Friday, February 22, 2013


My niece in Massachussetts sent me an extract from the New Zealand Herald about our Minister for Education  Evidently Ms Parata  is considering a return to basic Arithmetic in the Primary Schools syllabus.

She needs to study  history, then engage her brain before she sets her mouth in motion.

In 1949-50, when I was a student at Ardmore Teachers Training College ourMaths tutor, Ernest Duncan, taught us and anybody else who would listen about Numbers and how to organise them so  it was easy to understand the processes. The same Ernest Duncan left New Zealand to lecture in the United States, It took twenty years for his ideas to be accepted here. He organised the New School Mathematics programme and brilliant advisers like Joan Paske in Wellington devised programmes for teachers to put into effect. There were charismatic advisers like Nan Tiddy and school inspectors; like Kelvin Smythe who helped teachers put into practise what research showed about children's learning.

At the same time Duncan and the other lecturers at Ardmore were teaching us about child development, how a young brain works, the stages of understanding involved.

 Ms Parata herself needs to  go back to basics and learn about how children's brains  develop. Children are not sheep to  be fed through the drafting yards of rote learning. They are not in a race against other nationalities.  Right now our children are living the only life they will have, they should be developing ideas and concepts which will help them live that life with confidence. Telling them they are three seconds behind in answering an algorithm is not the way.

1. CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH PLAY.  At each stage of development every child practices the next stage through play. (Professor Brian Sutton-Smith Queens University New York; one of our New Zealanders who escaped our puritannical regulated culture).

2. CHILDREN NEED FREE PLAY WITH CONCRETE (REAL) MATERIALS. Piaget, Cuisennaire and dozens of others have preached this for decades. Children need loads of physical experience, running, jumping, dancing, throwing, catching, dropping,and talking about what they are doing ; That is the way they develop Mathematical concepts.

3. CHILDREN NEED TO DEVELOP A SENSE OF RHYTHM AND BALANCE.  That way they eventually recognise the patterns which make learning, Arithmetic especially. logical and easy.

4. CHILDREN NEED PARENTS WHO UNDERSTAND THEIR DEVELOPMENT, who don't see schooling at a mindless race.They need to be involved and their children's teachers need to accept them as allies. .

ALSO Schools need small classes, fifteen max. and young, well trained teachers. Many  enlightened ideas about child development have withered because penny pinching governments refuse to spend the money needed for educational improvement.


Monday, February 4, 2013


My Twelve year olf grand daughter gave me a book for Christmas. The Swerve, How the Renaissance Began by Stephen Greenblatt (Vintage) ISBN9780099572442 tells about the poem by Lucretius, a Roman Poet who died in 55BC called On the Nature of Things.Greenblatt tells a rivetting story about a fifteenth century book hunter,Poggio Bracciolini, seeking old manuscripts in a monastery in Germany.  When he finds an ancient parchment he recognises it as a copy of A Roman poem which St Jerome tried to supress in the 4th century, yet it was known and quoted in spite of the Inquisition.

According to the ba ck cover Poggio found 'a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas - that the universe functioned without the aid og gods, that religioud fear was damaging human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion. These ideas fuelled the Renaissance, inspiring Boticelly, shaping the thought of Montaigne, Darwin (his grandfather owned a copy) and Einstein.

)f course, after reading 'The Swerve' which is a superb stue story that reads like high quality fiction, I had to get 'On the Nature of Things'.  My copy, translated by Sir Robert Allison, was published by Arghur L Humphries in 1919.

Books 1 and 2, Atoms and the Void. Spenser translated whole chunks of it into The Faerie Queen.So did Shakespeare and Byron. . Lucretius rather contradicts the Big Bang, and intelligent design. There are atoms of infinite shape and number, and the void Over enormous stretches of time atoms swerve and meet and form new shapes, thus the universe evolves.

Books 3 and 4 Psychology, Sensation and Thought. Lucretius was a believer in  the teachings of Epicurus. .This life is all we have, there is  no afterlife.

If you are wondering how all this knowledge was lost for so many centuries ask the Pope, he and his precedents have a great deal to answer for.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Paul Allen is the 48th richest billionnaire in the world' He is one of the founders of Microsof, but has left the partnership..

He owns a yacht, the Octopus, 127 metres long, with helipads, 2 submarines, a tennis court and it is bigger than the frigate Denis Patrick Davies served in during World War 11.

It docked in Timaru Harbour on Friday. I am tempted to drive up and look at it.

Why am I telling you this?  A couple of neighbours reckon that Paul Allen should not spend all that money on a pleasure craft when people are out of work.

Well I would rather see shipbuilders, engineers, electricians, welders, upholsterers fitters, painters, sailorsand all in employment building a yacht than building weapons and vessels of war. And if the rich do not spend their money how is it going to circulate or trickle down ?

I hope the Octopus has a library with a lot of real books in it. Now there's a thought, a novel to beguile a billionnaire who has everything.