12 March 2014

Elder Scrolls Online: The subscription fallacy

In the run up to the release of Elder Scrolls Online, I've heard a lot of people say,

This game isn't worth a subscription. Maybe if it was free-to-play...

My question for these people is the: what game, in your opinion, would be worth a subscription model? Because if you answer, 'None; no game is worth a subscription model,' that completely changes the meaning of what you're saying.

If no game is worth a subscription model, then a statement about this game not being worth a subscription is not a statement about the characteristics of this game, but a general principle. And that's fine, you're perfectly free to hold that principle. But if you do, it precludes you from expressing an opinion on this game.

The only a statement about this game being worth (or not worth) a subscription can have any merit is if you can see some game being worth a subscription. Then you can evaluate this game on its own terms: compare it to the kind of game which would be worth a subscription, and decide, on the basis of that comparison rather than on the basis of a principle, whether this game is worth a subscription.

It's the same with murder. If you maintain that all murder is wrong, then a particular case of murder will always be wrong, regardless of any specific circumstances. There's actually no point discussing the details of the case, because murder is always wrong. On the other hand, if there is some case in which murder might not be (so) wrong - and this is where people usually bring up the idea of going back in time and killing Hitler - then we can have a discussion of the individual characteristics of this case and evaluate whether it was, perhaps, in fact not (so) wrong.

Abortion is similar case. If you think that abortion is always wrong, then there is no way that you will think that abortion could be right in a specific case. If you think that abortion can sometimes be the right choice, then we can have a discussion of whether it is the right choice in this case.

And exactly the same is true of subscription models in games, or anything else which can take the form of a principle of belief. You may well be entitled to hold that belief, but doing so precludes you from evaluating any specific case.

In short, you can either hold a principle, or you can compare and evaluate. You can't do both.

Be clear about which it is you're doing.

08 March 2014

Why the GEZ is evil

Okay, since I'm ranting today, I'm going to explain why the German television license, the GEZ, is evil.

Until recently it was much like the BBC license in Britain; that is, you had to pay a license fee to support the state-run broadcasting networks. And similarly, if you didn't have a TV or radio which could receive those broadcasts, you basically didn't have to pay.

Since the start of the year, however, the rules have changed: now, anyone with a TV, radio, or internet connection, has to pay the license fee of about €20 a month. The actual fee for a TV owner is slightly lower than before, so many people are perfectly fine with the change, and haven't even noticed.

But the problem is the 'internet connection' part of the new rules. If you don't even have a computer, but have a smart phone - hell, if you even have a standard phone with a clunky, slow browser that loads at a snail's pace - you have to pay.

Why? Because you can access the websites of the state-sponsored broadcasters on the internet.

Let's get this straight: because you could visit the German ARD website, you have to pay a license fee.

And that's evil, because of the principle it establishes.

If you could visit the site, you have to pay, regardless of whether you actually do so or not.

I could also visit a porn site: does that mean that I have to pay for it even if I don't? Hmm, I could send a bill to everyone in the world asking to be paid for writing this post, because they might read it.

I could visit all sorts of sites on the internet, because, you know, the internet is a big place. Do I have to pay for all of the sites I don't visit, as well as those that I do?

Ah, you're pushing it too far, you respond. But I'm not. Because even if the German government does not intend that this model should be extended to the rest of the internet, then it must think that only it - or perhaps it and other governments - has the right to apply this model.

Either this model - paying for potential rather than actual use - can be applied to all websites, or it can only be applied to those websites which the government decides it can be applied to. In other words, while companies can't charge you money for something which you can only potentially use, a government can. On this model, the government can make the public pay for anything it wants, so long as it posts a website which anyone in Germany could visit.

While the GEZ is now basically an internet tax in everything but name, it sets up one of two principles. Either any company on the internet can charge you for its content, or governments can force the public to pay for whatever they want. Both are extremely dangerous.

Kant's first definition of the categorical imperative, which forms the basis of his system of morality, is this:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.

