One of the Nats’ minor propaganda lines at the last election was drumming up hysteria about crime, particularly youth crime. John Key said they would “act now to defuse these unexploded human time-bombs, who are on the fast-track to Paremoremo”. It was mostly just rhetoric, and Key’s favoured solution of boot camps are having no effect. Instead, what we are seeing under Key’s government is an escalation of violence at an even earlier age, violence committed by children:
Crime shock: NZ’s little thugs
Criminal assaults by children of primary school age soared last year, and police were called to more than one case a week. Crime statistics show the number of children under 9 apprehended for assaults last year was 64, almost double the 33 recorded in 2009. … There were also more assaults in the 10-13 age group – there were 827 apprehensions last year, against 770 in 2009.
Houston, we have a problem. So what’s going on?
Psychologist Sara Chatwin said it was clear that exposure to violent television programmes led to more aggressive and violent behaviour in children. “More and more, we’re seeing this kind of stuff on the screens and children and young people have more access to it. A large percentage of this behaviour is copycat stuff.”
Yes, TV violence is a factor in the big picture, but it doesn’t explain a sudden increase last year.
Ms Chatwin said another reason children were more readily committing assaults was a breakdown in parental control. “Families under stress, parents under stress, parents working hard to feed their families, not having enough time to put into discipline, and kids being left to their own devices.”
That seems more likely. Families have certainly been under stress lately, and will be more and more so as National keeps hacking away at early childhood education, and punishing those at the bottom of the economic heap with ever increasing prices, GST increases, derisory increases in the minimum wage, anti-worker employment law and the like. Children are the canaries in the coal mine. When life gets tough for families, all too often it is the children that suffer first.
John Key doesn’t like to look bad. In particular, he needs the illusion that everything is just smile and wave fine in NZ to hold until the November election. Probably aware of these stats on child crime, he has used a couple of high profile cases of brutal bullying incidents to call for schools to crack down. Trouble is, Key wasn’t telling schools anything they didn’t already know, and weren’t already acting vigilantly on. Consequently, Key’s useless posturing didn’t go down too well:
Backlash at Key’s instructions on bullying
Prime Minister John Key’s order to schools to stamp out bullying has been slammed by parents and experts as a publicity stunt. One educational psychologist labelled his response an act of bullying itself. …
“The government modelled one of the most brazen acts of bullying I have witnessed outside of the schoolyard. Prime Minister John Key ordered boards of trustees and principals to be reminded of their responsibilities, threatening to bring the wrath of ERO on them if they do not act appropriately.
“Instead of asking what additional resources were needed to handle the issue or consulting with schools and families about why [current initiatives] are not being effective with bullying, they engaged in the same blame and shame policy they’re asking schools to use with families.”
While trying to push the blame on to school boards the Nats are, as per clueless usual, actually working to make the problem worse. Not only by the big picture economic attack on the poor, but with specific bungling such as cuts to early childhood education, and cuts to family violence funding.
Expect to see this problem getting worse. Expect to see John Key looking for new ways to try and pass the blame…