Monday, January 30, 2012

Submission on NZ’s “Green Paper on Vulnerable Children”

Here are my answers to questions from NZ’s “Green Paper on Vulnerable Children”. You can answer as many or as few questions as you like.
1. Has government got the balance right between supporting parents and families/whanau and protecting children?
Its not a question of balance; its a question of principles held in context. Parents need to be accountable to objective standards of value; and when they default, you do not punitively or judgementally engage with the threat of taking the children away; you do not neglect the parent for the child. You raise the child through the parent. The problem is that I think people with basically healthy values are disengaged; and those with unhealthy values are directing the process.
2. How can government encourage communities to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their children?
The problem is your emphasis on 'responsibility'; its the wrong approach. The issue is 'efficacy' . You need to ask - how can we improve the confidence and pride of parents as educators, but also as members of the community. It takes a sense of efficacy; in anything to start with, but ultimately in their self-reliance.
3. Should there be an action plan for vulnerable children that focuses the activites of government and non-government agencies?
Of course there should be a plan; but sadly these issues are debated on a false 'politically-inspired' dichotomy between:
1. Altruistic 'save the children' - never mind the parents disempowerment and alienation, i.e. because they are defenseless...nevermind the context of a child raised in uncertain homes.
2. Moral relativism - a renunciation of judgement because these people are intrinsically good and worthy, i.e. Unconditional love.
4. Should the government focus its spending on programmes and services that have a sound evidential basis?
No because what you consider evidence is a form of scientific relativism; and what you consider 'results' is probably dubious in its foundation. The goal is not simply to stop abuse but to facilitate healthy parenting practices. The perspective of govt is too superficial....and politically 'reactionary'.
5. Should we regularly monitor vulnerable children and their families/whanau to see how they are going? Who should do this and under what circumstances?
The issue is not so much who does it; but what is the context in which they do it. Are these agents custodians of the children; in effect acting with punitive disregard for the child; or are they agents of objective standards, assisting these parents lift their game. There needs to be empathy; there needs to be consequences, there needs to be understanding and real skill-building; there needs to be relationship or trust building.
6. How much personal information should be shared between the professionals and others who are working with a particular child or family/whanau?
There is no reason that all information - bar that information which identifies the parents - cannot be shared. Frankly, if there was not such a punitive, politically-motivated policy, there would be less witch-hunting by the public. Politicians and victims fuel this; and the media of course facilitates it. The victim is allowed to 'vent'; and we even empower their loathing with appointments to influential committees.
7. Should some people get priority over others when allocated support and services because they are caring for vulnerable children?
It is not so much a question of 'prioritising' but recognising the opportunity cost of not doing what's required. Poor outcomes are not necessarily a question of spending enough money, but merely, not having the best possible programs.
You do what needs to be done, whether their issues are acute or not; after all they will get worse if they are not getting the support they need. There is an over-supply of labour (i.e. unemployment); so there is no reason why you'd not invest in the resources which will avert financial waste in years to come. Forgotten people cause real damage; but there is a huge opportunity cost is raising an destructive person as well. They are destructive for a reason. Its too easy to spurn them and drop the context of their prior lack of support.
8. How can vulnerable families and children be better connected to all the services that they need?
There is a need for competent professionals with good support from the even more competent persons. They need to express:
1. Certainty - Overcome the suspicion of time wasting and cynicism attached to govt services
2. Empathy - They need to deal directly with the grievances of these people; not dismiss them, or say its not within their control. If this is to work, there actually has to be a process to give these counsellors hope. Otherwise you get bureaucratic cynicism and detachment, falling morale, like we also have in the education system.
3. Trust/relationship building - There needs to be an ongoing relationship.
4. Reason as the standard - The basis for discourse needs to be reasonable and valuing of the people. Spend the money; but for God sake spend it well; spend it the right way, so it is not wasted, because it will be harder the next time.
Frankly, the political system does not favour the right approach; so rest assured, you will fail. But you spared someone's political hide...because they looked like doing something.
This is a long term investment in people. Their could be a Facebook founder among them.
9. Is it appropriate that all government agencies promote and prioritise the well-being of vulnerable children in their day-to-day work?
No, everyone is important; just not intrinsically so. They have to earn it, and they need to feel they have to earn it, and healthy values need to be communicated. They are not.