On the basis of that definition, the current GEZ is immoral.

Amazon.de Instant Video Bullshit

Okay, so Amazon.de recently announced that the Prime account includes Prime Instant Video, a video streaming service which has been a part of Amazon.com for some while.

So I'm going to cancel my Prime account.

Why?

Previously, Amazon Prime cost €29 a year. Starting in August, it will cost €49. Ah, you might say, but for that extra €20, you get to stream all the videos you want. That's got to be worth €20 a year, right?

But what do I get for that? A bunch of American TV shows and movies, for the most part. That's fine. I like American movies and TV shows. From where I'm sitting, I can on my shelf several volumes of Scrubs, House, 30 Rock, Community, Castle, Psych, The Mentalist, and The West Wing. Hell, I've imported a bunch of anime releases from the States, and have my blu-ray player set up to play both region 1 and 2 discs.

Now, most of the series I mentioned are on Amazon Instant Video, but they aren't up-to-date or complete. Psych is missing Season 1, House is missing Seasons 3, 5 and 7, Community only goes up to Season 3, The Mentalist and Castle only to Season 4, which is the only season that 30 Rock does have. Scrubs has only Season 8, and The West Wing is missing completely.

It also doesn't have any Futurama and it doesn't have any South Park. Of the Simpsons, it has Seasons 1-3 and 20-25. Also, Amazon Instant Video in Germany has about 10 anime movies and series: you can watch the first Eden of the East movie, but not the series that comes before it or the movie which comes after.

So the selection is patchy to say the least. If you actually like the shows, and actually want to watch them all, you're out of luck.

But did you notice what I did there? I talked about Amazon Instant Video, not Prime Instant Video. See, Prime Instant Video contains the 'free' shows and movies that you can watch when you have an Amazon Prime subscription. Amazon Instant Video, on the other hand, is a pay-to-watch service: you can buy the season as a whole, or individual episodes for about €3 a pop. As a quick comparison, Season 4 of The Mentalist will cost you €34.99 on Amazon Instant Video; Amazon is also selling the DVD of the complete season for €9.99. Not all series are so much cheaper on DVD, admittedly, but all seasons of The Mentalist cost 50% less.

And guess what? NONE of the shows I mentioned above are on Prime Instant Video. They're only on Amazon Instant Video.

That is to say, even if you do have an Amazon Prime account, you're still be paying €3 extra an episode to watch those shows.

Awesome.

And you know what I also like? American TV shows and movies IN ENGLISH.

But with Amazon Instant Video in Germany, you can only watch in German.

Of the supposedly 12,000 titles on Amazon Instant Video in German, only 154 have the [OV] tag, indicating that they are in the original language.

I mean, seriously? Have you heard German dubbing? The German dub of Columbo turned him into a supercop badass and completely missed the whole point. Most shows are not quite as bad as that, but with any given comedy, half of the jokes will be missing.

Awesome.

Incidentally, if you are a German who doesn't speak English and is, for some unfathomable reason, interested in Prime Instant Video, then a) you're probably not reading this post, and b) make sure you buy the full Prime account for €49 a year rather than falling for the subscription model of €7.99 a month for Prime Instant Video on its own. At nearly twice as much (€95.88 a year) you actually get less service.

To recap, for a €20 price hike, I get a service which has an extremely reduced selection of videos compared to Amazon Instant Video - to the point where it has hardly any series I might actually want to watch on it. Amazon Instant Video itself is expensive, also has a limited and patchy selection, and only allows me to watch in German.

Amazon Instant Video is basically a weak selection of videos and a rip-off. But you know what? I wouldn't care if it wasn't for the Prime Instant Video component. The service Amazon Instant Video offers is essentially no different to the movie and video part of the iTunes Music Store, and I've never purchased a video there, either. But what Prime Instant Video does, and iTunes doesn't do, is take a service I like (Amazon Prime) and force me to pay extra for a service I don't want and will never use. Amazon Instant Video, and the iTunes Music Store, I can chose to ignore; but with Prime Instant Video, it's like being forced to buy a loss-leader. It's not quite as despicable as the GEZ, mind, you, but the principle is similar.

