A guest post by Ben Nettleton:
My Grandmother was a very wise woman, one of her memorable remarks when reflecting on 80 odd years was “never judge the present generation by your own standards, you don’t know the challenges and difficulties they face”.
I was reflecting on that remark against the recent publicity over Wellington College Students. Watching the frenzy build, listening to John Campbell on Checkpoint stoking the fire with sanctimonious indignation. Listening to the School Principal outline carefully rehearsed public relations influenced statements.
It is sadly becoming all too common; indeed, these are almost a weekly occurrence. We have the online world to thank. Once upon a time the social justice warriors could be filtered by newspaper’s editorial departments, restricted to once a month, or just filed in the rubbish bin. Now they roam wild and free, a cause just looking for a problem. Primed to scream the house down upon discovering anything that offends their view of how the world should be, regardless of whether it is merely silly teenage bravado.
To be clear (assuming the relevant warriors have managed to read this far without popping a blood vessel) I am not condoning what said the students concerned said, they were stupid and they didn’t think, and I am certain they will learn from the experience. But that is my point the teenage years are formative they are when you learn a lot of life lessons, such as if you drink 4 cruisers in 20 minutes you’re going to throw up or that the girl you imagined was your one and only true love probably isn’t and the world may not end after all and countless other things.
I was at University around a decade or so ago, High School a bit before, we had MSN messenger usually on dial up. It had its problems but they are nothing on what teenagers are encountering today through the rapid rise and develop of numerous social media platforms. Recently on Dunedin News Facebook page a lynch mob of 200 plus formed based on a video being posted of a Kings High School student yelling dumb things at a Queens High School girl, we didn’t have the context of the video, what preceded it or what happened after, but this is not the type of detail the online community cares to concern itself with, they are usually far too busy constructing the gallows, the Otago Daily Times joining in to boot.
If we think hard enough I think we can all remember the challenges we faced in our teenage years, they are called growing pains for a reason. All too often baby boomers remark to me “thank goodness they didn’t have social media in my day”. In a previous capacity as a school board of trustee’s member I sat on numerous board discipline committees, it used to frustrate the hell out of me, having a student in front of me who had been bounced up to us for something horrendous, and the best explanation they managed to come up with is “I don’t know why I did it”. A retired School Principal gave me some good insight pointing out when they tell you they don’t know, they are being honest, they don’t always know why they do things, they’re brains are still wiring up, science suggests this can take till 25.
In our rush to condemn we are all too quick to forget our own misdemeanors at that age. The behavior needs dealt with and schools and parents are well resourced to do that. A media feeding frenzy adds nothing. As my young brother, (somewhat closer to the demographic) said to me “if schools are going to hold a special assembly every time some teenage guy says some stupid shit on Facebook, they are not going to get much done”.
So, knowing that teenagers make bad decisions, impulsive decisions, why an earth is appropriate to summon the rabble and have such a public tarring and feathering session. Yes, some media don’t identify names but New Zealand is a small place and it is unlikely to have anything other than token effect.
It is my great fear (as overseas evidence would appear to suggest) it is only a matter of time before his type of unethical reporting results in a tragedy. For the doctrinal social justice warriors, the means will no doubt justify the ends. However, given our media will no doubt be wringing their hands upon such an event, perhaps they could pause to consider on how their actions contribute.
A very good post.