You too can make a submission or learn more here.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The problem with community support

by savit keawtavee

I had a discussion today with a social worker. It is apparent to me, though comes as no surprise to me, that the state of society is really in a poor state of intellectual development. I would expect a social worker to convey a great deal of skill in the performance of their task. I don't think this particular social worker is particularly bad; in fact I think he is a relatively healthy individual who has been poorly equipped for his task as a social worker. The problems that were apparent are:

1. False dichotomies: The tendency to engage in these 'blame games'. I fail to see how any person engaged in any endeavour can both or accept a position of blaming others without engaging in the process of problem solving. The problem of course is that the solution is supposed to be beyond us all. I will show that its not. In the future, I will call upon this individual in my community, and a number of others, to support my endeavours....with their agreement of course. The false dichotomies include capitalism vs socialism, conservatism vs liberalism, materialism vs idealism, normal vs pathological, etc. Many others. Society not democratic enough for you? Think again. This is democracy, hook line and its a sinker!
2. Compartmentalised education: This guy had the standard social worker education in the UK. He also had some education in philosophy, though he displayed and conceded that he had little understanding of economics, and was unable to integrate or reconcile his practical knowledge of psychology with epistemology. This problem of course is the result of post-modernist philosophy. In the old days, classical scientists learned a great many subjects before they launched into practice. They were often wealthy, and engaged in scientific research. Today, its a difficult culture and framework. People are more inclined to specialise. It is remarkable to me that people can spend a lifetime invested in a specialty, whilst I am able to spend a few months researching their topic, and ring roads around them as a 'generalist'. I'm not the first to highlight the problem of 'compartmentalised' thinking of academics, who really display little interest in solving problems because they can't envisage a system of values that would give them such efficacy. Instead they just pretend to offer service and retire early to some middle age 2nd career; usually far removed from the old one.
3. Normalised population: The problem with our communities is that we are dealing with a social from the perspective of moral relativism. What does that mean? It means that the people at the coal face have no capacity to diagnose or no accessibility to cases of degrading values. i.e. People who have problems are recognised too late. i.e. We wait until people are referred by a court or end up in prison before we recognise that they need support. This is pragmatism at its most tragic. Then we pretend that we are helping them by medicating them; with little causal explanation or understanding of their needs.
4. The political system which has people believing that it will solve their problems. They must believe; they keep paying taxes, and they keep voting for the incumbents. That must be an act of faith if I've ever seen one. Why do they do it? Why do they sanction the unconditional extortion which finances this system which destroys lives? They do it because they cannot conceive of a better system. If I said I have a comprehensive or systematic framework for solving their issues; do you think they would believe me? No. They are too tragic, and too sceptical. They want to believe that humanity has no prospect of being better; they want to believe that there is no solution. This is how your public servants; yes the social workers and school teachers at the coal face think. They damn you as parents! And they damn your kids. They are their for the money; they are materialists like yourself, and they do not believe there is a solution. Why are you financing them? Why are you not demanding that they be held accountable? Why are you allowing individual problems to become entrenched, inter-generational social problems? Do you think the same way?
5. The assumptions. Another big problem I find with people is their superficial understanding of the issues. The problem with how they reflect on these issues is that they basically blame or criticise certain vested interests, and without reflecting on the perspective of the person. i.e. There is a great deal of over-generalising; there is a huge absence of empathy; and there is a failure to think critically about their own value judgements, as well as others. Basically, this means that there is no ability to ground their thinking in problems. I have been doing this for 25years....and only now I am starting to write books about in progress. We need more people to be critical thinkers. I suspect only 5% of scientists are critical thinkers. The global warming hypothesis will be proven to be a sham. You think so too, but that's just because you are cynical. Have you dissected the issues? If you don't understate the issues; look for debates by the counterparties. i.e. YouTube debates.
6. The anti-intellectualism evident in the system arises from a failure of mental health professionals and the self-improvement industry to offer a coherent theory of values.
7. The lack of a strategy: What is most concerning is the lack of a strategy to resolve these entrenched social problems. I have a strategy which I will slowly unfold. It will take time because it will take several years to prepare all the supporting intellectual content to support my program. I don't just have a 'school of thought' which integrates philosophy, psychology, economics, science, history, law, sociology, I have a strategy for developing or applying these themes to people's lives. You do not see the same in government. We are on the eve of an election in NZ. From John Key, we are getting very deceptive, highly contrived, very manipulative political spin. I suspect he is a very insecure man because he doesn't even have to. There is no competition in the Labour Party. He will win by default. Utter no contest. Logic would tell you that there ought to be thousands of people vying for this job; but the barriers to entry are so restrictive, the process so moribund, that the race reduces to two idiots. A detached idealist and an utter pragmatist. Listening to John Key, he speaks like a CEO who knows he will not be able to deliver upon his forecast. In fairness he does not know what he's doing, and he's inherited a great legacy of problems from his predecessors.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is spanking bad for children?