Bye, Amazon Prime. It was nice knowing you when you didn't, um, suck.

23 January 2014

Blowing my own trumpet

Last night some of my students were disappointed when they found out there there wouldn't be another course next semester.

This morning I received a $20 donation for my Skyrim mod, Khajiit Speak.

I must be doing something right :-)

04 June 2012

A Modern Education


Jeff Jarvis (Public Parts, p. 54)

In our schools, we teach students there is one and only one right answer to every question. Then we add the questions together in tests and teach to those tests, expecting students to spit back what we feed them. We call that achievement. We should instead be encouraging experimentation, rewarding challenges to our accepted wisdom, and designing schools around learning through failure.
I couldn't agree more. If I can find a way to truly implement this idea in my teaching, I will.

20 January 2012

Education and technological incompetence

A couple of years back, I completed my Masters degree. It was principally concerned with open, online and distance learning; in short, educational technology in the modern learning environment. Now, while I never really expected to be able to apply all those ideas in my job, since our learning institutions are still very much based around classrooms and traditional structures, I did at least think that it would be generally accepted that, as the information age moves into the digital age, the importance of such technology would be basically unquestioned. The internet, portable computing, and constant connectivity are increasingly ubiquitous. Denying that is like Cnut trying to hold back the tide.

Some six years before that, I worked for an institution which was integrating the internet and computing into examinations. Instead of pen-and-paper exams for each separate discipline, we were beginning to do combined, networked exams. Students would begin in the morning, have a number of tasks to complete over the next few hours, had full access to computers and the internet, and took breaks when they wanted. The general idea was to make the examination as 'realistic' as possible, essentially reflecting a day at work, along with the resources and skills required to deal with it.

By no means was the procedure perfect, but it nevertheless embodied the principle that education and examinations should adapt to the actual way the world works. Educational institutes do not exist in a bubble; they should prepare students in a way which is relevant to society and the work environment into which they will be thrust upon graduation. Even if not all institutes could or should be consistently cutting edge, surely all must be informed by the realities of the world outside.

When I began teaching in the late 90's, I purchased a briefcase which ultimately broke under the weight of the stuff I had to carry around in it: textbooks, dictionaries, cassette players and so on. I quickly lightened the load by purchasing an electronic dictionary, which was soon supplemented with and ultimately replaced by a Palm handheld. Nowadays I have only a MacBook Air, a set of USB speakers, and the occasional textbook. The university has a wireless network which, even if a bit flaky, covers the whole campus. Beyond that, smart phones have expanded internet connectivity to the point that essentially all my students are online at all times. Not being able to access the internet is the exception, rather than the rule.

Textbooks are next for the chopping block, as Apple's keynote yesterday indicates. As mobile computing becomes increasingly powerful, yet also more lightweight and affordable, and as the digital publishing becomes easier, lugging heaps of textbooks to lectures will become a thing of the past. I'm not fantasizing here, nor jumping on the 'Apple will revolutionize education' bandwagon; this is just the way the world is now. This semester, for the first time, I have students using iPads to write academic papers. Between exams today, most students pulled out their smart phones and checked Facebook or whatever. In many ways the important point is that this technology is not brought into the classroom by teachers, but by the students themselves.

In this context, I would argue that it is largely anachronistic that my students today are writing an exam with pen and paper. After all, the only time in their lives that they will actually do such a thing is in an examination. But I accept, with qualifications, that our institution does not have the resources or confidence to administer the kind of networked examination that I described above.

Worse, in my view, is the professor who says, amidst sexist jokes, that universities should be the same today as they were 60 years ago.

