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Speech

Paremata School

Issue date: 
Thursday, 5 February 1998
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Sir Michael Hardie Boys, GNZM, GCMG, QSO

Mayor John Burke (if attending), Mr White (Principal, Paremata School), Mr Kelly, Mr Arthur, Mr Leggatt, the Chair and members of the Board of Trustees, parents and, the most important people here, you children of Paremata School.

Thank you for inviting me to your school today, to this very, very important occasion. It is important because what is being launched here this afternoon is sure to be a very, very special, and probably really interesting, part of the education that your school provides. It's also an occasion you should be proud of, because having this new programme at Paremata School puts you ahead of nearly all other primary schools, not just locally, but schools around the country.

I'm sure that you've been told by your parents and by your teachers that you have to come to school to learn some very important things C you need to know how to read and to write, you need to know how to do sums, you need to find out how things work, you should know about people in other parts of the world. Learning these things C acquiring knowledge and skills C is, no doubt about it, extremely important. But there is even more to education, to learning, than this. Reading, writing, arithmetic, whatever the subject, these are all only part of something much bigger, much broader C you also have to learn how to live.

We have to learn how to live among other people; how to be good citizens, how to play a useful part in our families, in our communities, in our country, in the world even. And unless everyone learns that, none of us can live happily and peacefully together.

We have to learn that some things are good, and that some things are bad, and how to tell the difference between them, which isn't always easy. And we have to learn the difference between what's good and what's better, which is even trickier, and how to go about making the right choices for ourselves, even when what we should do might not be terribly obvious. This is what the virtues programme is all about. It's to help you with this very important part of learning how to live, how to be a good person and a good citizen. It talks about virtues and values: they are not quite the same. Values are the standards we share with others, the signposts that guide us in our lives. Virtues are the qualities we show individually in trying to reach those goals; they are to do with the way we live and behave, the sort of people that we are.

I'm sure most of you have heard stories from Aesop's Fables. You'll remember The Hare and the Tortoise, where the slow and steady tortoise wins his race with the hare, because although the hare could run like mad, he only did so in short bursts and then like to muck about and waste time instead of finishing what he'd started. Or there's the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, where the wolf outsmarts himself and gets eaten for dinner by the very same shepherds whose sheep he's trying to dine on himself.

And then there's the story about the dog who's just trotting along, carrying a Sunday roast in his mouth C so right from the beginning, you can tell this story is about a pretty suspicious character. But putting aside for a moment the question of whether the roast has been acquired honestly, the story goes that the dog, carrying the roast, comes to a smooth-flowing, broad, and very deep, stream. Luckily there's a log that's fallen across the stream, but as he walks across this natural bridge, the dog sees his own reflection in the water, but doesn't realise that all he's seeing is his own reflection. He thinks, instead, that it's a second dog C which I must say doesn't strike me as being particularly bright. But I suppose this must be a dog that's never paid much attention to the world around him. Perhaps this was because he was allowed to watch too much TV as a puppy, or something along those lines; I don't know. Too much TV does always seem to have some bad effects: however, back to our story.

The first dog decides that the "other" dog C the one in the stream C has an even larger, meatier, juicier-looking roast than the one he is carrying. And immediately, he wants it. He begins to bark to scare the second dog away; to make him to drop the roast and run away. And oh, dear. What happens next is that the one and only real Sunday roast drops into the deep, deep stream; and begins to sink down, down, down and out of sight.

So, it is a tale about a dog that becomes so concerned about getting ahead in life, insisting on getting what he wants, immediately, that he doesn't stop and think about taking care of what he already has; or to think about what's really important. Granted, the moral of this story is more about what happens if you don't display the virtues of honesty and contentment, rather than what might happen if you do, but you can learn quite a lot from the fable anyway, don't you think?

But, everyone makes mistakes, and this applies to adults as well as to children, as perhaps you've already noticed for yourselves. But one thing you children couldn't have noticed, because you weren't around when it happened, is that in the last thirty to forty years, New Zealanders often thought that to even talk much about the virtues in schools, let alone try to teach them, was something that you either didn't do, or shouldn't do. Now though, we're realising that this was mistaken. People have started to have second thoughts, and are beginning to decide that talking about and thinking about virtues and values, and teaching and learning about them, is not something that should be left out of classrooms, but should be part of going to school from the beginning. We've begun to realise that if we only think about getting ahead in life, and getting what we want immediately, we're going to miss out on some things that are, truly, more important.

This new Values Education Programme you're introducing here at Paremata School is the putting right of that thirty to forty year-long mistake, so that you become used to thinking and talking and deciding about what is right, what is wrong, or between what is good and not so good and what is in between, and how to tell the difference.

My warmest-possible congratulations to everyone who has helped to introduce this programme to Paremata School: particularly to the Principal and teachers and the Trustees, but also to those who have been working away in the background, preparing the lessons and plans, collecting the stories and so on, to make sure that the programme will inspire all those children who ever enter it.

Truly, in this programme, you are focusing on something that will lift all the children who come to your school; and educate them in a way that recognises the origin of that word C that they will be "drawn out", helped to discover, helped to truly learn.

And now it's time to distribute the programme materials, so that you can see what's going to be good about the Virtues Programme for yourselves.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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