Family First have a history of trying to make political capital out of stacked questions. They’re are at it again, distorting the results of a survey question to push for bringing back corporal punishment in schools. They are aided and abetted by some spectacularly bad journalism, here’s the worst example:
Bring the cane back in schools
Half of New Zealanders support the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools, according to a national survey of 1000 people.
No they don’t.
The poll, by Curia Market Research, asked: “Do you think a school should be able to choose to use corporal punishment, if the board, parents and principal wish to have this as an option for school discipline?” Fifty per cent agreed, 44 per cent disagreed and 6 per cent were undecided.
Right. So what actually happened was that only 50% of respondents can be talked into considering corporal punishment even if the board, parents and principal want it. The question has been set up so that to oppose corporal punishment you have to feel strongly enough about it to overrule the board, parents and principal. Leading question much? If you want to ask if schools should be allowed to use corporal punishment without writing your own answer, here’s how you do it:
“Do you think a school should be able to choose to use corporal punishment?”
From the leading question to the ludicrous headline “Bring the cane back in schools”? No. I have a better idea. Bring the quality back in reporting. Fat chance it seems. This reporter cited the original question, and so should have been able to work out that the conclusion that Family First are pushing was rubbish. Some other reports do the same, some just repeat the nonsense conclusion:
TVNZ: In a poll which asked 1,000 people if a school should be able to choose to use corporal punishment as an option for school discipline. 50% responded yes, 44% said no and 6% didn’t know.
Radio NZ: The lobby group Family First says a survey shows half of New Zealanders support the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools.
International: Support For Corporal Punishment In Schools – Poll
Family First NZ says that half of NZ’ers support corporal punishment in schools, and the events of the past week may have pushed that support higher.
And so on. This is part of an ongoing Family First campaign to try and link school violence and corporal punishment. From 2009, for example:
School violence blamed on removal of corporal punishment
A big increase in the number of primary school children suspended for violent acts is being blamed on the removal of corporal punishment in schools. Figures from the Ministry of Education show a 88 percent increase in suspensions of eight-year-olds from 2000 to 2008 for assaults on classmates, a 73 percent rise for seven-year-olds, a 70 percent increase for six–year-olds while the suspensions over the same period had increased by 33 percent for five-year-olds.
“It is significant that as schools have removed corporal punishment, schools have become more violent,” Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said today.
Right, two things. First, notice how McCroskie is making claims about schools, but the data applies only to primary schools. In secondary schools (2008) we have a very different picture:
Suspension rates in New Zealand schools have hit an eight year low, Education Minister Chris Carter announced today. The figures have been published in the Ministry of Education’s annual Student Engagement Report, which tracks suspensions, stand-downs, expulsions and exclusions. … The age standardised suspension rate has decreased by 17 per cent since 2000 including a 6.1 per cent reduction from 2006 to 2007.
So with their strongest case Family First can only argue in favour of beating primary kids. Nice. Second thing. Their strongest case is still crap. An increase in suspensions since 2000? More violence in primary since they removed corporal punishment? So when was corporal punishment abolished exactly? Newsflash, corporal punishment has been illegal in schools since 1990. So, what, it took the kiddies ten years to notice that they weren’t getting whacked any more? That’s an absolutely watertight case of cause and effect. Not.
The fact that the underlying argument for bringing back corporal punishment is complete crap only emphasises the duplicity of Family First pushing their agenda driven distortion of the survey, and the pathetic reporting of the issue to date. Lift your game journos. Family First are fruitcakes (yes that’s a technical term). Stop taking anything they say at face value.