Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Life at Paremoremo Boys' High

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  • Stephen Judd,

    Argh, the perennial uniform debate.

    My secondary school, Fairfield College in Hamilton, did not have uniform. It wasn't quite as idyllic as the situation Dyan describes -- I remember someone being sent home for wearing the Young Ones tshirt that had the slogan "never mind the Sex Pistols, here's our bollocks", disputes over mohawks and jewellery -- but it was certainly a reasonable environment. If you wanted to wear a zippered, safety-pinned, tornup punk costume, you could. There was bullying, as I suspect there is everywhere, but it never reached the depths I've seen recounted in this thread.

    I do recall a clique of girls who took upon themselves to catalogue and rate people based on what brands of clothing they wore, but I don't doubt that in a uniformed school, they would have found some other way to exercise queen-bee cruelty, and anyway, the punk/alt crowd didn't care about them.

    As it was by 14 or 15 I developed a taste for loud shirts and army surplus and gave not a fig for fashion, and found this cheap and satisfying. One guy a year ahead of me earned great fame for his purple suit (I think his mum helped him sew it). I remember another winklepickered dandy (it was the 80s) bemoaning that fact that girls had all the best shoes... and he was liked and respected.

    My daughter's primary school had a uniform. It was a pain in the arse. We were always running out of clean uniform clothes. The uniform was not a nice colour, and the quality of the manufacture left much to be desired. I would far have preferred mufti. I personally regard uniform as a relic of imperial militarism that we should be shot of. I reckon it causes more strife than it prevents.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    I've just spent the best part of an hour reading every post here, it is a little disturbing how many people recall regular and indiscriminant violence at their school.

    By comparison with David's and others' experience, my secondary schooling was pretty bloody fantastic really - despite being a decile 1 school, despite being in Mangere East and even despite a fair bit of violence. I also remember the dawn raids; particularly in about 1982 when lots of kids at my school experienced them first hand.

    I'm wrapped to see my school's done well academically, it always did well in sports, and that my brother's one of the illustrious alums.

    I'll indulge one gripe however, the Deputy Principal, now deceased I understand, Lawrence Kliensmith (I think) was a sadistic wanker. I had the pleasure of declaring I'd be precisely like my brother was when he confronted me on my second day. Other than him, however I'd say almost all the teachers were professional, passionate and enlightened, particularly for their times. The principal, Br Pat Lynch, remains a role model to me.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I was about to chip in further on the uniform debate, but then Stephen made most of my points. The only I'd add was that at Fairfield my clique at least had a defacto uniform - jeans and a tee-shirt, preferrably Iron Maiden, or Floyd. Most of the other cliques had their own dress code - the surfies, the bogans, the punks, etc.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Paul Williams - wrapped = rapt or what?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Islander: "rapt", thanks - my school's academic performance is unencumbered by my own unreliable capacity.

    And I truly am.

    This is a school with incredibly high numbers of kids who's first language is not English - many families are in fact relatively new to NZ. I'm enormously proud to be an oldboy.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    __ In my day it was mostly the 7th formers who noticed the petty infringements and dished out the correctives (taking out the hair tie/pulling up your socks/going to their common room at lunch to clean your shoes/etc).__

    Well here's the origins of your toxic hierarchy. In my country it would have been considered very peremptory and bullying to even express and negative opinion about another person's appearance, let alone presume they had the right to force their will on that person. How humiliating for the person with lower rank. How contemptible that someone should enjoy exercising that power, and how sick the adults in charge invest one child with that sort of power over another.

    You might be surprised at how non-humiliating it is to have a trusted older student ask you to please pull your socks up. If you asked me about it at the time, I would have rolled my eyes and offered that that way the way it was and there were other schools I could go to if sock-related freedom was important to me. If you ask me now, I'll probably giggle and try to come up with something else to make you laugh too.

    (Like, oo, I know: The uniform store sold uniform undies!)

    I actually find the accusation of sickness/contemptibility extremely offensive. I am neither, my friends were neither, my seniors were neither, my teachers were neither.

    The 2005 ERO report for QMC says "Students at Queen Margaret College demonstrate pride in belonging to the school community. They are involved in a wide range of co- and extra-curricular activities that enhance their personal and social development, together with their academic challenges. Classrooms are purposeful, nonthreatening, busy and settled workplaces where students are respectful, polite and welcoming. The tone in the college reflects the espoused values of respect, honesty, compassion and honour. Students confidently demonstrate a range of thinking and problemsolving skills in an environment of trust."

    I'm inclined to believe it, too.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Here is one of my schools photos, from the time I was there.

    Ooo! Let's all play this game.

    Here is my 7th form cohort. Look how contemptible we are!

