Thursday, June 19, 2014

The politicians in person - for NZ Gifted Awareness Week

Yes, another political post for Gifted Awareness Week!

I hope that the following impressions of the speakers at the Auckland Political Panel last night will help those of you who could not attend. I am biased but I welcome discussion from others with different biases.

Kudos to all the parties who sent representatives to talk with us in a face-to-face! You can also read the official party gifted policy document for more information.

The evening was introduced by Deb Clarke, CEO of NZCGE and Rose Blackett, President of NZAGC and moderated by Lynda Garrett of the University of Auckland. All gave fantastic introductions to the barriers and frustrations those of us in the gifted community experienced, and they posed questions for the panelists. After the panelists' formal speeches, questions were taken from the audience, which was comprised of many experienced gifted educators and advocates.


Maggie Barry had this portfolio given to her recently; while she had done some admirable last-minute swotting, like most last minute swotters she showed that she didn't understand the big picture, even her own party's decisions about funding. She reiterated that National had chosen to fund the underachieving educational area instead of extending gifted children and, although properly sympathetic and outraged at our plight, made no indication that there are any plans to change.

Regarding the school culture problem and bullying of gifted children, she felt that bolstering the self-esteem of the bullied was crucial, as in her experience with her own child being bullied, the bullies were "waste of space individuals."

She promised to report our messages back to the government.


Chris Hipkins, showing more clue than Maggie, pointed out that 5 out of 5 children succeeding did not mean they were all equal. He described the progress in gifted education that occurred during Labour's government, to many nodding heads. He promised there would be more funding specifically in our area, but was not able answer directly as to what area that money would be taken from as their budget announcement is not yet public. He contributed to the 2013 BlogTour.


Catherine Delahunty showed clear personal investment and history aligned with our interests (she has been blogging for the BlogTour since 2012). Her speech included genuine passion and detail about the barriers we face, which resonated with the audience, many of whom she already knew. Rumour has it that her car was shunted on the motorway on the way here, and she came to speak anyway. Although she supports separate targeted programmes for the gifted, she believes that these should be supported by the government. She said that she would remove the funding from the charter school area in order to fund gifted education.

NZ First

Tracey Martin said some great things, but lost some points for announcing she had decided not to change her speech and then clearly reading her speech. NZ First highlights the need for a national summit on the success of our current education direction. She had personal experience with her own special needs children in the school system, and the failure of the system to address these needs led her eventually to get involved in politics. She said that gifted funding would come from rearranging the current allocation away from the top level bureaucracy in education.


David Seymour declared that ACT knew nothing about gifted education and that the Ministry of Education was also not qualified in this area, but that charter schools would fix everything because everyone could most effectively "vote with their feet" to another school if one school did not suit. While he mentioned knowing that having to move schools was a terrible thing for child and parent, he said that having the choice of a wide variety of special character schools was the practical solution to providing for individual student needs. While David did not blog for the BlogTour, John Banks contributed in 2012.

Maori and Internet Mana

No show.


All these politicians have a dream of making a difference, but their priorities, goals, and chosen directions are very different. Use your vote when it counts.

This post has been written for the 2014 Gifted Awareness Week Blog tour. See all the blogs as they are voted on...

Jessica Parsons is the current president of Auckland Explorers, branch of the NZ Association for Gifted Children. She has two gifted children with her gifted husband.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is it smart to vote?

You may not make it to the Wellington or Auckland Gifted Political Panels this Gifted Awareness Week, but everyone has the chance to vote on Election Day (20 September, 2014).

The word these days seems to be "don't vote, it only encourages them" or "if voting made a difference, they would make it illegal."

Taking off any rose-coloured glasses about democracy, voting and the system, let's examine a few things.

Low voter turnout

In 2011, NZ's voter turnout was the lowest since the 1880s. And for 2011 and 2008, the low voter turnout returned a National (conservative) win.