But what I truly cannot stomach, and the reason for my post today, is the recent decision by my department to ban the use of electronic dictionaries from examinations. We only permit paper dictionaries. Let me make this clear: a year ago, electronic dictionaries were allowed. Now they are not. And I'm not talking about smart phones, or iPads, or something with an internet connection, but a technology that I would consider two generations out of date (electronic dictionaries to PDAs to smart phones). Why? Because some of my colleagues, by their own admission, are unable to tell the difference between an electronic dictionary and a smart phone, and are unable to tell whether the student using one might have an internet connection and be cheating; and because these same colleagues think that, because you can find words more quickly using an electronic dictionary, it gives the student an unfair advantage over those who don't have one.

These 'arguments' are so vacuous that I refuse to dignify them with a direct response. I do not expect everyone to be as much of a geek as I am, but people whose job it is to offer instruction to the youth of today should have a basic level of technological competence and understanding. Without that, how can you possibly stand in front of a classroom and offer your students relevant instruction in an appropriate manner?

Though it may seem harsh, I simply cannot believe that anyone with such an attitude has the right to call themselves a 'teacher'.

26 August 2011

Scaremongering

Today's Bild headline: 'Wasp swarm: how to protect yourself from stings.' Odd, I haven't seen a single wasp this year. Maybe they're all hiding behind that cloud, waiting to launch a precision strike?

05 June 2011

Gratuitous Censorship, or Why the German Censors should be Censored.

gratuitous (adjective): uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted [OED]

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied Powers (naturally enough) eliminated Nazi ideology from Germany's educational curriculum. But they went a step further: in 1949, the constitution of West Germany divided educational authority between the various federal states, to all intents and purposes abandoning a centralised system. The rationale behind this was to ensure that, should an objectionable party rise to national power again, it would be much harder for it to indoctrinate school children.

This devolution of educational responsibility has led to any number of problems for the German school system, not least that some states do not recognise the qualifications of others (meaning that, for example, someone who has trained as a teacher in one state may have to go back to university if they wish to teach in another). But for the purposes of this post that is beside the point. What's important is this: that in the matter of education, one group of elected officials acts a buffer to the potential excesses of another group of elected officials. Effectively a system of checks and balances, the constitution does not trust elected politicians to act in the best interests of the people.

So why is it that unelected German censors are able, without any opposition whatsoever, to dictate what is appropriate for me to see?

German censorship was always a bit idiosyncratic. As if uncomfortable with the farcical association of the erotic and the macabre, Woody Allen's 1975 film Love and Death had its title changed to The Last Night of Boris Gruschenko. Perhaps for a similar reason, Peter Jackson's 1996 film The Frighteners was awarded an 18 age rating in Germany, in contrast to its 15 in Britain (that's really the only reason I can think of here). Most ridiculously, however, is the fact that the 1963 film version of Tom Jones is still rated an 18. It is, and as far as I know always has been, a PG in Britain. The mind boggles.

But the German censors are having a field day with computer games. And no, I'm not just talking about highly controversial games like Postal or Grand Theft Auto. No. I'm talking about Portal. [Spoilers follow]

Portal

If you're not aware what Portal is about, I'd advise reading the wikipedia article I linked to, or picking it up on Steam for €9. In short, it's a physics based puzzle game in which you have to escape from an experimental complex run by a rogue AI. The player acquires a 'portal gun' which may be fired at two surfaces (floors, ceilings, and so on) in a room, thus creating an 'entrance' and an 'exit' and letting you reach otherwise unattainable areas. Falling through a portal allows the player to gather momentum and so 'throw' yourself across greater distances. The graphic on the right (taken from wikipedia) explains this mechanism a bit more.

The point is simply that this is what the game is about. It isn't about shooting old ladies or dismembering aliens. It isn't about stealing cars or fuelling gang warfare. It's a extremely well-scripted and inventive game which demands some actual thought to complete. To be sure, we're not talking about the puzzle complexity of Riven or the Rhem series, but Portal succeeds because it gradually introduces the player to a few simple mechanics and challenges him or her to combine them in interesting ways.