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Look how all our socks are pulled up. And no-one even had to tell us to do it.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Here is one of my schools photos, from the time I was there.

    Ooo! Let's all play this game.

    Here is my 7th form cohort. Look how contemptible we are!

    The contrast in those photos is outstanding, indicative of the extremes of views in education I'd say....

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    The contrast in those photos is outstanding, indicative of the extremes of views in education I'd say....

    Possibly, although it might just mean that one is taken by the LC Scott people that come to your school and line you all up and instruct you on hand/foot placement[*] and the other isn't. (Or maybe it is - but the characteristic chalkboard does seem to be missing).

    [*] "Put your right hand over your left hand, now drop them in your lap. Put your feet together." Don't take my word for it, just look at school photos from the lower North Island (at least) over the last few decades.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I actually find the accusation of sickness/contemptibility extremely offensive.

    I hated my school for all sorts of reasons, but I do agree with Amy - Dyan, that was a bit on the nose. I think what you're describing in terms of passive-aggressiveness and immaturity in social situations is just general assholery associated with, erm, general assholes, not a sign of The Horrible Contemptibleness of the Culture of All New Zealand Schools, forever and ever amen. Y'know?

    (I also find this 'niceness-off' between NZ and Canada sort of funny in a broader sense. Don't we both have reputations as excessively milquetoast, politely apologetic nations?)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    My daughter's primary school had a uniform. It was a pain in the arse. We were always running out of clean uniform clothes.

    Indeed. Sorry, uniform is NOT a blessing for parents, it's a huge PITA. While my kids' school makes a determined effort to keep the cost of the uniform down, having to get those clothes clean every weekend even when it's pissing with rain is an enormous pain. And I couldn't count how many uniform sweatshirts have been lost at school by my kids - they get taken off and thrown in a pile, and then they all look the same...

    You might be surprised at how non-humiliating it is to have a trusted older student ask you to please pull your socks up.

    So not my experience. I got into a violent argument with a prefect once because she was convinced that I shouldn't be allowed to have bare feet. The sandals were in the uniform code, therefore I should have to wear them. My point was that the jersey was also in the uniform code, and I wasn't wearing that either. The uniform was one place - not the only one by far - where the few prefects who were petty jerks could freely indulge their pettiness.

    At my own school, 7th formers didn't have to wear uniform. (My first year at that school there were 3 7th formers.) After the first couple of days at school, you stopped worrying about what you were wearing. There was no bitching about clothes at all. And this:

    There is also a counter argument that every minute students spend picking out clothes is a minute they don't spend learning.

    certainly didn't apply, because I wasn't getting dressed on school time. Uniform inspections DO happen on school time.

    My kids will be attending a non-uniform high school. I don't expect this to turn them into socially well-adjusted angels. Nor do I think they'll lose any benefit at all by not wearing uniform. And I'm certainly looking forward to not having to wash and replace uniforms, and not having to buy my daughter a $400 kilt and then replace it every time she gains height and the hem gets too far off the ground.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    There is also a counter argument that every minute students spend picking out clothes is a minute they don't spend learning.

    certainly didn't apply, because I wasn't getting dressed on school time. Uniform inspections DO happen on school time.

    When I wrote that, I was thinking of homework and study, not class. We didn't get dressed in class either. (Except PE, obviously.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Summer uniform for seniors at my alma mater was (hmm, possibly still is) black shoes, light blue long socks, navy blue walkshorts and a light blue shirt with monogram to match the socks.

    A few guys tried to make this a bit cooler by replacing the standard shorts with slighly longer blue Dickies shorts at twice the price. It didn't work. We basically looked like an army of very young bus drivers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I actually find the accusation of sickness/contemptibility extremely offensive.


    But you can't see how it might be equally offensive to make an assumption and a blanket statement like this about the effects of letting kids choose their own clothes??

    Yet, every minute a teenager spends fussing over what they wear and where that will put them in the complicated and vicious social hierarchy of high school is a minute that they could be spending doing something more enjoyable and productive

    I attended school where everyone chose their own outfits and not only did this not result in a "complicated and vicious social hierarchy" but in fact everyone seemed to mix up their styles quite a bit, depending on what they planned to do with the rest of their day. Or what we happened to pull out of our closets.

    And I am not swayed in my opinion that it encourages bullying and petty minded, or as I phrased it contemptible, sick behaviour - to encourage one child to have authority over another based on their personal appearance.