Spanking is not injurious to a child, however it does depend on the severity, frequency and the appropriateness of its application. Spanking does not convey knowledge, but it allows a child to correlate bad behaviour with bad consequences. It is an unthinking person's approach to behavioural or moral sanctioning.

Andrew Sheldon

Monday, April 25, 2011

The first steps to parenting

by Stuart Miles

If you are thinking about having a child, you might want to think about a few factors which are going to give your child the greatest prospects for success. Here are some ideas you might want to think about as you plan the future of your child. It will be your parenting responsibility after bonking your partner.
Consider the following:
1. Give your child a useful name: If you want to help them be successful, you might want to spurn famous or popular names because they will never have a good ranking on Google search engine. Better to call your child 'Arrrd' or 'Wtyu' rather than 'Andrew' or 'Oprah'. Yes, we are often confused.
2. Book your child into private school: If you are well-endowed and planning to send your child to a private school, you better start looking because the best private schools have waiting lists which extend past labour. That is right. You have to start thinking about your child's education before you even have one.
3. Learn how to be a parent: Some of you think that your parents were great; but then you only had one set, and the chances are you really didn't know how good your friends parents really were, and your grandparents could have been absolute tyrants before you were born. There is no training in parenting required to become a parent; but that does not mean you should take the lack of hurdles as a blessing. There is a science behind being a good parent. It is not just about love, and even love is over-rated if its the wrong kind. Love can kill.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sexual offences the price of moral ambivalence