But surely, for it to fall foul of German censorship, there must be some of the more stereotypically gratuitous elements of computer games involved? Well, there aren't. There is no nudity or swearing. The player does not have access to a weapon of any kind; to defeat enemy gun turrets (which crop up on only a handful of levels) the player must knock them over by, for example, opening a portal underneath them. The rocket launchers encountered on the last level are indestructible, but can but used to destroy obstacles (and the final boss) by forcing them to fire through portals.

So, if there is no nudity, no swearing, and no actual violence in the game, what exactly was censored?

Well, there's some blood on the walls, as can be seen in the image below:

portal03.jpg

And here is what the censored version looks like: (both images taken from schnittberichte.com)

portal02xx.jpg

Now, I played through Portal yesterday before being aware of the extent of the censorship, and you know what? I thought those marks on the walls were mud or dirt. I honestly have no idea how prevalent they are in the game, because I hardly noticed them at all. At one point I found myself in a corridor with what looked like sewage on the floor; I am guessing that it was actually supposed to be blood.

An apologist might ask whether the blood was really necessary. After all, haven't I just been talking about how surprisingly cerebral the game is, especially for such an unexpected hit? The answer is that yes, the blood is necessary. Because there is this thing called narrative.

For example, in that corridor which I thought was covered in sewage, what passed through my mind was, 'Ooh, stinky.' What should have been passing through my mind was, 'Ooh, danger'. Instead of a warning about what might be waiting for me at the end of the corridor (a room full of gun turrets), I thought it an unnecessarily crude environmental detail.

The blood on the wall is the same. As mudstains they are just ambient dirt; as bloodstains they serve to increase tension as you progress through the game. There was meant to be a contrast between the computerised voice promising to reward me with cake at the end of the test, the increasing danger, and the suspicion that not all is as it seems.

As I played, I found myself wondering when the 'story' would begin. It already had; but as the game designers had chosen to give visual hints, and because many of these hints were subsequently gutted by the censors, I didn't notice. All I saw was mud.

The irony of this whole situation is that the proponents of censorship, who would claim that computer games are just exercises in sleazy violence and sex, are cutting off the nose to spite the face. Portal is exactly the kind of game which they seem to think doesn't exist: a clever, inventive game in which there is little or no objectionable content, and yet became extremely successful. Yes, there is some blood; but it is used as a narrative device rather than as a gratuitous gimmick. Rather than neutering Portal, the censors should have used it as proof that they are not opposed to computer games in general, but only those mired in excess.

They could even have acknowledged it as having educational value, not only in the problem solving skills, but also as an illustration of there idea of 'Show, don't tell'. They could have used it to help young players to be able to recognise precisely when a game—or a film, or a song, or a book—is being gratuitous, and when it is not.

Of course, that would never happen. Computer games are the but the latest scapegoat of the narrow-minded. When it was published in 1749, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones was blamed for a number of earthquakes (which helps to put Boobquake in context). We don't blame books anymore; Charlotte Roche's Feuchtgebiete was the best selling novel in the world in March 2008, and few people even batted an eyelid. In the 1950's, Elvis was condemned for his 'black' music and 'erotic' hip gyrations; today, few people care about the pseudo soft-porn videos which usually accompany the 'songs' of the latest pop starlet. But some blood in a computer game? Too much, too much.

In the end, it would be easy to conclude that 'dumb censorship is dumb'. Yet I feel the issue goes deeper than that. Though computer games were blamed for the Erfurt massacre in 2002, the educational system of Thuringia left the perpetrator with few job prospects. The educational structure is broken in part because of the distrust of elected officials, and a constitutional safety measure to prevent them from imposing an ideological agenda. But that is exactly what these censors are doing to the population of Germany. They have decided what is good, and what is proper, and what we are allowed to see, and what we are not. By what right do they make these judgements? On whose authority? They were not elected, and they are not answerable to the public. The system does not trust publically-elected officials to do their jobs without prejudice; so why should the system allow those who are not even elected to be beyond question?

The gratuitous censors, I think, are the ones who need to be censored.

