Misbehaving students

High-decile schools are struggling with misbehaving students, and receive less support than low-decile schools:

NZEI vice-president Ian Leckie said extreme misbehaviour crossed class boundaries.

“You’ve only got to look at the child who is very spoiled and from a very well-to-do background whose mother won’t buy them the lollies in the supermarket,” Leckie said.

“What that indicates, too, is that some of these behaviours even manifest before they start school,” he said.

Well, what do you expect in a country where smacking is illegal, and the government focuses on the rights of children rather than on families. This situation is only going to get worse.

The best behaved children I have ever seen were in a village in Fiji. They had nothing, and played with sticks in the dirt. They loved clapping games, which have been almost completely forgotten in NZ. They weren’t sad until we gave them balloons and they had something to fight over.

Then we got on a plane to come home and had to put up with whining rich kids fighting over who got to use the GameBoy… You can’t tell me social problems are primarily caused by poverty.

NZ’s defence needs an overhaul

Dr Lance Beath says that NZ’s army-focussed defence strategy is outdated (being based on the structure in the First World War and the Boer War!) and we need a radical redesign of the whole system.

His suggestions include

  • Increased funding (greater than 1% of GDP).
  • We must have a combat air force.
  • Focus on maritime forces, due to our location.
  • Restructure the army as an embarked marine combat brigade.
  • More ships for the navy.

These are the people we should be listening to. Instead the government scraps our aerial combat wing, and buys armoured vehicles we can’t even carry in our transport aircraft and that aren’t amphibious so are of limited use in island combat anyway. This follows on from the recent official military report that the military is seriously unprepared for combat.

The Family Party will increase defence spending to 2% of GDP. But we need to be listening to people like this to figure out where the money should actually be spent. Maybe we should be bringing the Aermacchi’s back into service (they’re still not that old), and mothballing the Skyhawks as a war reserve? Maybe we should be buying a few small submarines? We certainly need more teeth in the military than it has at present. Most importantly, we need good relationships with like-minded countries.

My personal view is that we should be focussing on accumulating heavy firepower, ships and aircraft, and not worrying so much about having a much larger infantry (although we will be reviving the Maori Battalions). We have a well-armed population and could knock together a large home guard at short notice if we were desperate. But we cannot obtain heavy firepower once a war has started, you need to have that already.

We also need to have a detailed analysis of how we would survive should our supply lines be cut. In the last major combat that affected us, WWII, we were much less reliant on imports. Now virtually everything we use is imported, from light bulbs to fuel to many foods. We need to know how to deal with being cut off from the rest of the world, as today this would affect us far more severely than it did in WWII.

Electric ute

Pioneer EV electric ute

Missed this earlier in the week. A Christchurch couple have bought an electric ute to commute to Lincoln with. It is a Pioneer EV (sold in America as a Zap Xebra PK if you want to search for more info on it). Click here for an excellent review of this vehicle in America.

I had a look at these vehicles a year ago, and they do look interesting. The reviews seem to indicate they are cheap and nasty, but do the job, depending on what the job is you want them to do of course.

They will find it frustrating commuting to Lincoln in, as it has a top speed of 65kmh, not that great for in the country. But it would be ok in the city, and in the States some people use them round the farm (only on dry soil of course!).

It is classified as a motorcycle, so technically the driver should probably be wearing a helmet, which he isn’t in the picture. Ridiculous really considering the design of the vehicle, but something to keep in mind.

Now I am a fan of electric vehicles. I think they are a great way of saving money. I don’t have one myself yet, but I do have an excellent rechargeable electric lawnmower so am slowly weaning myself off expensive petrol! An electric vehicle is part of the long-term plan, unfortunately in the country they aren’t that practical.

Electric vehicles are old technology. They first entered production in the 1880s (some experimental ones were made before that date), and were very popular in the 1900s. The advantage at the time was that you didn’t have to crank-start them, but as internal combustion engines improved these started to take over, and the invention of the electric starter motor killed the electric car. At the time they only had lead-acid batteries, so electric vehicles could only be short-range city vehicles, while petrol vehicles could be refueled and driven any distance. This is the same problem today, but now fuel prices are higher and longer-range batteries have been developed, so the picture is changing.

In a city, electric vehicles are a great idea. They are cheap to run. When stopped at the lights they use no electricity, so are very efficient. They produce no emissions within the city (only at power stations away from the city) so reduce smog. Electric motors are powerful (if you get one big enough), as they have maximum torque at zero RPM, so if you have a decent sized one it would be great on hills and for towing. I have seen a few electric tractors on the internet that are apparently very powerful (look at the custom conversions at this link), and this is of course why our trains are diesel-electric. Having said that the ute in this article is apparently very underpowered going by the reviews. Most electric vehicles still use lead-acid batteries and are short-range but that doesn’t usually matter in town. Mitsubishi will soon be bringing out a longer-range vehicle, which Meridian will be testing.

Note that electric vehicles are very different to hybrids, which are a complete waste of money in my opinion.

There are two major problems with electric vehicles. Firstly, if lots of people buy them, we will need more electricity generation. Some of this may have to come from coal and gas if we can’t get enough reliable renewable electricity.

Availability is also a big problem. I am glad to see that this couple were able to import one. You can go to a dealer and buy an electric scooter, or electric lawnmower. You can also convert your own car to electricity. But until you can go to a dealer and buy an electric car, the technology will never take off.

We can never replace our car fleet completely with electric vehicles. But they may have a valuable role in the years to come within cities.