Is New Zealand on a precipice? It seems that in Britain and New Zealand, adults are developing an adversarial relationship with teenagers. There's a very different set of ethics about child rearing in New Zealand than there are in the usa. In the usa, there was a very powerful movement among childcare workers after they had been lectured time and time again by Fred Rogers as he sought to reach out to children with his television show "Mr Roger's Neighborhood" in the 1970s. Early childhood educators developed a whole framework of scientific research and models around their work. And they taught these things to those seeking to get associate of arts degrees for being a nanny or being a daycare worker. These teachers, along with elementary teachers, have provided a backbone of advice and wisdom that parents go to when they have questions or concerns about their children.
But it seems to me that in New Zealand, the scholarly models about children which are used in places like the usa are unpalatable to folks. They wouldn't agree that children lack the ability to reason when they are very young. So sentiments in childcare and at schools have taken a very different course in that country. What I see in New Zealand is that they are stuck in the same place the usa was in the 1970s - there is a debate between those people who believe in authoritarian parenting which includes corporal punishment, and those people who believe in laissez-faire parenting - where the child is not given mentorship, guidance or structure. A word that came up when talking to an aquaintance over there about kids was "respect" - that certainly has a very unique meaning in New Zealand when it comes to how adults relate to children and vice versa. It seems to be a synonym for "detante." Now, I don't have a whole lot of experience when it comes to New Zealand, but these are my first impressions about this one segment of society where I see things that worry me.
What I see in the character of adults in New Zealand is a lot of open affection towards one another - a lot of friendliness and caring. But it seems that children are not offered the same level of graciousness. Of course, I understand that New Zealand would have the same problem we see elsewhere in the Western world where there is an impediment when it comes to adult males showing affection to children and doting over them. People tend to misconstrue adult male expressions of affection towards children. And this prevents boys when they are growing up from learning how to bond with members of their own gender.
Recently, I've been hearing about the problem of what they call "boy racers" in New Zealand - something we haven't seen in the usa since the 1950s - where teenagers will invite their friends over for a drag race on the public streets of a town. It seems like many new zealand teens are growing up with a chip on their shoulder. Now this is a really bad sign - because these are the people who are going to be the adult New Zealanders of tomorrow.
I'm in my late thirties now, and I've always been curious about what would happen to my generation - those of us who were raised in the 1970s in the usa. We were the Sesame Street generation. And now that we are coming into our own, I see that we aren't much different from how we were as kids. The internet and the blogosphere shows how we have a fascination for negative topics, but we are bemused by them as well, and we don't quite know what to think. Our attitudes and our approaches to life were obviously formed when we were children. I think that New Zealand is headed towards rough times because the crop of kids which they are raising seem to be growing up with some really bad attitudes. So we'll see a change in New Zealand society. It will cease to be gentle-spirited, and affectionate - and will become more hard edged, with people being more mistrustful of their neighbors.
The tragic thing about this kind of societal change is that it's hard to see when it's happening. One is immersed in these societal changes to such a degree that people have a hard time putting their finger on what is changing in society, and how that is occurring. It's very easy to point to a transitory event like a war, or a problem in the banking industry, and come up with an approach for dealing with these problems. But when there's a systemic change in the attitude of people in a society it's harder for people to think clearly about the problem, and harder for them to act decisively to pave a way for a better future for their society.
I could be wrong about this whole thing. One of my aquaintances in New Zealand says that the independence that teens are given in New Zealand makes them more responsible adults. But then others will say that kids are different today than they were a decade or two ago. Anyway, this essay represents my best judgement on the situation at the moment. I would hope that there would be some movement of educators in New Zealand who come together and work to create standards for their own group, as they go out into the world and act as New Zealand's childcare providers. This is the solution that would work, to make certain that each generation of children gets the care and love and attention that it needs - and that the children are facilitated in the proper manner so that they can achieve their own personal aspirations.