protecting all of us, and that was refreshing. 

MPs working for us against the bureaucrats? Who’d have thought.

One of the interesting things we did was to follow the procedure of how questions are asked in the House.

The whole process builds in intensity over the day and I can understand how they all get caught up in the drama of it all.

The problem is that while they all think it’s a really big deal getting to ask a question in the House, but none of the rest of us care. In fact most of us are appalled by their behaviour in the Chamber.

It was fascinating watching the reaction of school kids who’d come to see democracy in action. Their faces alternated between amusement and disbelief that our nation’s leaders could be acting like this. 

Ultimately though, our knowledge if what happens in Parliament comes from the media. And a lot of what we see is the antics in the debating chamber or gotcha journalism.

We see a small snapshot via a media seeking sensation and readers/viewers.

The real work in Parliament happens in select committees, and a huge amount of that work happens with politicians working together to get stuff done.

It’s not as entertaining as the silliness in the house so it doesn’t get covered.

Sensible and hard work doesn’t make good headlines.

And the end result of that is that we think they’re all acting like kids all the time, when actually they only behave like kids a very small percentage of the time. The rest of their day, they’re actually doing important work.

And quite a bit of that work involves working together.

At the end of my time in parliament the thing I was most concerned about was the influence of lobbyists.

I think any time a lobbyist goes to see a politician, given this is a person who’s being paid to influence politicians and policy, we should know who’s there, who they’re representing, and what was discussed. That goes for all lobbyists, whether it be a lobbyist for big alcohol or for environmental groups. 

We should all be concerned about the influence of lobbyists.

Yes, lobbyists (and often the money and vested interests behind lobbyists) have more influence on what happens than many realise.

After watching this people might say ‘you were too soft on them’. I’ll undoubtedly get emails about why I didn’t slam them on issues like inequality, or housing or any of the other weighty problems we face as a nation.

But that wasn’t the point of going. I wanted to know more about how Parliament works, not circle round the usual policy debates. So now I know that if you want to have some influence find your local MP and feed them a question they might get to ask in the House. Because if it gets asked in the House, you might just get some media attention on your issue. 

So the influential voice is not always the loudest voice in Cabinet, it is influenced by getting a loud voice for your views in the media.

This is something that’s also attempted via social media and blogs, and it sometimes succeeds, like the Red Peak flag. But it’s very competitive, there’s a lot of political and social activists competing to be the Nek Minute in the spotlight.

There are some principled, genuinely compassionate in there who really want to make a difference.

I think most are to an extent at least.

And then I think there are people that are the complete opposite.

Some seem to be hanging in there to collect healthy pay packets. Some seem to think that destruction (of their opponents) is a requisite for getting power to change things.

For us though, as voters, I’m hoping we can learn to demand more than coverage of the trivial, or the endless inane controversies, and instead expect a higher quality of debate. We should also, just by the by, lift our own game.

To an extent at least we get (from the media) what we demand or deserve. And those active in politics outside Parliament demand sensation, as long as it is applied to those they oppose.

Ordinary people (voters) are either bored by politics or turned off by the worst that the media shows them, so they are turned off rather than inspired to demand better.

So I doubt that we will see much improvement. The noisiest politicians, the noisiest journalists and the noisiest activists and lobbyists rule, and while the rest of us allow it to continue like that it will continue being like that.