22 May 2011

Journalism in Der Spiegel #2: The apocalypse in anime and manga

The second of two articles lambasting journalism in Der Spiegel.
__________

While we're on the subject of poor journalism from Der Spiegel, I'd like to point to this recent article, published in the wake of the March 11 earthquake Japan. The basic idea here is that things like anime and manga, for all their weirdness to Western audiences, have now proven themselves to be a prediction of the future.

Let's take a look at what the article has to say about this picture, which it gives (my translation) the title Tsunami-Victim in Natori: As if lifted from a manga:

There is a photograph that a photographer took after the earthquake in the town of Natori. Before the earthquake some 70,000 people lived there; today the town has been reduced to rubble. In the picture, a girl cowers at the side of a road. She's perhaps 20 years old; hair dyed red, wearing a black jacket and hugging her naked legs, it looks as if the girl is freezing and she herself is the only thing she has left to hold on to. Next to her are a pair of wine-red Wellington boots, behind her the remains of civilization. As if Godzilla had trampled through the town.

To me, this is dreadful in several ways.

First of all, in an article which claims to be about the artificially of culture, the only way it seems able to view the suffering of this girl is through the lens of popular entertainment. Saying that it looks like something out of a comic book does not suggest much empathy.

Secondly, I'm quite sure that the photo looks the way it does because of that. The photographer, or editor, wanted to create an image which made you think of manga / anime. In that sense, the fault is not entirely with Der Spiegel, although they should have noticed the implicit manipulation.

But more importantly, the argument that Japanese popular culture is a prediction of such disasters is, to put it midly, completely arse-about-face. Yes, the geographical situation of Japan leaves it particularly susceptible to natural disasters, and the Japanese have always been aware of the fragility of their existence. But those recurring images of destruction in anime and manga? They're about something far more specific that has already happened.

Yes, you've guessed it: the two atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the USA at the end of the Second World War. Such manga, anime, and movies like Godzilla are not haunted by destruction because of an apocalypse that might happen, but because of the apocalypse that already has.

I find it completely unfathomable that the author of the Spiegel article does not feel it necessary to mention this: the bombs are mentioned in passing, almost like inconvenient details which to not fit into the argument of the article. To be sure, some (recent) manga and anime do specifically predict what might happen in the event of an big earthquake in Japan, such as Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 or 51 Ways to Save Her. But these are really the exceptions; works like Akira , NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind, and Neon Genesis Evangelion are far more representative, and in all of those the apocalypse has already happened. Talk about a hint.

This should be so obvious that it doesn't need pointing out. Yet despite discussing NausicaƤ, it still doesn't occur to the author of the Spiegel article. But perhaps it explains why they find Japanese culture quite so weird.

Journalism in Der Spiegel #1: The school teacher in Penthouse

The first of two articles complaining about journalistic standards in Der Spiegel.

__________

This week, the German weekly Der Spiegel published an article entitled 'Not fit for school: Why a teacher is fighting for her right to undress' (my translation). Unfortunately, it isn't available on the Spiegel website, so I can't provide a link; the week before did contain a summary of the news, without commentary.

The story is this: Rachel Whitwell, a New Zealand school teacher, and girlfriend of one of the country's biggest porn kings, decided to pose nude in the Australian edition of Penthouse. The New Zealand educational authority found out, decided to investigate, and ultimately revoked her license to teach. The original photos caused a minor scandal two years ago; then she posed again a year later; and the educational authority's recent verdict is now causing a much bigger scandal. As the title of the Spiegel article indicates, it isn't really about a teacher who strips before the camera, it's about one woman's fight for freedom.

Or not. Der Spiegel goes out of its way to tell us a story about a young woman who wants to be a good mother and spend more time with her daughter, so decides to supplement her teaching job with better-paying nude modelling. Which is such a shame, as she's clearly an exemplary teacher:

She taught five and six year-old children from socially disadvantaged families. She taught them reading, writing and arithmetic, and tried to encourage them. She says she wanted to bring them up to be free thinkers.

As a teacher myself, I'm not convinced that's such a big deal. She taught the kids The Three R's. She did her job. Incredible.