Low turnout favouring the right is a democracy truism researched worldwide. Conservatives like to vote. They vote for their people. They don't argue endlessly about who are their people or if they're always right or whether the system is broken.They know that they want their people in the driving seat of whatever system controls the power and the money.

If you stay away from the polls on principle, you are voting to continue with a government whose minister would make the Maui dolphin go the way of the moa for money. (And who, in case you haven't heard, cut gifted funding in 2009.)


"The two main parties are both the same anyway!" I hear you groan. There's some truth in that. But in NZ, we have MMP.

Is MMP perfect? No. But there are millions of people in the world, especially in the USA, who would get to the voting booth on their knees, kissing the ground in front of the door, for the chance to vote for a minor party and have that party actually get into government and pass bills and stuff.

We certainly have some strong and interesting choices on the table for the power balance after this election.

Does your vote matter?
5% = percentage of people generally accepted as gifted in any area

5% = percentage of the party vote needed to get representatives in Parliament

If this coincidence isn't enough to get you out to start the Gifted Party of New Zealand, I hope it illustrates how even a small number of people voting strategically to promote their own special interest can make a difference.

So is it smart to vote? 

Only you can decide that. But there will be plenty of people voting who believe that the gifted already have enough advantages, so on Election Day I will be there, ticking my voting paper for some left-leaning, status-quo stirring, 1% bashing, people and planet power party.

I hope to see you there.

This post has been written for the 2014 Gifted Awareness Week Blog tour. See all the blogs as they are voted on...

Jessica Parsons is the current president of Auckland Explorers, branch of the NZ Association for Gifted Children. She has two gifted children with her gifted husband.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The gift of wizardry

In JK Rowling's world, some people are wizards.

Where do wizard children come from?

You are very likely to be a wizard if you have a wizard parent or especially two. If so, your siblings are probably wizards too. If they aren't, this can cause family friction.

Sometimes young wizard children are born to nonwizard parents, which is sometimes welcome and sometimes awkward when this is discovered. You have to recognise when a child is a wizard, or everything will get pretty confused.

Raising a wizard

Wizards may have a variety of unusual skills - some will be really helpful in everyday life and some will be a real burden or even a danger until the skill is really well understood by the wizard child, usually with the help of family or another great teacher. Wizards can be expensive to educate, with special equipment, methods, and expertly trained teachers. Some families will not be able to afford as much special attention as their wizard child needs.

But each wizard individual has different strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes the weaknesses are more obvious than the strengths. No wizard is good at everything, although some may drive themselves crazy trying.

Wizard life

Wizards usually have to hide what they can do from nonwizards, because their capabilities can be confusing or frightening. It can be easier for wizards to spend most of their time with other wizards, so they can be comfortable and talk freely without being rejected or judged as weird.

But wizards, even with their flashy tricks and magic words, know that they are not superior to nonwizards - who also have their own strengths that most wizards struggle to master. The wizards who do believe they are superior can be very hard to like and live with.

Some wizards never get the hang of their powers and their role in the world, and they die before their time.

And now for the magic trick

Now go replace every instance of "wizard" above with "gifted."

There are a lot of parallels with this exciting fantasy fiction, which lets anyone imagine a special role. Unfortunately for the gifted, it gets even more complicated after that. In real life, we don't have an easily-identified evil enemy to band together and fight, so we're just as likely to fight with each other when we get stressed.

Our goals aren't well-defined, and there's no fanfare or explosion when we succeed or fail. There is no Ministry for the Gifted, with rules and regulations to guide our behaviour.

And it is generally recommended that the gifted try their best to integrate most of the time, so saddest of all, there is no Hogwarts for the gifted. At least not in my neighbourhood - if there's one in yours, please tell me in the comments. And where to catch the train. Because I'm not ready to give up on the magic just yet.

This post has been written for the 2014 Gifted Awareness Week Blog tour. See all the blogs as they magically appear...

Jessica Parsons is the current president of Auckland Explorers, branch of the NZ Association for Gifted Children. She has two gifted children with her gifted husband.