All Black rugby may win admirers on this side of the ditch, but not the haka. Letters to the Sydney Morning Herald often mock the challenge, but even before the RWC it was over-used and over-exposed where once it was used sparingly with the effect of raising the hairs on the back of one's neck. One correspondent wrote to the editor saying: 'Instead of watching the Kiwis try to intimidate them with their damned haka, the other sides should prepare a counter strategy. The English could do a Morris dance complete with bells, sticks, and little white hankies. Now that would be frightening'. Another wrote in offering a different response: to sing, complete with gestures, 'I'm a little teapot short and stout....'
Some ideas from fresh young minds are so wonderful you to have to wonder what would happen if a public art festival like Sydney's Art and About was held in cities throughout New Zealand. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sydney public art festival organisers took a simple question as their theme and asked schoolchildren: 'What if?' Waving gently in Sydney's light breezes, 100 flags offer some answers like:
- Enough was the highest investment goal?
- God had a twitter account?
- Laughter was the only currency?
- There are new colours yet to be revealed?
- Rugby and AFL were never invented?
- We all switch off our phones?
- Every time you woke up you were in a different body?
- Zimmerframes were turbo-charged?
- What if we never stood up for what we believe in?
- Spin class bikes were connected to the energy grid?
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner responsible for research, innovation and science, is trying to spur the European Union to keep pace in turning ideas into industries. She clearly feels a crisis coming on, (who in Europe doesn't these days?) and told the BBC recently that she has announced £6bn funding to kick-start projects next year. The aim is to support 16,000 universities, research teams and businesses. It's about keeping up, rather than grandstanding, she emphasises. No prizes for guessing - yes, with China. And in particular, Chinese pupils.
"In China, you see children going into school at 6.30am and being there until 8 or 9pm, concentrating on science, technology and maths. And you have to ask yourself, would European children do that?"
No, Commissioner, because hopefully they and their parents think there's more to life - at that precious stage - than plodding through schoolwork. In Oz there's been a huge debate about the value of pushing schoolchildren too far with too much homework at the expense of other activities. The question has been, is it valuable or counter-productive? and at least one academic researcher believes homework really only works in senior school years.