For the first time in history

The Law Commission has a new Issues Paper out The News Media Meets 'New Media': Rights, Responsibilities and Regulation in the Digital Age – dealing with regulation of news media and 'new media' publishers, as well as related legal restrictions on freedom of speech. The impetus for the report is the increasing significance of the Internet in the media landscape, and the disruptive changes that have occurred as a result.

In Chapter 1 – The Context of Our Review – at [1.17], the Commission quotes the following passage from Don Tapscott:

[t]he Internet is changing every institution in society. It enables new approaches to innovation, requiring new thinking about patents and copyright. It renders old institutions naked, requiring more transparency on the part of governments and corporations. It disrupts old models of learning and pedagogy demanding a [changed] relationship between students and teachers in the learning process. It offers new models of democracy based on a culture of public discourse, in turn compelling old style politicians to engage their citizens. It turns intellectual property into bits, that don't know the old rules that governed [how] atoms behave. It drops the transaction cost of dissent, subjecting dictators and tyrants to the power of mass participation. It breaks down national boundaries and [requires] a rethinking of how peoples everywhere can cooperate to solve global problems. And, for the first time in history, children are an authority on the most important innovation changing every institution in society.
(emphasis added)

There has been a lot of discussion both before and after the election on November 26 about voter apathy and the potential benefits of teaching 'civics' in schools.

While I agree that we should be teaching something along the lines of 'civics' in schools (probably during years 7 and 8, in my opinion), I don't think it's necessarily incumbent on the Government to act before anyone else does.

By my understanding, one of the arguments put forward in favour of the introduction of NCEA back in the early 2000s was the added flexibility that it offered. Particularly in the area of internal assessment, students were to be tested against 'standards' rather than ranked according to their individual 'knowledge'. But I might be wrong about that.

Anyway, it seems to me that there must be scope in the curriculum of either English or (shudder) Media Studies for students to have their say on issues like this and gain some credit for it. If, as Tapscott claims, children are indeed an authority on the Internet and if, as the Commission suggests, the Internet  is such a disruptive force in the news media environment and if, as the Commission also suggests, "a free press is critical to a democracy" (9, [37]), then I, were I a teacher in one of those subjects, would be trying to find a way to help my students have their voices heard. I would also come up with a much better way of structuring that truly hideous sentence.

From memory there is an internal achievement standard in Level 1 English that requires students to complete some sort of formal non-fiction writing. I imagine the marking criteria contain words like structure, argument, introduction, conclusion, vocabulary, and others. All of which are things that would probably be amply demonstrated in a submission to a Law Commission Issues Paper. It helps that the Commission even provide an example structure in their call for submissions.

I'm sure more knowledgeable and less idealistic individuals than myself will be able to point out the multitude of reasons why I'm living in a dream here. But it's a nice dream, so leave me be.


The Law Commission paper is available from their website at:

They footnote the Tapscott quotation as:
Don Tapscott "G8 and the Internet: Sarkozy Messes With a Good Thing" Huffington Post (United States, 27 May 2011) < >.


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