    One of the things that sprang to mind when I wrote that was a young girl I met who worked for my hairdresser, and she told me (tears welling up in her eyes) that she had just quit school because she had been hassled so mercilessly over this socks-up detail. She could never keep socks up she told me - she was of French Polynesian ancestry and had little slender calves that couldn't hope to hold up the giant knee socks of her regulation uniform. She told me her life at school became unbearable because of this girl's attention - she had even taken to wearing rubber bands around the top of her socks - though this proved to be too painful - and the situation had blighted her life to the point where she'd decided to just quit school and go out and take the sort of low paying, low status dead end job that's available to a kid with no high school education.

    boys with names like Thor, Elkir and Blade set a new style other boys copied -


    So clothes won't do it, but a totally awesome Marvel comic name might?

    The thing is, in Canadian school those aren’t particularly unusual names – there were kids named Ravi, Lourdes, Alita, Vito, Mohinder, Liborio, Fatima, Mahmoud, Toyohiko. There was a kid I taught gymnastics who was named Vagnus.

    The Scandinavian names are odd by NZ standards, but just about any name is considered normal in Canada, as it is a nation of many different ethnic types. NZers kept commenting to my cousin when she visited that her son’s name (Theoren) was “weird”. Actually it’s a perfectly normal French name, for instance the hockey player Theoren Fleury is famous in Canada, Barbara was taken aback by how many people commented on how “weird” his name was, and how many expressed the opinion he would be "beaten up". No in Canada has ever said they found his name weird, nor has he ever been beaten up.

    My point was that the Scandinavian kids’ weird inherited woolen zippered cardigans became a craze, briefly replacing the leather motorcycle jacket craze started by the Italian kids. Early geek chic, a look so bad but worn so well it’s good. A fad. It was not exactly idyllic, but bullying seemed to run its course by age 14 or so. There was bullying in elementary school, and through junior high, but it was deeply, deeply frowned upon by both teachers and other students.

    By senior high (15 to 18) the atmosphere was much like university, live and let live. As in university, bullying would have been considered socially immature and deeply unacceptable.

    One of the things that struck NZers about my yearbook is that in a lot of the photos the teachers are in ridiculous circumstances – one science teacher is wearing a frilly bonnet, a tea-towel for a bib and drinking juice from a baby bottle. In another there is a teacher laughing like mad wearing a toilet paper hat – she would have been reciting something silly at the request of a student.

    There was an organised set of days – Twerp Day, Sadie Hawkins Day and Pay Day. These days were set aside for crazy behaviour and pranks, the thought being that if one day was devoted the this, we could be expected not to indulge in time wasting behaviour the rest of the year. Twerp Day the boys could make the girls do anything – be wrapped like a mummy in toilet paper, or carry their books down the hall, balance a basketball on their head, recite while they recite “rubber baby buggy bumpers” – that kind of thing. Sadie Hawkins day was the same thing, except the girls got to dish to the boys, plus it was the one day of the year girls asked boys out on dates, to dances etc. In those days boys did all the asking, except on Sadie Hawkins Day. Pay Day was when the teachers got it, and students could do things like make the the teachers do or wear ridiculous things, recite stuff, pretend things. “Pretend you’re a confused mouse being chased by a cat!” that kind of thing.

    My NZ friends seem to think this would bring out really awful behaviour. It didn’t – partly because you could refuse a request if you really didn’t want to do it, partly because the requests had to be within reason, but mostly because no one requested anything of you unless they liked you to begin with, it was kind of the point. The teachers who were challenged to do these things were either hugely liked by the requesting student, or they were a thorn in the side of the requesting student. The teacher could decline the request (it is a lot to ask a teacher to wear a baby bonnet and drink apple juice out of a bottle for the school) but if they declined, they would provoke the sullen wrath of the student body for the rest of the year, while if they complied the relationship between student and teacher was forever softened, the offending student usually thought of that teacher as a pretty good sport, and it quelled the desire to cause trouble. Paul tells me this wouldn’t have worked at his school – between the students there would have been no point, as it was all male (the point of Twerp Day and Sadie Hawkins Day really being flirting) and the relationship between the teachers and students was never playful or warm enough that Pay Day would work.

    My niece Danielle is a teacher these days (high school math – she’s 30) and she says those days – Twerp, Sadie Hawkins and Teachers Pay - are extinct, high school kids are too sophisticated for that sort of thing now, they were disappearing in her day 15 years ago. But she also says that bullying at the senior high level remains virtually non-existent, and in the present day as in her day bullying also ran its course by age 14 or so, it’s considered immature by other teenagers to persist in that kind of behaviour past junior high.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    But you can't see how it might be equally offensive to make an assumption and a blanket statement like this about the effects of letting kids choose their own clothes??

    Actually, no. Until they invent time machines, time spent stressing over clothes IS going to be lost to other pursuits. Nobody attributed the roots of high school difficulties to the wearing or not of uniforms, and common sense suggests that you will see some degree of hierarchical stress in any large group of people who are just at the stage of life where they are figuring out who they are and what they want.

    Besides which, I didn't say that, and yet I was the one you rounded on[*]. Like, say, a bully might.