There was today a story in the NZ Herald today about a disturbing sexual offence in Sydney. People are of course quick to judge in such cases, but thinking is always an after-thought.
I however want to say that these sex offences against this child are completely compatible with contemporary values. Hard to believe? Well let’s break down the story. Firstly, let me say that I am no way condoning these actions. My point is that – if we want to stop such acts, society needs to change their values. Clearly these parents went another 'mile', but fundamentally their values are compatible with a great many 'civilised' people in your community.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the man was probably sexually abused as a child. Let’s acknowledge that his partner was probably abused as a child as well, however in any respect they both had diminished self-esteem. Let’s acknowledge that they had reason to snub society because society is scornful of such behaviour, and tends to treat such offenders as ‘creepy’ rather than as victims. Sadly victims give rise to victimisation. Their whole value system has been distorted by their child experiences. The scorn of society was only destined to result in those values being pushed underground. i.e. They would initially have performed their acts as a clandestine act; eventually becoming more daring.
More interesting and shameful was the fact that the man was streaming the footage of his wife and son having sex. Sure he would have been doing it for his own sexual gratification, however it appears moreover he was turning it into a spectacle. This was probably normalised behaviour for him. We need to appreciate his perspective. He was showing signs of ‘control’, the same control that he wished he had when he was abused as a child.
The response of the judge was to lock him away for 9 years. This is silly for several reasons. There is no evidence of violence. The control was a reaction to his childhood. It would make more sense to place him on an island with other sex offenders rather than release him into the community in 9 years. The US has such a facility. Australia ought to have one as well, though I don't think it needs to be as high security as the $170,000 per person per annum would justify. Simply give them GPS trackers. If they escape the island, they go to a higher security prison.
So in what sense is this reflective of contemporary values? Well, we would like the man to have some sense of empathy for the boy. We would hope he would have some respect for the law. But consider the following:
1. The lack of empathy people have for paedophiles – it does not mean approving of their values – on the contrary it means understanding how they came to fall in their position, such that we might prevent others. This did not happen in this case...until it was too late. Why? Scornful social values resulted in this man doing as he pleased because he was invalidated by society.
2. The fact that there are too many kids in Australia or NZ who are placed in positions of risk by custodians who have no ideas; who are not conceptual thinkers, who don’t anticipate problems....because it’s not their problem...until it happens.
3. Consider how easy it is to spurn the law when it comprises the arbitrary, self-serving laws enacted by politicians. Might 'commonsensical' common land be undermined by the nonsensical statutory laws which are all too common.
4. Consider the first cause of the custodians, who enabled by lack of responsibility or insight, enabled their child/children to be abused. The reality is that its too easy for a pedophile to pick up kids. Parents really need to be vigilant. These predators are systematic is their objective, whilst you are perhaps distracted by other things. The sad reality is vigilance is the only protection.

The acts of his wife are not unbelievable. They are entirely logical from her perspective. She has low self-esteem, so the worst thing that could happen would be alienation from her husband. She has therefore a subjective sense of reality. It is therefore easy for her to place her appeasement of her husband’s demands before her child’s security or interests, which she can conveniently rationalise away if there is a greater value. If society had greater respect for objective values...this would be harder to justify. She doesn’t, they don’t, so abuse persists in society, and thus more innocent people become victims.
This is of course not a justification for sexual’s an explanation for why it happens. In this instance, there is sufficient evidence to develop a psychological profile for the offenders.
Society’s view is of course to be scornful of such acts....but why not take the next step and understand the causal nature of such offenders. The fact that such instances occur in society is evidence enough that we need greater moral vigilance. This is not how people think. Instead people just compartmentalise their life and do their own thing....concluding instead ‘what is right for you if your life, what’s right for me is something else’. i.e. This is of course the subjective values that these offenders endorse.
In society, we all face acts which test us. When we have bad role models around, its all the more probable that we will make bad decisions and be defined by those. i.e. If you have a prison sentence, you define yourself as a 'criminal' and you are tagged for life. Really, we are never so invested in people. This is part of the problem. We maybe it very easy for people to opt out of life, and very hard for them to join the human race. The whole structure of society needs to be rewritten. What I can tell you is that we are so off the course that you have little hope for a better world. With the power of the internet, let's give the world 50 years at least to turn this around. I might just live to see it. I guess I'm clinging to optimism.
You might ask why I am so empathetic of pedophiles. I think its because I expect so little from them....and so much more from you. I think that is why I like Japanese people more than foreigners. When you look at their social context, you kind of expect them to be weird and am more impressed when you meet a sane one. Try living in Japan and you will realise how perverted collectivism can make a society. This is not to imply you should have contempt for Japanese people. Even if their values are collectivist, they each have a personal context. The richness of your experience relating to them comes from empathising and understanding their particular context, not alienating them with scornful judgement. Of course we ought to appreciate that they are all individuals. I have met some very impressive Japanese people. Some might say 'very Western'...or simply 'normal', if you like that relativist standard.

