Education modifying morality

Earlier today I ran into a story on BBC about a 13 year old from florida who was denied the right to an abortion by a court.

On the face of it it seems like a simple Woman’s right to choice debate (something which I must say at this point I wholeheartedly support), which seemed to be unfortunately how most of the usual suspects in these arguments were taking it. The ACLU was going to appeal the decision, and no doubt the christian right was going to praise the judge, and everyone was going to go on missing the point that the judge had made the right legal choice, since the case has nothing to do with right to life.

Instead, it was all to do with the girl’s ability to provide valid consent for the termination proceedure, seeing as she was only 13.

For those of you who are medically educated this will not be new, however for others of you out there this may be unfamilar, and thus I felt it was worth educating you on.

Most countries and states define an age at which adolescents can make medical decisions independant of their parents (often 16), and below that age the parents or legal guardians are responsible for providing consent for medical interventions for the child which are necessary and in the child’s best intersts.

The exception to this arises in the situation where the child is considered to posess Gillick Competence. This is where a child is not yet at the age of consent, but is able to demonstrate that they understand the nature of the proposed medical proceedure, and more importantly, that they understand the abstract implications of deciding for or against undertaking the proceedure. If they can do this, then many juristictions will allow children to provied consent without parental input.

In the florida case, the 13 year old girl was not denied an abortion on “right to life” moral grounds, but rather on the basis that her legal guardian (in this case the state) was able to convince the judge that the girl was not old enough or mature enough to make the decision herself, and as such her guardian (the state) was still responsible to making decisions as to what it thought was in the girl’s best intersts.

Of course the intesting thing is that only 4 years ago I wouldn’t have know anything about gillick competence, and would have probably been ranting from the other perspective of how the girl’s rights had been trampled by a conservative judiciary. It’s interesting how education modifies morality by opening your eyes to previously unseen options and perspectives.

It’s not just doctors

Having long been a part of the whinging generation of New Zealand youth who believed that student loans would do more harm than good to the country by driving young graduates overseas in order to pay back their loans, I saw an article on stuff today which unfortunately added to the mounting piles of evidence that suggests we were right all along.

Not only are doctors (with their average loan of NZ$68,000), dentists and other with a fairly high earning potential leaving NZ in order to repay their huge loans, it also seems that prefessions with more modest earning potentials such as teachers are also leaving to repay their student loans, which for teachers average NZ$23,000.

The sad thing is that not only are the repayments driving NZ’s best and brightest overseas, it is also depriving NZ of skilled workers in areas that are already experiencing critical staffing shortages such as health and education.


Recently one of my friends pointed me to the blog of one of my ex-girlfriends, and it has raised a few curoius concerns for me.

I have found that I quite enojoy reading her blog, finding out about what she’s up to, and to some extent soaking up the intellectual output of someone who I always liked, admired, and found to be fun and intersting.

The concern I have been feeling relates to the unfortunate fact that our parting would at best be described as acrimonous, and our interactions since then have sadly slid through frigid to their current “non-existent”. As such I do find myself wondering what she would think about me reading her blog.

On the one hand she is placing her thoughts, musings and observations on display on the internet, the ultimate public display area (as am I for that matter), and as such she cannot practically or morally exert any control over who reads her stuff (unless she were to institute some sort of user log-in).

On the other hand I wonder whether there is some moral imperative for me to refrain from reading her site, given that I doubt that she would discuss any of what is on her site with me were we to meet on the street (or possibly say anything to me at all for that matter), and that while her blog is within the public domain, it is primarily intended for the benefit of friends and family, of which I am neither.

This of course goes on to raise an interesting dichotomy, as I have no qualms about reading the blogs of complete strangers which I find during my web explorations (as I have mentioned in numerous posts to this blog). With strangers’ blogs I am merely reading the pronouncements of otherwise unknown people to the world in general, however with my ex it feels as though I am somehow invading her privacy. It’s all very confusing.

It would be interesting to know what her opinion on the matter is.

Doing a Dover Samuels

I was just looking at the Red Vs. Blue website, and watched their “Thanksgiving Day PSA (Public Service Announcement)” video, at which point I almost wet myself and temporarily lost the ability to breathe due to the fact that I was laughing so uncontrollably.

The video is available in a number of formats: WMV (14Mb), Quicktime (19Mb) or DivX (19Mb). Go watch it!!!

As for the whole Dover Samuels reference, if you want to know what it’s about, read this, or look at this, otherwise try not to think about it too much.


As you may or may not have already read, a new movie called Serenity is coming out, based on (and starring most of the original cast – as far as I can tell) the fantastic (and tragically only 1 season long) sci-fi show Firefly.

The trailer looks like it keeps up the old fashioned coolness of the TV show, and I only watched it 4 or 5 times before managing to drag myself away.

Stinky Sleep

This is actually from a while back, but I forgot to mention it at the time. Strange really, since it’s such a cool story.

Turns out scientists have figured out how to basically put mice into suspended animation using nothing but hydrogen sulphide gas. If they can get it to work in humans it would be astonishingly useful, and even if they can’t they’re probably up for a nobel prize for the discovery.

Viva le imigratione

<please accept my apologies for the above hatchet attack on the french language, but I felt it did a particularly good and amusing job of converying the basis of this blog entry>

I keep on talking to people (or hearing third hand about conversations) within my loosely extended circle of friends and associates and hearing about how many of them think that they would quite like to live in NZ for a few years. Perhaps I need to start organising a mass migration eastward across the ditch at some point. We can drink good NZ beer together, and go good NZ skiing together, and… well I could get onto a bit of a rant here, so it’s probably best if I cut myself off while I still retain the mental faculties to do so…

Comedic piracy

While flicking channels the other day I wandered onto an episode of Parkinson where I heard this great joke, which I have decided to pirate for your edification:

A man walks into a pub in ireland, walks up to the bar, and says to the barman, “Can you tell me the quickest way to get to Dublin?”
The barman looks at him and asks “Are you walking or are you driving?”
“I’m driving”, replies the man.
To which the barman says, “Well that would be the fastest way”

(Right. I think I did a pretty crap job of writing it down (it sounds better out loud I think) but you get the idea…)

Public Appeal

A while back I was introduced by someone to a great adjective for describing rich people who expend lots of money to try and look stylishly poor (eg. people who pay hundreds of dollars to get their hair professionally dreadlocked, rather than simply stopping washing their hair).

I seem to recall that the term had sprung up in the person’s high school for use particularly on people with wealthy parents.

The point of this post however is that I have forgotten what the term was, and would really quite like to rediscover it, so if anyone out there can remember having run into a term that sounds like what I’m talking about, drop me an email and let me know.

Phil, I have this strange inkling that perhaps you told me about it. Anyway. If someone can remind me, I’ll pop it on the site so all you other readers can be enlightened and entertained by it too, and perhaps send the sucessful respondant a chocolate fish* or something, although don’t ask me where I will find a real chocolate fish in Brisbane…

From a Kiwi Phrases site, so that the Australian’s out there will understand: Chocolate fish: a chocolate covered marshmallow fish. Also frequently given (literally or figuratively) as a reward for a job well done; as in “Good on ya, mate. You deserve a chocolate fish”.