A very witty and well-written article from John Hartevelt in the Dompost yesterday that exposes some of the weird stuff in National’s current crusade against kids:
Goodness only knows what the girls were smiling about. Perhaps the prime minister’s banana-shaped smile was infectious, but that couldn’t explain the girls fainting.
No sooner had the red-blazered private school students at Lower Hutt’s Chilton Saint James School recovered their poise than John Key was declaring the 15-year-olds among them were not fit to be allowed behind the wheel.
Politically, Key is safe on this but it’s another display of National’s gift of taking a problem and imposing something that isn’t a solution but hurts a lot of people. A contact at the Ministry of Transport tells me that 15 year old drivers have been involved in only a handful of fatal crashes, 1 to 1.5% of the total, in recent years and they’re not all the 15 year old’s fault. But no, National’s solution is to prevent all 15 year olds from driving. Dumb. It’s a carpet-bombing approach to policy when surgerical strikes are possible.
Then he started maligning the 30,000 teenagers who apparently bunk school each day. Then he said it should be easier for employers to get rid of troublesome employees (many of whom would be after-school job teenagers). Then he gave autographs.
This Hartevelt guy’s got a sense of humour 🙂 . No-one geniunely thinks that removing work rights or lowering the minimum wage of youth workers helps them. It’s really about profits and power for employers.
Mr Key’s Government has been pumping the “youth issues” vein all term, but it got a special priming this week. The formula is simple. There is an intrinsic conservative appeal to policies touted as either cracking down on slovenly and/or unruly youth or taking care of vulnerable youth. Neither are particularly welcomed by young people but both are vote-winners with parents.
Take Education Minister Anne Tolley on truancy this week. Only a Tory education minister could turn otherwise nasty figures suggesting 30,000 children are off school each day into a political opportunity. “Really shocking … absolutely outrageous,” Mrs Tolley thundered. The Government would double its funding to fight truancy.
But the measures were all parent and officials-based: text messages to parents; prosecutions for the “worst” parents; and more resources to hunt the darn scamps down. So what if you were a truant child? Probably, if you cared, you would be looking to Mrs Tolley for incentives to go to school. No dice, on this occasion. But then, if you are a truant, you don’t have a vote, so what do you expect?
In fact, politically, this package was not even about the parents of the truants. It was about the tut-tutting parents of children who are not truants parents like those of the girls at Chilton Saint James, where Mr Key opened a new science and technology block on Tuesday. Core constituency. Fundamental, fertile policy ground.
That’s right. We’re not seeing solutions to the problem. We’re seeing policies that will play well in key demographics. It’s government for the sake of being in power, not for creating a ‘brighter future’.
The Government has also sniffed slovenly youth on the taxpayer bill in tertiary education. Mr Joyce evermore the Minister of Everything in his newest portfolio of tertiary education says he is “kicking the tyres” around the student loans scheme. “Are people actually using it the right way?” he asks. “Do they end up at the end of five, six years with a qualification they can use? It’s not good if you end up with a significant debt and not a qualification you can use.”
But the Government is keenly aware that this is not the youth issues free-hit the others are nearly 80 per cent of university students are aged over 20 and half a million grown-ups have a student loan. Expect more of the favoured softly-softly approach in this area.
National’s attitude is that university should just be a production line for dorks with BComs (you know the ones, the ones who wear suits to lectures even though they don’t work) to be cogs in the corporate wheel. They understand the price of everything and the value of nothing. In reality, univerisity needs to get back to providing a wider education so that graduates have the well-rounded knowledge base to be the intellectual backbone of the country.
Fortunately, National can’t afford to anything really stupid like put interest back on loans (which would just mean access to university is even more on the basis of ability to pay, not potential) because a backlash from students and their families would cost them the election.