This is a blog we originally published in December 2009 and are re-visiting it now to attract discussion, please read our on-going comments section.
Has New Zealand progressed at all since Lord Winston made his observations and how is the social experiment going?
“British Lord Robert Winston, is in NZ for the 2nd International Symposium of Performance Science hosted at Auckland University, the brave man has been voicing his opinions about New Zealand society to the local press. Here are some snippets
“New Zealand is a wonderful country, but it is also a country which I think has some very poor values as well…The fact is that you still rate things like the America’s Cup, the All Blacks and the cricket (as) being far too important when actually they don’t fundamentally improve human wellbeing…You do some fantastically good science and it’s really sad that at the moment your Kiwis are in my laboratory. You are exporting the wrong things, you’re exporting your talent, the very talent which might prop up your economy. But there’s no future for them in this country”
Stuff (Dom Post)
“New Zealand celebrates attributes which really aren’t that important…You do it with sportsmen and you don’t do it particularly with intellectuals, for example. In New Zealand, being an intellectual is slightly disadvantageous (ed. only slightly?) and is often seen by the press as being something which is rather well, not to be celebrated.”On the other hand, if you are a great rugby player, maybe parts of your private life which are pretty appalling, will go ignored. It is a society which tends to be driven by sailing, by the All Blacks and by the Bledisloe Cup.”
Ok Robert, so tell us something we didn’t already know! What you are saying will ring a bell with most migrants from developed countries in New Zealand.
What makes for far more interesting reading are the comments from the article caused on Yahoo News’ web pages:
“Not to put down our sports stars, but the man is absolutely right. I’d go further and say that if you don’t play along with the accepted dogma in this country you can almost be vilified. I think it’s called ” dumbing down ” the population. Individual excellence is almost anathema!”
“New Zealanders also, I’ve noticed, seem to suffer from what is known as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. If there is a rising academic or generally clever person, everyone does their best to smother them with things like ‘You need to be like everyone else’, ‘You won’t make any friends that way’, and the more subtle: ‘You should play/watch rugby more.’ And then people get confused when I leave the room whenever these things are …
“i do strongly agree with Lord Winston. Being sports minded is good, i got nothing against that. but i did notice that excelling in sports is more glorified, more prestigious in schools, than excelling in the academics, where you have the thinkers. my boys don’t feel as confident in topping tests, they don’t want to be called geeks, but it’s a different feeling for sports. this is a very debatable topic, depending on which side you prefer. my own opinion though is …”
“I quite agree with Lord Winston!! Not very long after arriving in New Zealand from London, I was a little more than surprised in fact “gobsmacked”, to be told one day during conversation that, “you will never get a job in New Zealand, with an accent like that!!”. Did they mean? that my English diction was too good, and that maybe I should sound a little bit more inarticulate??”