Stop asking stupid questions

Via Hoyden, the news that smacking children apparently “lowers their IQ”.

After studying 800 toddlers aged between two and four over a four-year period, he found those who were subjected to smacking had an IQ five points lower than that of a child who wasn’t physically disciplined.

An alternative conclusion: intelligence has a genetic correlation and it’s stupider parents who beat their children.

Anyway, talking of stupid, this reminded me of New Zealand’s recent abortive citizen initiated referendum on the subject, and a discussion I’d been meaning to have here on their bizarre system.

In NZ, you don’t need a referendum to amend the Constitution – it could be done with a simple Act of Parliament. No, when the people are asked by the government to answer a specific question in NZ, it’s via a non-binding system which costs millions of dollars and involves poorly-worded questions framed by cranks being expensively put and then the results being ignored by the government.

They’ve had three so far –

  • “Should the number of professional fire-fighters employed full-time in the New Zealand Fire Service be reduced below the number employed in 1 January 1995?” (Framed as a negative question because it’s easier to get people to vote “no”, even though that meant that the “yes” side was defending a proposition it didn’t propose – hardly any turnout, ignored.)
  • “Should the size of the House of Representatives be reduced from 120 members to 99 members?” (Passed, a decade later still not implemented – raising another question: should there be a time limit? Should laws be enacted based on something the electorate said ten years ago?)
  • And the spectacularly vague – “Should there be a reform of our Justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?” (Four questions in one; meaningless, ignored.)

I know what question I’d put up for a Citizen Initiated Referendum if I lived in NZ:

“Should the Government continue to waste public money on poorly-worded Citizen Initiated Referenda?”

I’d greatly enjoy watching the “yes” campaign tie itself in knots defending that.


9 responses to “Stop asking stupid questions

  1. CIR are, without a doubt, a bad idea.

    The only variable is in how bad they can be.

    Kudos to NZ for some real shockers.

  2. they work well because the average joe is only interested in outside appearances, not results

  3. Not Allen Jones

    Another alternative conclusion: stupid children can only be diciplined by being smacked. The smart ones do as they are told.

  4. Obedience = intelligence? Interesting theory.

  5. If we ever go down the road when a sensible and caring couple can’t smack their child to redress bad behavior, our country is going to get even worse than it already is.

    Sorry, but I can still remember all my smackings, but more importantly, I can remember why I got them. And I agree with my parents – I deserved them.

  6. “The smart ones do as they are told.”

    “Obedience = intelligence?”

    When you are young – yes it does. You ain’t a revolutionary until you can understand why you are doing what you are doing. That rules out most young’uns. You’ll understand when you are a dad.

  7. not allen Jones

    I got smacked a few times when I didn’t do anything wrong.
    But I never got one I didn’t deserve.

    Turned out ok too. Only needed me a lawyer once. Beautifil house it was too.
    Lawyer ripped me off though.

    Still see me dad every week. Best mates. Talk about politics a lot. We used not to agree so much as we do now. Amazing how his views have changed as I get older. 🙂

  8. Shock! Horror! Tabloid paper sensationalises a headline! Aided and abetted by a media savvy academic no less. I think the behavioural science community may hold differing opinions, a la Hoyden’s comment:

    ‘It will be very interesting to read reviews from his peers regarding this research’

    The relationship between IQ or other indices of mental abilities and intelligence is not clear, so to infer stuff about IQ levels, smacking and intelligence is a problem from the beginning. Makes for good headlines and maybe lots of citations to your published work ;-). Social scientists also use statistical tests which are not considered rigorous enough in many other sciences, so there are often fights about whether the tests themselves, the assumptions in the statistical models, or even whether the hypotheses used are valid, let alone the interpretation of rubbery results.

    re CIRs in NZ – laudable intent, somehow I think a ‘committee’ must have been involved somewhere in the implementation. Y’know, the camel was a horse designed by a committee sort of thing. Maybe a committee like the one that got to phrase the questions on the republic referendum questions here in oz?

    On whether or not corporal punishment is ever reasonable, well I think if smacking a child is cruel then it should be avoided. Are there situations where force is justified or justifiable? Do you smack a child’s hand away from a danger when it is doubtful they would listen or understand a warning? It may be difficult to explain road safety or other concepts to children under a certain age. In a world where force majeure is still predominant in international relations, are we being hypocritical to insist on non-violence in a violent world? I personally find violence intimidating and offensive but it seems to be a violent word outside of human society too. If we cannot eliminate violence do we just codify it? Some are sanctioned to be violent and others are not?

  9. Pingback: Why can’t the bigots draft a straight proposition? (Maine Prop 1 ambiguous, twisted) « An Onymous Lefty

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