Real Issues Blog

Rugby, the nation, and the flag

Jane Silloway Smith
24 September 15

The All Black tour of 1905, like the battle of Gallipoli a decade later, was a moment New Zealanders, both contemporaries and their descendants, took to be a defining moment. These were moments that highlighted something essential about New Zealanders and their culture (their strength, their bravery, their ingenuity) as well as establishing New Zealand’s relationship with the Empire and Commonwealth – no “little Britain” but a land and people of its own with much to be proud of.+ more

Assisted dying rejected again

Jeremy Vargo
15 September 15

This past Friday the UK’s House of Commons rejected a bill that would legalise assisted suicide; with 330 MP’s voting against it, and just 118 voting to pass it through for a second reading. The vote came after almost five hours of debate in the House, and months of passionate campaigning from both sides. Proponents of assisted suicide in the UK claim that 80% of the public want legalised assisted suicide. So why have their parliamentarians rejected the notion with a two thirds majority? + more

A philosophy of death

Jane Silloway Smith
24 August 15

Just over a week ago two titans of bioethical and moral thinking debated whether or not voluntary euthanasia should be legalised. Princeton professor Peter Singer went head to head with the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher. Singer argued in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia, Fisher against.+ more

Public interest vs public safety

Alex Penk
10 August 15

Words can have consequences. That’s why there are some subjects we have to tread around pretty carefully, and suicide is one of them. There’s good evidence that public reporting on suicides can increase the risk of “copycat” suicides, with factors like “repetitive reporting,” “celebrity status” of the deceased and details of the method used all increasing the risk. + more

Woven together

Jane Silloway Smith
30 July 15

The letter in te reo he received from his mother was then, in his eyes, the first time he got to see his mother as she truly was. It was clear as he wiped the tears from his eyes as he told this story that this moment from his earliest adulthood filled him with both joy and profound sadness.+ more

Making work pay in the UK

Kieran Madden
24 July 15

The freshly-elected UK Conservative Government unveiled their first budget last week. Pointedly reminding those in the House of the sluggish recovery from the global financial crisis at home and the catastrophic state of the Greek economy abroad, Chancellor George Osbourne’s key imperative for the budget was to "put economic security first." Predictably, this involved moves like cutting welfare spending by 12 billion pounds and increasing inheritance tax thresholds. Yet the grand finale of Osbourne’s speech surprised many. + more

The other Stars and Stripes

Jane Silloway Smith
24 July 15

I grew up in the American Southern state of Georgia, which had the Confederate flag as a prominent part of its state flag until 2003. Government offices closed for Confederate Memorial Day (the last Monday in April), we watched Gone with the Wind as part of our history lessons at school, and we were taught to refer to the American Civil War as “the War of Northern Aggression.” The failed Confederate States of America were not a thing buried within the dustbin of history, but a living memory...+ more

Is education the great equaliser?

Kieran Madden
29 June 15

Last week, New Zealand got a glowing report card from the OECD for our economic performance and the policies set in place to bolster it. Yet the same report showed up areas of our nation that need some work, education in particular. The report puts it this way:+ more

No longer protected

Jane Silloway Smith
11 June 15

Boer’s assessment of the horrors unfolding around him is that legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia has led to death at the hands of doctors—instead of being a last resort for the most extreme cases—becoming normalised in Dutch society. At a recent conference in Australia, he said that the law has sent an unintended message to those who know that their lives will likely be very, very difficult—the message is “we can do without you.”+ more

The President, and the complicated truth

Kieran Madden
22 May 15

With the tragic deaths and riots in Baltimore and Ferguson focusing attention on poverty through the lens of race, the broader debate on the causes of poverty in the States falls down predictable lines—the decline of culture and family on one side; the failures of the capitalist economic system on the other. But it doesn’t have to be this way. + more

What's happened to Finland's schools?

Jane Silloway Smith
12 May 15

Educationalists around the world have, over the past decade and a half, tried to figure out what it was that made Finnish education so great, and how they could bring those things to their own countries. Student-led learning, no standardised testing, a system-wide focus on equity, and short school days and years were the often cited secrets to Finland’s—and, presumably, one day everyone else’s—success.+ more

The making of resilient families

Kieran Madden
06 May 15

Because poverty is inherently a negative situation, most stories and discussions focus on deficits and lacks. When we hosted a series of roundtable discussions with practitioners and academics last year, they argued that we need to “flip the poverty debate upside down” and focus on resilience—why some families cope better in low income situations or manage to avoid poverty altogether.+ more