Friday, March 27, 2015

The Privilege of Money

The case of the two naughty school boys who broke the law when they rode the baggage carousel at Auckland Airport and breached airport security has irked me no end.

I have been thinking and wondering about it all week - as a parent, as an educator and as a citizen of NZ.  The whole situation smacks of privilege and inequity.  I appreciate there has been a bit written about it - here is my list of my top 5 wonderings and thoughts.

  1. Initially, I thought they were lucky to have only been 'told off' by police and airport security - if this was in the US, they would have been arrested and spent time in jail, which is what happened to Rod Stewarts son when he rode the baggage carousel into a restricted part of the airport at Miami.  
  2. They signed a Code of Conduct (on account of naughty St Bede's school boys the previous year - but that is another story altogether, suffice to say, insert ungracious thoughts of spoilt, undisciplined and entitled privileged school boys without adequate supervision and you get the picture) and that Code of Conduct should have been upheld by the boys and their parents. 
  3. When the school banned the boys from participating in the rowing regatta, the school followed through with their rules and their code of conduct.  This was GOOD role modelling and sent a strong message that inappropriate behaviour was just that - inappropriate and not to be tolerated.  Good for the school.  
  4. However, when the parents of the two boys sought a HIGH court injunction to allow the boys to race and decided that their boys were above the law of the land and the law of the school, that sent a clear message to the school.  That the school rules were 'negotiable' and that the Code of Conduct meant nothing.  They also sent their boys a message that basically they could do what they want and because their parents have money, they would be protected from any inappropriate behaviour.  By doing this, they learnt nothing.  One point for privilege and money, and zilch for role modelling and teaching kids to be good members of society.  What kind of men will they grow into? Ones that 'buy' their way through life?
  5. Then there is the judge.  She heard the case under urgency and over the phone.  She overruled the school and from what I can tell, all because one of the boys had the 'potential' to compete at a higher level and if he was sent home might miss his 'chance'.  I appreciate this is quite simplified, but it is the essence of the argument.  What disturbs me is the precedent it sets.  It suggests that if you have a bit of 'talent' in a sport, you can be forgiven for any unlawful act, and it also implies that schools Codes of Conducts are not worth the ink they are penned in.  Both implications are serious.  I wonder if the Judge considered the ramifications of her actions - and I suspect that to be unlikely because her decision barely had time to be 'informed'.  
I could go on.  

I have read many many comments about this particular situation on social media, some for but most against.  Some people think that the parents did the right thing because 'it was not like it was life or death or anything' and 'it is hardly a big deal, why should a potential career as a rower be ruined'.  I get that, but where does it end?  Breaking the law is breaking the law.  These boys were old enough to know better, and they had agreed to act in accordance to the Code of Conduct.  For me, that is the end of the story.  As a parent, I would have stood by the school and followed through at home.  Talent or not.  What makes it worse, is that the young man that was going and knew it was his last opportunity to get into a world rowing regatta, should have been acting like it mattered.  He would have learnt a very valuable lesson about acting with integrity and responsibility and this in turn, might have been the turning point for his career as a rower at a later date.  He has lost the value of that lesson.  

I guess, at the end of the day, it just worries me that as an Educator, our school Codes are worthless, and that teaching students about values and doing the right thing is pointless if parents use a fancy lawyer to override them.   Top sports people are seen as role models by our young people, they need discipline and they need to act with integrity.  This must apply to our aspiring young top sports people as well.  If they are able to 'bend' the rules to suit themselves then they are not the kind of sports people I want my daughter to aspire to be. 

On a lighter note, if the above has meant nothing and you ever find your own child in a similar situation, then the following infographic might just be what you need.....


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