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Insights 3: 7 February 2020
Eric Crampton comments in Newsroom on if it makes sense to move Auckland's port.
 
In our Initiative podcast, chief editor Nathan Smith talks to Oliver Hartwich to discuss what happens next in the Brexit process.
 
Research Note - Pricing Out Congestion: Experiences from Abroad

Brexit without the drama
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director | oliver.hartwich@nzinitiative.org.nz
A wise man once said nothing is as old as yesterday’s newspaper. That would render Brexit, which went into effect last Friday, a piece of ancient history.

It is noticeable how quickly British newspapers moved on. Brexit has vacated the front pages to make room for the coronavirus, another London terror attack and more squabbles about the royal family.
 
Still, to paraphrase Churchill, Friday’s Brexit was not the end. It was not even the beginning of the end. But it was, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
 
The real work of sorting out Britain’s trade relations with the EU and the world has only just started.
 
The wider public will barely pay attention to these developments. They have zoned out. After three and a half years of Brexit drama, they want to read different stories.
 
And who could blame them? The intricate details of tariffs and quotas, most-favoured-nation status and WTO rules are complicated stuff. Unless chlorinated chicken is involved, trade matters aren't exactly dinner table debates.
 
The character of the new British Parliament, elected in mid-December, will also make it easier for people to forget about Brexit.
 
Prime Minister Boris Johnson not only won a large majority for his Conservative party, he also purged it of anyone who might disagree, let alone rebel, in Parliament. Neither he nor the public want to see any more of the backbench revolts that tormented his predecessor Theresa May.
 
And that leads to the third reason this next phase of Brexit will be quieter: Boris Johnson is not Theresa May. He has learnt from her mistakes.
 
May’s biggest foible was allowing two postponements of the Brexit deadline, weakening her negotiating position. It underlined to both friend and foe that she could be taken for a ride but not seriously.
 
Johnson, meanwhile, has made clear he will not extend the trade talks with the EU beyond December. His performance so far means he can credibly threaten to walk away because his party and Parliament will be behind him no matter what – a strategic luxury May never enjoyed.
 
That’s why I expect Brexit’s terminal phase, though more important than all the ones before, will flow much more smoothly and quietly. The public might barely understand, notice or even follow it anymore.
 
And perhaps, just perhaps, this will help bring about a good result. Here’s hoping.

For more, check out the New Zealand Initiative podcast.

In praise of our majority defiant teachers
Briar Lipson | Research Fellow | briar.lipson@nzinitiative.org.nz
After 12 years of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), most Kiwi primary schools continue to ignore its main message: they do not weave ‘Key Competencies’ into what or how they teach.
 
The Education Review Office (ERO) confirmed this in recent research. Of the 118 schools it sampled, none had reached the intended nirvana state (phase four) in which competencies are 'transforming learning.' In fact, a grand total of zero had even reached phase three. Instead, half were still in the exploratory phase and over a quarter hadn't started.
 
For the experts and bureaucrats who keep doubling-down on our competency (or skills)-based national curriculum, schools’ continued failure to fall into line is cause for wailing and gnashing of teeth. The NZC was designed to revolutionise classrooms and learning; where it has not succeeded, teachers must be coerced through yet more 'training and support.'
 
Teachers are right to ignore the curriculum. No amount of support or training will make it work because a 21st century skill like thinking cannot be deliberately taught.

We all want our children to be creative and collaborative critical thinkers. However, in the same way that chasing happiness doesn't make us happy, chasing skills does not make children skilful. Rather, the route to skill is knowledge, committed – through deliberate practice – to long term memory.
 
Take problem solving as an example. With the growing threat of coronavirus, we are all hoping the World Health Organisation has the necessary skills to solve it. These include identification, treatment and containment. Yet none of these skills derives from generic education. The ability to identify a new virus depends on knowledge of infections, viral genomes and epidemiology. Further, the skill of treatment relies on knowing symptoms, drugs, their interactions and side-effects.
 
Skill may be a useful word for describing a phenomenon like this, but it also hides the knowledge and practice a child needs in order to earn it.
 
To gain the knowledge of an informed generalist, children must encounter a demanding, knowledge-rich curriculum that is coherent. For instance, it does not make sense to study climate change repeatedly but never the Fall of Rome. And the curriculum must be cumulative so creativity can grow from the weight of what the pupils know.
 
The current NZC actively thwarts this kind of practice and teachers who recognise its folly deserve our applause.

Tied up
Dr Eric Crampton | Chief Economist | eric.crampton@nzinitiative.org.nz
I’m not convinced there’s anything wrong with a tie. Why are we always trying to break them?
 
We left Friday’s T20 match between the Black Caps and India after the 16th over. New Zealand needed only 26 runs from 24 balls with plenty of wickets in hand. The WASP had New Zealand almost certain to win. It was well past 11 pm, and our 9-year-old was dozing off.
 
I read CricInfo’s commentary aloud to my rather more awake son and his friend as we walked to the car. Back at the stadium, the roars we heard from a crowd heavy with India’s supporters during the final over probably meant wickets rather than boundaries, as CricInfo eventually confirmed.
 
So they were off to another Super Over that would take the game to a too-familiar outcome, well past midnight. And we were off to get the kids to bed.
 
The drive home had me wondering about tiebreakers.
 
If both teams end a match with an identical score, is there any fair way of determining which side deserved to win?
 
Deciding a match on the number of boundaries tends to reward the flashier team over a patient one grinding forward on ones and twos. Is the former really better than the latter?
 
Equally, handing a win to the team with more wickets in hand says that it’s worse to run out of wickets than to run out of overs in a limited-overs game. Both are surely valuable, so why set the one above the other?
 
But going to a Super Over is plainly a mistake – not simply because of any recent and repeated unpleasantness. You might think that, because an extra over in a twenty-over game gives us 5% more information about which team is really the better one, it is a fair way of resolving a tie. But this format privileges the team with top-heavy talent over the side with talent spread across its order.
 
Ties are more likely to happen when both teams have comparable skill, so it is no surprise that picking a winner between them involves some arbitrariness. Worse, every method of choosing can skew the pitch.
 
Yet nothing in cricket demands every match have a winner or loser. We could just accept that both teams were equally decent on the night.
 
At least that's better than being forced to consider New Zealand’s performance in the Super Overs.
 
On The Record
 
All Things Considered
  • Graph of the week: Confirmed cases of Coronavirus 2019-nCov by Country/ Region.
     
  • The quotable and Right Honourable Michael Moore. We will miss him.
     
  • What’s behind the evolution in conservatism? Is it millennials?
     
  • NZ’s Health Research Council ponders lottery-based science funding.
     
  • “After all, what’s the best inoculation against witch-finders? A population that doesn’t believe in witches.”
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