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Countering the race to the bottom 

My godmother relayed this story today. She took her 11-year-old granddaughter to a restaurant, which shall remain nameless, in , . Her granddaughter typically orders a raspberry and lemonade. The drink came, and it was a funny colour. She took a sip and said it had a funny taste. Her grandmother confirmed that—and that it was brandy and lemonade.
   When my godmother went to enquire with the waitress, she was told that they did not have raspberry and that the boss asked that customers be given something better.
   But serving to an 11-year-old?
   The only thing the waitress said was the restaurant would not be charging for the drink.
   My godmother, who is particularly well connected, could have had the place’s liquor licence revoked.
   I will be keeping in mind the restaurant’s name and not go there. And it is lucky that we don’t have big mouths.
   It’s not as internationally significant as the time shook hands with , which I am discussing with Kate at her blog, but it comes close to sheer stupidity.
   And people wonder why some jobs are being to India and Pakistan.
   If we don’t sort out our standards, then we are setting ourselves up to be a low-skilled country. But we can’t then compete with the factories of Asia, unless we join the “race to the bottom” (click here for an opposing view).
   Our only option is to strengthen education, so as not to lose the technological advantage young people have today. That will lead to more minds, and greater success for tomorrow’s .
   However, for the time being, we might just have to complain when 11-year-olds are given brandy. If young people are not being taught at school, they may as well learn it from those of us who have to pick up the pieces in the community.
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I agree with you that education needs to be strengthened in that we need to make sure our schools are teaching students sound skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Unfortunately, some schools are more concerned with either preaching social consciousness or just moving the students along the chain irregardless of whether they deserve to be moved up to the next grade level. In the U.S., the public schools are moving students along, graduating them, and creating a class of people that are totally unemployable.

Concerning your comment about common sense, sadly I think it is increasingly becoming in short supply.  
There does seem to be a “sausage factory” mentality to a lot of modern education. Social consciousness is important, but certainly not at the expense of honour, awareness, and responsibility—and placing skills in that context.
   Ron, you are right: I have yet to find someone here who has sufficient English skills to even do some assisting for my work. Grammar and spelling are so bad that I cannot employ most New Zealanders—but I look enviously at what India and Pakistan are turning out in terms of English competence.  
I agree with you that social consciousness is important BUT it isn't the job of our schools to teach it. Our schools are suppose to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Without skills in those areas, all your social consciousness is worthless job wise. New Zealand is very socially conscious but, as you pointed out, it is clearly lagging when it comes to the teaching of basic skills such as English.

In regards to honor, awareness, and responsibility, I disagree with you. I feel it is the job of a child's parents to teach those things. It shouldn't be the job of our schools to teach our children morality.  
In normal circumstances I totally agree that many of these lessons are down to families. It was for me, and most people I grew up with, so the schools got on with teaching the three Rs. But the reality is dire in 2006, 40-plus years since JFK: parents themselves who lack all notion of these concepts, and think the TV is the way to raise their kids. Family units are broken, in both our countries, and in much of the English-speaking western world.
   While I normally would dislike having the state involved in teaching responsibility, I am not sure if we have a realistic choice.  
I agree with you that there are increasingly broken families in our respective countries. Also, parents are increasingly using the tv as the preferred babysitter. The tv with its unrealistic expectations (We can have it all) and its distorted view of society (sex and violence) is the last thing we need our children watching.

In regards to our schools, I would suggest that one of the reasons our schools are failing is because they're having to take on so many of the responsibilities of the parents.

In regards to the state teaching our children morals, I fear that opens the door to indoctrination. I don't know about New Zealand but I do know that U.S. colleges are rife with leftists and those that actually hate the U.S. (remember the professor in Arizona who said that the U.S. actually deserved what happened on 9/11) Yale is allowing a former Taliban (one of the most repressive regimes the world has seen in some time) official to teach on its campus! You can imagine what kind of morality and world view these institutions are teaching to our kids.  
My worry is that there does not seem to be another place where morals can be taught, unless we do something to keep families together—but we may have gone down the wrong path there for too long. Take my courtship for example: already I get cheeky comments like, ‘When you visit Auckland [where Brigid lives], you don’t have to pay for accommodation any more.’ I have to make it quite clear that a proper courtship does not involve hopping into bed with someone only a month or so after meeting them. They look at me like a freak—because I have values and because I want to conduct a relationship at a pace that we are both comfortable with.
   I agree that the influences at many of our educational institutions are wrong for our young people. And that has been happening for a long time, too: some more powerful governments come in to a university and fire all the lecturers with an opposing view.
   We need, then, a third way?  
Serving brandy to an 11 year old! How mind bogglingly stupid.

"We need, then, a third way?"

Yes, we do. Something that takes the good parts of the 'old way' and combines it with the good in modern society. As I said in my comment to you on my blog, people need to understand that with rights come responsibility. Otherwise we just live in a selfish society where everyone feels they can do as they like. This is something parents should be teaching their children. I have brought mine up to be polite, to respect other people, to work hard etc. It's not difficult to do, but far too many parents find it impossible, they delegate responsibility to teachers, then cast around for someone to blame when their offspring go off the rails.

Personally, I would like to see the moral and emotional aspects of childcare introduced in ante-natal classes. It's all very well teaching people how to change nappies - the instructions are on the wrapper so it's not hard to figure out. What a lot of people need to learn is how to bring up responsible, well adjusted adults.

"I have to make it quite clear that a proper courtship does not involve hopping into bed with someone only a month or so after meeting them."

I agree - Mr Blogs and I took our relationship very slowly. It worked for us, but a surprising number of people thought we were odd.  
Excellent points, Kate. It would be a great idea to get the parents when they are new to the game—some form of instruction, while they are absorbing so much about becoming parents, would be incredibly useful.
   You’ve also hit the main issue on the head: kids these days (and some young adults) think that they have all these rights and no responsibilities. One apartment I use in Auckland is quite comfortable, but for some units where university students (with rich parents bankrolling city apartments) that play music to all hours. The sound travels up, and while I have not been affected, a lot of other tenants have. We would never have kept the music that loud for starters, and certainly would not play it after midnight.
   I don’t think it’s selective memory, either: while we rebelled, I don’t recall us going out of our way to piss people off.
   Ah, good to hear of another normal courtship. Why do people assume that we are the strange ones? These values worked for our parents and grandparents, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that today’s “values” do not work for our generation.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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