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School CP - November 1981

Evening Post, Wellington, 3 November 1981

Caned boys interviewed?

All boys who took part in the Rongotai College videotaped caning experiment are understood to have been interviewed today by the board subcommittee investigating the case.

The board chairman, Mr A Wilson, was reported to be at the school this morning with several other subcommittee members, and it is now thought that he, too, is a member.

The board's decision to investigate the experiment conducted by the principal, Mr Noel Mackay, to find out why experienced teachers often missed the target when caning boys, followed a complaint to the board by a parent, Mr Peter Street.

Mr Street expressed concern at what he termed a discrepancy in the reasons given for the experiment.

Neither the terms of reference nor the committee's make-up have been disclosed. The only point that has been confirmed is the absence of an independent chairman.

It is now evident that the board chairman's request for silence on the whole issue has extended to the teachers at the school.

Mr Mackay, who spoke freely before about his experiment, is now silent on the matter.

The subcommittee is due to report to the board's next meeting, on November 12, and although members will go into committee for this part, there will be pressure from several board members to release the findings of the investigation.

An authoritative source has since said that the earlier figure of 25 boys caned in the experiment is conservative.

Also on the agenda for this month's board meeting is Mr Mackay's resignation, which he said had nothing to do with the experiment.


The Rongotai Parents' Association and the Old Boys' Association are reported to be lobbying board members to ensure that Mr Mackay remains.

Some members feel, however, that while the principal has given wonderful service to the school, he should now retire.

Evening Post, Wellington, 7 November 1981

Letters to the editor


SIR, PhD ("Post", Oct 30) and helpful (Oct 22) have completely missed the point in the problem of cane flutter.

Surely, at the bottom of it all, lies the fact, as admitted by the headmaster, that posterial marks can be viewed when the boys concerned are in their bathing suits.

It is all very well for your correspondent to talk about "vortex shedding in the rear wake of the cane" but we have a much graver problem in our midst.

Are we living in a time of such lax moral standards that no one else has thought to comment on the fact that these lads are showing part of their bare buttocks?

Far from the headmaster doing solitary research in the school library on the aerodynamics of cane flutter, he would be more gainfully employed designing decent, knee-length costumes for the boys in his care. This is a problem that must be thrashed out.

Moral Decline

The cane in flight

SIR, Your correspondent PhD (Oct 30) is incorrect in his assertion that cane flutter is caused by the phenomenon of vortex shedding in the rear of the cane.

Aerodynamics laws are not adhered to fully by the material bamboo, which causes a whirlpool or eddy effect during the transmission of force from an upstroke to a downstroke. Such an effect causes straying from the line of aerodynamically-acceptable planned flight and cannot be fully compensated by the addition of helical strakes to act as spoilers.

Research in England just after the war and released in the treatise by Danes, "Properties of the Cane in Flight", shows that there is only one way to counter cross and back drift, viz. the addition of ailerons to the stem of the cane, operated automatically by the rush of wind to act as flight stabilisers.

Such an advance was made in standard-issue canes in northern Scotland in the late 1950s but the move against corporal punishment caused first the banishment of the aileron, and then the obsolescence of the cane.

B Steell

Evening Post, Wellington, 13 November 1981

Letters to the editor

Flutter flutter

SIR, B Steell (Nov 7) should be appropriately disciplined for misleading your readers on the subject of cane flutter.

His dissertation confuses the reader with a pseudo-scientific hypothesis which ignores the basic phenomena. Addition of ailerons to the tip of the cane, rather than helical strakes, will engender additional lift forces causing greater transverse bending and further deviation from the target.

All bluff bodies, irrespective of the material of which they are made, shed the well-known Van Karmen vortex trail, in this case during both the up and down strokes. It is the synchronisation of this frequency of vortex shedding with the fundamental frequency of the body which causes the cane to flutter.

Rather than comment further, readers are referred to the recognised works of Strouhal, Van Karmen and Wootton.

Moral Decline (Nov 7) has a different view which is interesting. The suggestion will mean that the end effects, while remaining real will no longer be apparent. Perhaps we leave the problem to posterity?


Evening Post, Wellington, 13 November 1981

Caning head Mackay cleared, and will stay on

'Black Friday whitewash,' alleges complaining parent


The Rongotai College principal, Mr Noel Mackay, has been given a clean slate by the board committee inquiring into his videotaped caning experiment.

At a meeting last night, the Rongotai board, which authorised the inquiry, accepted the committee's finding that Mr Mackay had acted within his authority.

In accordance with the committee recommendation, the board decided that no changes were required in the administration and control of corporal punishment at the school and therefore no further action was required.

Mr Peter Street, the parent whose complaint to the board resulted in the inquiry, today said his questions had not been answered.

"I thought I might get a whitewash on Black Friday," said Mr Street. (Today is Friday, November 13).

Mr Street had asked the board why there were inconsistencies in the answers given to him earlier from Mr Mackay and the board chairman, Mr Alan Wilson, concerning the reasons for the experiment. Mr Street also asked the board, as the body responsible for the school, to reassess its own responsibility in the matter.

Mr Wilson this morning said there were no plans at this stage to release the full committee report.

The board last night expressed its continued confidence in Mr Mackay as head, and in a separate recommendation, decided to reject his resignation, which Mr Mackay had stressed was not related to the experiment.


When the meeting ended at 12.30am -- five hours after it began -- Mr Mackay received a round of applause from parents who had waited outside for the board's verdict.


Evening Post, Wellington, 16 November 1981

Videotape reports head for compost


The Rongotai College board subcommittee's reports on the videotaped caning experiment are to meet a similar fate as the tapes themselves. They are to be destroyed.

The board secretary, Mr A J C Edwards, today confirmed that the board chairman, Mr Alan Wilson, had instructed members to return their copies so they could be destroyed.

Mr Edwards said as board secretary he would keep one on file. It would be improper not to do so.

He said he had not yet had a chance to destroy the others and indicated that they would be shredded as garden compost.


Nothing is known of the answers given to the subcommittee by boys who took part in the caning experiment. The inquiry team interviewed the boys last month.


Two board members today confirmed that the original directive for all board members to remain silent on the matter still stood.

blob For more on caning in New Zealand boys' schools, see review of Caning: Educational Ritual in Book reviews page 2

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