Sunday, June 12, 2005

The 8am to 6pm school day

Brit Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has raised the idea of matching kids' school hours with adults' work hours. All kids under 14 would be under adult supervision from dawn til dusk, leaving parents secure in the knowledge that their kids aren't glued to the Box or on drugs after school, while they work to feed the government them.

Teachers' Unions are screaming blue murder, saying that resources are already stretched thin. Kelly has countered that teachers will not be compelled to do the work, and that the new services can be contracted out to private and voluntary groups.

This is a great idea for all sorts of reasons, and one that would do wonders for Kiwi Education.

I have always been perplexed by the expectation for parents to slave their arses away at dead-end full-time jobs for at least 40 hours a week, 49 weeks a year and somehow keep the kids occupied in the gaps between school and work hours, as well as school holidays. Not all of us can get picked up in Audis outside the school gates by Trophy Wives and Soccer Moms.

With the limits of knowledge stretching further into the universe, and the complexities of human existence turning ever fractal with each passing generation, it seems sensible to set aside sufficient time to pass on enough skills for children to cope with it all. It is patently obvious that at present we are not doing so.

Mornings are generally a time when kids are at their most attentive and least restless. The first half of the school day could be dedicated to all the tedious necessities of education such as reading, writing and arithmetic. For most teachers, this would be their sum total workload. Optional classes in the afternoon could specialise in smaller classes targeted at the needy and the worthy.

The second half could feature
specialist teaching, extra-curricular activities, field trips, sport, music, art, community help and, for senior students, Civics. These need not be doled out specifically to the private sector. Sports clubs and museums, for example, could provide specialist knowledge and mentoring without the need for corporate buy-ins.

The benefits for the kids is manifold. Classes will not just be a dirge of calculus and Shakespeare. Afternoon options give them something to look forward to, as well as provide opportunities to learn what they enjoy doing and (arguably more important) what they are good at. Hell, it would be a good way to make friends and mingle outside their home class tribe.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Maxine Headroom

Coming to a television near you this September, it's... Maxine Headroom!



Based loosely on NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark, Maxine Headroom is a virtual being who broke her Photoshop programming. Gratuitous Electoral Commission funding brought her to life and now there's no stopping her!*




* unless you turn the TV off.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Licence to drink

Campbell Live had a piece just now on the bid to raise the drinking age back to 20. Part One featured Matt Robson and some other dude (my TV set picks up more cosmic waves than TV3 signal) using the usual buzzwords of 'magic bullet' and 'we're doing it for their safety.' One of them happened to let slip where their brains were aimed; namely "Drinking Licences". Evidentally, alcohol is so incredibly dangerous that people should have to get permission from yet another Kafka-clerk.

I was stunned when no-one laughed out loud on camera. That's one hell of a punchline.

It brought to mind queues of teenagers cramming for their oral drinking test. Perhaps drinking could become another NZQA teriary course. I reckon the Wananga would be keen to teach it. Captain Sensible and Winston P could retire from politics and get tenure coaching Masters students.

But back here on Earth, and if the idea was seriously raised, I hope it gets shat out of the Health select committee from a great height. Back in the Eighteenth Century, Rousseau said "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." Here we are, two centuries on and still welding chains like a piercing fetishist.

Part Two of the Campbell Live story knocked what little stuffing there was in the old geezer's theory by featuring some underage teenagers. Can you get alcohol, even though you're under 18? Well, duh. Have you ever thrown up from drinking? Well, bleugh!! Will raising the limit make a difference?

Opinion was divided on this point. The two guys said no. The girl said no also, but thought it was a good idea anyway. She lost all credibility shortly thereafter by saying she doesn't/can't drink. If there's nothing worse than two hypocrites, it's a wowzer.

For the record, I grew up when 20 was the drinking age. I had my first beer when I was five, the first glass of wine at 8. By the age of fifteen, I drank when I wanted and could afford it, biking to the liquor store after school to pick up some beers. Vodka was for weekends. Coincidentally, it was the same year I first got horrendously smashed.

By 18, me and my mates were off to the pub or nightclubs, knocking back Ouzo and raspberry lemonade like it was cool. Growing up in Palmy, there's fuck all else to do for fun. You made your own fun, and alcohol was a great catalyst.

We picked no fights, we caused no trouble. To my knowledge no-one got pregnant nor was blamed for one. But we still got hammered, trolleyed, spannered, ripped, jiggered, mullacked, trashed, pissed, rat-arsed, toasted, baked, and steamed.

Just like you did when you were a teenager.

Oh yeah, a few do get into trouble. Let's help them if the lessons get too hard and they want help. But don't spoil it for the rest of us. As Tom Waits once noted, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."