The focus of this article is sexual or physical assault. The reality is that psychological assault is just as concerning, and its even more concerning when its perpetrators are the government, whom are systematically imposing their values on you through the education system, through the political system, and other institutions. More on this topic in our political blog.
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, August 27, 2010

The importance of information

One of the early lessons from my life was the importance of information. Actually my parents gave me very little guidance in life. They did model a strong work ethic, they did make sure I never lacked any material possession. The role of information was important in the following ways:
1. When I was 6-15 years of age I was working in my dad's printing factory, so I always had too much money as a child. This prompted questions of what to do with it. Of course I invested in passions like geological maps (after a fossicking trip) and canoeing (after a school adventure).
2. At the age of 11yo my father bought me shares in a company called Abroholis Oil, an oil explorer. I lost money on this, but I was soon following the stocks daily and eventually I was charting the stocks. I would simply buy low and sell high. Today my investing is a lot more sophisticated, but it gave me a strong reason to save, and to keep learning.
3. The biggest lesson was gained by reading the Australian Financial Review. In those times, it was far better with quality investigative journalism. Today, newspapers simply reprint press releases and political banter. There is no good lessons in newspapers anymore. Fortunately then my mother was studying marketing at university and so there was always a financial newspaper in the house. The link between following stocks, saw me devouring stock announcements.

This interest gained traction when I was 14-15yo and I was really incredibly ambitious about my main interests. By that time, I was still working at my dad's factory, but I was using all my savings for stocks and canoeing and geological maps and equipment. I had graduated from the newspapers to the Dept of Minerals & Energy library in the city, or I was going to the library at the Australian Stock Exchange. Info was very cheap then. I could read Stock Reviews for 50c each, but I learned quickly to use a whole set and basically read every review in every alphabetic letter in the day. i.e. I reviewed 20-30 stocks in a day, by which time I was exhausted, but without a doubt I had discovered some appealing stocks, whether they had moved yet or not. I quickly learned what was a good stock.

Some weekends I was going canoeing or exploring old mine adits looking for minerals. Actually I did not like field work so much, so I went into consulting, but in my university degree I studied everything I needed to set up a mining company. I had studied about so many mining entrepreneurs in the 1980s, I knew all their methods. I studied geology, geophysics, geostatistics, accounting, economics, accounting, mining engineering and finance. Then I was introduced to philosophy, and that passion took me off on a big tangent....which is only being expressed in the last 5 years, but it did not stop me developing this interest as a hobby for the last 20 years. I might have been working as a mining analyst and trader, but I was thinking a great deal of politics and philosophy. Analysing global problems and writing up solutions.

Too much is accidental for parents. Perhaps its time to develop a coherent strategy for how you are going to raise your kids. I would start years before they are born. The awareness of the issues and the strategic value are critical. It becomes second-nature.

The other important aspect is to preserve a critical perspective. That means trying to preserve your personal integrity, both so your ideas are personally coherent, but also so that reconcile with the facts of reality. Much science today is nonsense, so critical interpretation or appraisal is warranted....not just for science supporting commercial products like orthopedic shoes, but science supposedly backing political agendas. Kids seem to accept these assertions, so they need to be taught to challenge such claims.

I guess all of this started with a school boys natural curiosity, a set of encyclopedias in the home, a comfortable fireplace for reading, and a practical expression for using the information, i.e. The stock market.
Andrew Sheldon

How to educate or model behaviour to your children

When I read about successful entrepreneurs, it is interesting to reflect on the factors that impacted on them as children. They cite particular instances in the 30s, 40s or 50s which they remember being told to them with children. If these dialogues were so important to these successful people, it might behoove you to cite them to your children. Consider the following example from a Filipino entrepreneur:
"I grew up in a family where talking about business over dinner was a common practice. When I was 7 or 8, my father often went overseas on business. He would always bring back souvenirs like toys for me. He would say to me, “Out of these 10, take one for yourself and sell the rest to your friends.” In this way, he taught me how to do business".

You might not be able to discuss these things with your children..maybe you can frame the quote and hang it on the wall of your house, and every time there is a concrete life situation which pertains to it, you could refer your children to it.
Andrew Sheldon