Newspaper Anaesthesia

24 05 2009

I don’t usually know what to expect from the local newspapers.  The general consensus among everyone seems to be that they are not worth the read, particularly due to their bias, lack of understanding and that naughty little habit of standing up to demand from the powers that be some new element of a fascist police state.  Yet, even with this in mind, I persisted in performing the same ritual as thousands of other South Australian’s on a Sunday morning and cracked open the Sunday Mail.

Somewhere between the articles concerning truancy, which made the front page, calls for the police to saturate Hindley street and a badly written editorial towards the end that lamented the rise of video games with a sort of ‘back-in-my-day’ feel (written by someone who could not have been more than 20).

The two pieces devoted to truancy alone completely missed the point.  I have high standards, I admit, but the grasp of the fundamental issue by each article’s author was non-existent.  I like a little more from my newspapers than the logic behind, ‘kids missing school is bad, we need the strong arm of the law to deal with it, or create some statutory mechanism to punish truants by making it more difficult to get a license’.  Of course this all sounds well and good, with the obvious fact that it’s completely wrong.  The reason for most truancy, is that the current formulation of ‘school’, is a prison.  Where else in the world must a person be forced to spend their time in a place where the routine is dictated to them from on high, where they must ask permission to do so much as piss and where guards with dogs and guns patrol the perimeter.  Perhaps it can simply be said that so many kids of high school age are truants because they don’t want to be there.  Even the teachers, many of whom are intelligent, bright people and actually give a damn about these kids, often don’t want to be at school and must not only put up with a similar domination by the powers that be, but are themselves forced to run their classes like a concentration camp.  In many cases, that fact that many kids don’t want to be there impacts negatively on the kids that do, leading to all the bullying problems, and even, the problems our society is facing in regards to teen drinking.

But, the argument goes, that education is a right and the kids are missing out on the prospects for better employment or higher education and so on and so forth.  The problem here arises where a right is something that an individual may or may not choose to exercise.  A child not attending school isn’t the violation of that right, so long as the opportunity is there.  As for the whole ‘jeopardising’ the child’s prospects, it is in my experience and the experience of others who I talked to that kids who do not want to be in school, generally aren’t looking to be a astro-physicist, let alone want to spend another 3 years of their lives in university.

As for younger children, primary schooling becomes more a case of baby-sitting.  Experts will often say this time of a child’s life is critical and that they need schooling and so on.  But in the end primary school achieves nothing.  Children from the ages of 5-9 are taught to colour inside the lines and make pretty creations out of paper, card and so on.  The thing about primary school is that it’s about socialising with others and learning the basics of reading, writing and math.  Unfortunately, it’s not like kids miss much when they don’t attend.

There also leaves something to be desired when a writer demands that statutory offences be applied to truants; it stands to reason that if you want to help them avoid a life of crime, it doesn’t help to introduce them to the criminal justice system for ‘wagging’ school at 12.

After truancy, came a massive article discussing the need for more police on Hindley street to curb the violence or whatever.   Now, it’s been said before and it needs to be said again, Hindley street is the only street in Adelaide with real character; there are people there from all walks of life come to frolic and on occasion, vomit.  The street has its nay-sayers that love to point out all that bad that is frequent there, but as in the words of comedian Dylan Moran, ‘so is everything else, including sex, coffee and conversation.’  Still, the nay-sayers go on and, in their mind, the only solution to the decadence of Hindley street is to saturate the place with police in a manner truly reminiscent of Singapore.  Unfortunately, the downside to this isn’t mentioned; that if there isn’t stuff going on to arrest people for and there a whole bunch of paid, bored police, saturating Hindley street, stuff gets created… once again, reminiscent of Singapore.  Just without the bribes.

While it may be better of me to avoid bringing attention to the small editorial towards back of the ‘news’ section of the paper, I’m going to do so anyway.  On principle.  The piece, as I said earlier, is the poorly written opinion of someone in their 20’s getting a head start on the nostalgia that plagues the elderly, conservative mindset — the kind of people that propose national service as a solution to all the country’s problems.  Basically, ‘video games are bad’ is the battle cry and the author laments the decline in plastic lego blocks and Barbie dolls, even though I suppose the author is ‘concerned’ about global warming and a reduction in lego blocks and Barbie dolls might does the planets ecology a little good, what with all that oil be used to create little plastic blocks and unrealistic representations of woman-hood.  There was also included a comment made by a researcher at Adelaide university claiming that video games do not stimulate the imagination; and he would be right save for the existence of entire genres of games designed, specifically, to stimulate the player’s imagination such as RPG’s, Simulations (Sims2 and Life, for example, as well as the entire Sid Meier portfolio) and even those dastardly strategy games.  Don’t even get me started on how playing video games has lead many people into programming or anohter area of the IT industry, where they have to be creative problems solvers.

So we come to our conclusion and my justification for spending 935 or so words ranting about the quality of material in a newspaper.  My reason is because these are the people who have control over what is discussed over coffee at breakfast tables and in cafes, but more importantly, the scope of that conversation.  It is all too often portrayed that the only solution to our problems lies in the hands of the state, to be paid for by sacrificing what liberty we have for greater restrictions — a process which will only end moments before we realise we have hung ourselves from the rafters with the red tape we demanded.

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3 responses

28 05 2009
littlehorn

Hi. It’s funny that you would talk about this just now. We got a similar ‘controversy’ with the usual ‘solution’, that you have described. I think I want to react to this though:
As for younger children, primary schooling becomes more a case of baby-sitting. Experts will often say this time of a child’s life is critical and that they need schooling and so on. But in the end primary school achieves nothing. Children from the ages of 5-9 are taught to colour inside the lines and make pretty creations out of paper, card and so on. The thing about primary school is that it’s about socialising with others and learning the basics of reading, writing and math. Unfortunately, it’s not like kids miss much when they don’t attend.
I don’t think so. Reading, writing and maths are not ‘nothing much’, at all. And it does plague you a lot if you don’t get that done, for the future. How could it make you feel that, when you’re 10, you’re one of those who can’t read ? I think it’d be terrible. But I suppose you could learn all that from your parents anyway. I just wanted to make this small comment. Have a nice day. Night, if sky is overcrowded with police in combat gear.

28 05 2009
littlehorn

*We -> in France.*

28 05 2009
Royce Christian

First I’d just like to say thanks for taking the time to read my blog and leaving a comment.

“I don’t think so. Reading, writing and maths are not ‘nothing much’, at all. And it does plague you a lot if you don’t get that done, for the future. How could it make you feel that, when you’re 10, you’re one of those who can’t read ? I think it’d be terrible. But I suppose you could learn all that from your parents anyway.”

You’re absolutely right, I totally agree. But the problem is the way primary school education is organised here in Australia. We have thousands of young children forced to sit in a defined area for the majority of their day, a lot of which is unnecessary. Whether it’s giving young children homework or wasting their time in a place where they’re forced to come to (for instance, I wonder how much of the day is given over to making sure that each child is sitting in utter silence?) a lot of how primary school is organised proves to be a waste of time, not to mention that fast learners are often held back at the same pace as the rest of the class, or the rest of the class is ignored for the fast learners. You can certainly understand why many young children act up, or don’t want to be at school. It also needs to be considered that this then sets the tone for further education.

Please don’t think I am trying to blame the teachers in these schools either, many of them do their best with little resources and little sympathy from parents and government departments.

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