Worse, Spiegel seems to have got its facts wrong concerning the original motivation for her to strip. Just to prove how lame Der Spiegel's research is in this article, here's how I found out.

The summary article I linked to above refers to a publication called the 'Sunday Times', in which the Ms Whitwell said she saw no reason why posing nude should affect her job as a teacher. Curious about what such an august publication as that had to say about this topic, I googled 'Sunday Times Rachel Whitwell'. In fact, the publication is actually called the Sunday Star Times and refers to itself as 'Sunday News' (article here). Excellent use of sources, Spiegel. Anyway, right above the google link to that article is another from the New Zealand Daily Telegraph in 2009 which contains a little more information from around the time of the original photo shoot. And it turns out that she originally posed nude, not spend time with her daughter, but to get back at her pornographer boyfriend. Half his age, she had decided to test him by anonymously flirting with him on facebook; he organised a rendezvous; she confronted him and sent the photos to Penthouse in revenge.

See any mention of the caring mother in there? Nor me. Sounds more like a retcon.

The latest Spiegel article also fails to mention, as the summary one admittedly does, that Ms Whitwell had previously had erotic stories published in adult magazines, and has her own table-dance studio. I suppose such omissions are understandable when you're trying to make the case for a struggling single mother who accidentally becomes embroiled in a fight for truth. Oh wait, that was Erin Brockovich.

Indeed, the Spiegel article reads as if its attempting to answer the call of another article by the Sunday Star Times which bemoans that, with regard to this case, no feminists are coming forward to demand that a woman's body is her own. Let's think for a moment why that might be.

First of all, no one has said that she isn't allowed to strip before the camera if she wants. She's not being prohibited from posing in Penthouse. The NZ education authority has just decided that she's not allowed to do that and teach children. That may or may not have to do with the conservatism of the authority; but given the erotic stories, the table-dancing, the pornographer boyfriend, and then the photos and subsequent interviews, you can't exactly say that she's making it easy for them to be open-minded. Challenging them at every opportunity, more like.

Secondly, Ms Whitwell hardly went out of her way to be anonymous. Claiming, as she does here, that she had no idea that anyone in New Zealand would see the original photos is naive beyond belief. There's this thing called the internet, see? And Australia? It happens to be this huge mass of land not far (relatively speaking) from New Zealand. Penthouse? That's hardly an obscure magazine. And actually posing as a teacher in the photos and on the cover of the magazine? Very tasteful.

Thirdly, this isn't about women's rights, because a male teacher would be treated no differently, and probably worse. Indeed, that fact that Ms Whitwell is a woman probably made the whole posing in Penthouse thing more acceptable, despite the authority's verdict. I'm quite sure they would have come down on a male teacher posing in Penthouse like a tonne of bricks, and I can easily imagine suspicions of paedophilia flying around too.

Finally, the key question, and one which Spiegel conspicuously fails to ask, is whether you would want such a woman (or man) teaching your children. For most people, the answer is surely, 'No'. Spiegel almost suggests that this is hypocrisy, since no-one bats an eyelid about a fireman posing in a nude calendar. But firemen and women aren't responsible for children in the same way that a teacher is. And as I said before, Ms Whitwell hasn't exactly been discreet about this whole issue.

What I'm really getting at, though, is Spiegel's botched attempt to make this about freedom and women's rights. It isn't at all: it's about responsibility. If Ms Whitwell wants to pose nude, let her. But she should take responsibility for the consequences. If she taught at a university, she would have to deal with students and teachers who are capable of googling her name; if she worked in an office, she'd have to deal with colleagues and customers who do so; as a primary school teacher, she has to deal with parents. That's part and parcel of the choice she made by posing nude in the first place.

The women's rights movement was always about choice and equality: the right to choose the same things as men. It was never about freedom to do anything you want without concern for the consequences. That's a form of anarchy. The fact that Spiegel, which is supposed to be 'good' journalism, can't tell the difference, is disappointing.