Posted by BE on September 30th, 2012
[Coincidentally this story, headed Row Erupts over Sistine 'Disaster', appeared in this morning's (October 2) Herald.]
I think it was Bob Jones who rather sardonically observed some years ago that one of the worst developments of the second half of the 20th century occurred when international travel ceased to be the preserve of the rich and became available to the middle and working classes.
It’s difficult to rail against the evils of tourism when one is a tourist oneself, but I found Bob’s words ringing in my ears on almost every day of our three-week holiday in Italy. Our journey took us to Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice and Milan. With the exception of its magnificent cathedral, Milan has little to offer the visitor other than expensive shopping. But you could spend weeks in any of the other four cities and not even begin to exhaust their scenic, architectural, aesthetic and historic splendours.
In his poem Leisure, William Henry Davies coined the well-known lines ‘What is this life, if full of care, We have not time to stand and stare.’ We would have liked to stand and stare at many of the splendours I’ve referred to, but you can neither stand nor stare when on every street or piazza, in every church, museum or gallery, before every monument, statue or painting, or in the vicinity of anything that can remotely be described as ‘famous’, you are little more than a teardrop, swept along in a relentless tide of humanity whose sole purpose is to ‘get a picture’ and move on.
The behaviour of these photographic trophy hunters is indistinguishable from that of bargain hunters as the department store doors are thrown open at the start of some massive, ‘everything must go; 75% off; all you can carry; closing-down’ sale. The law of the jungle. The survival of the fittest. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 21st, 2012
It’s a beautiful day in Venice and the last thing I want to be doing is getting het up over some school in Northland whose Principal and Board of Trustees really should have chosen a calling more suited to their intellectual and pedagogical fitness such as drain-laying or running a borstal.
The school is Pompallier Catholic College whose credo appears to be that education is all about discouraging both their teachers and pupils from thinking for themselves and, more importantly, from challenging authority.
The authority in this case was the school’s Principal, one Richard Stanton, who wrote comments in the school newsletter opposing the Marriage Amendment Bill. Fair enough, he’s entitled to his view.
However, some of his pupils disagreed and set up a Facebook page “Support Gay Rights at Pom”. Goodonya!
There’s a science teacher at the school called Nigel Studdart. The Principal describes his teaching as “innovative and engaging”. He’s highly regarded by his students. Not the sort of bloke you’d want to lose then.
But Mr Studdart has a fatal flaw as a teacher: he thinks for himself and speaks his mind. At Pompalier only the Principal is apparently allowed to do that.
So when Mr Studdart supported the students’ Facebook protest against what the Principal had written, he was sacked. Pour encourager les autres, no doubt! Got to nip this free speech nonsense in the bud early, don’t you? Who knows where it could lead?
If I had a kid at Pompallier Catholic College – an unlikely scenario, I agree, for a Protestant atheist – I’d have him or her out of there tomorrow. You see, schools are about teaching kids to think and challenge. And good schools have teachers who are role models for thinking and challenging. The message the Principal and Board of Trustees have given the children at this school is that thinking and challenging doesn’t pay; it can even get you fired. Better to go along with authority. Better to conform.
As for Mr Studdart, I hope he takes them to the cleaners. And then finds a school worthy of his talents. His crime, by the way, was encouraging the kids to breach the school’s uniform code by wearing rainbow wristbands. Now that’s justice worthy of Henry VIII.