    Did none of your gymnastics teams ever have uniforms? That you were expected to wear to a certain standard? Did senior team-mates never have some responsibility for junior ones? How is that different?


    [*] I did say that "There is also a counter argument that every minute students spend picking out clothes is a minute they don't spend learning. ", and I apologise to anyone whose feelings were hurt by this cruel and un-nuanced statement.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Like how to file out a creative NZ grant application form, for instance.

    Wasn't there a module on that in Bursary English? ;)

    But seriously, go on, tell us more.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    There was a module that involved applying for arts grants, when I was at art school.

    This may be the most splendidly sensible thing I have ever heard of.

    Although I must confess to being a little disappointed not to be regaled (yet) with tales of creative projects and their grant applications. Do lots of people do "creative" applications, one wonders? And if so, do the governing bodies find it increasingly tedious to sit through an operatic recitation of one's previous awards, or to page through a budget written in jam?

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    Did none of your gymnastics teams ever have uniforms?

    Er, no we didn't. I wore the same Danskin leotards I wore for ballet classes, and either a ballet sweater (one of those wrap around things) or a long sleeved t shirt over it, as a ballet leotard has no sleeves and you need long sleeves for gymnastics. Most girls wore the same. Some didn't have gymnastics suits and wore shorts and t shirts, skater gear we called it. And hoodies, called kangaroo tops in those days.

    If I hadn't owned a bunch of leotards from ballet I would have worn my skater gear - very unisex clothes worn by all kids of the 70s. The lind of clothes Stacy Peralta, Peggy Oki, Jay Adams, Suzanne Tabata, Tony Alva wore on the skating circuit. No uniform - just stipey t shirts, bermuda shorts, Keds, Converse or Addidas sneakers. Weird hats, beaded headbands. Not the dayglo colours favoured by Stacy Peralta later in his career. As Jay Adams comments in the film Lords of Dogtown "Stacey looks like a stock-car."

    Having said that there were enforced rules about safety gear - tooth guards for ice hockey, helmets for catchers etc.

    That you were expected to wear to a certain standard?

    No, no standards. Not remotely. Sometimes I wore a sweatshirt with Alfred E. Neuman that said WHAT? ME WORRY?. Another had one of those t-shirts that looked like you were wearing a tuxedo. No one minded much about what you wore.

    Did senior team-mates never have some responsibility for junior ones?

    Good god no. The concept of leaving one particular child or group of children "in charge" with "responsibility" over other children is irresponsible and unwise. The teacher and or coach (often the same person in a school setting) is in charge. Period. Why give one kid authority over another. What on earth are they supposed to do? Get everyone out if there's a fire or an earthquake? That shouldn't be left to a kid. Or is it to "maintain order"? I don't get that - why the assumption that everyone would turn feral if on one was left controlling things? Usually if an adult left they would just say "talk quietly among yourselves and try not to make a lot of noise..."

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    The concept of leaving one particular child or group of children "in charge" with "responsibility" over other children is irresponsible and unwise.

    Interestingly enough, Dyan, children are oft times each others best teachers. Peer learning, they call it. And kids are very selfcorrecting. With my three and four year olds, everyday there are kids making sure that other kids are doing the right thing. We don't ask them to do that, most of the time. Sometimes we do. For example, if I'm in the middle of a game with some kids, and I have to walk off, often I'll ask one or two of the kids, who know the game, to be responsible for the running of the game, and the packing up of it when they are finished. Often the people I'm asking to do that for me are 4 year old boys who need challenges that make them feel good about themselves. Being in charge of something they're good at is one way of doing that. I don't see that as harmful to the other children, at all. We have three and four years olds who are enormously competent people - if they are in a situation where someone's doing something they shouldn't be, you can bet your bottom dollar, the wrong doer is going to know about it. My argument is this - and there is research to back it up - that as teachers, part of our job is to encourage children to become socially competent learners. Often, they learn more from their peers about certain stuff. If kids are competent learners at three, how much more so are they at high school? And aren't the teen years well known to be peer driven? And if that is the case, surely it makes great sense for older kids to be "responsible" for younger ones?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Ahhh, peer support is completely different from the prefect system. I know because I've done both. That's also how I know that

    Until they invent time machines, time spent stressing over clothes IS going to be lost to other pursuits.

    simply isn't true: because I've DONE it. There was no uniform, there was no stressing over clothes. Okay?

    As a disclaimer, I was the only person to make it to 7th form in our school and not be made a prefect. I was subject to prefects, my friends were prefects. But I was a peer support leader. In that role, we worked alongside the 3rd formers in our common rooms, helped them to find their way around and fit in, did those 'team building exercises' with them, that kind of stuff. It worked really well.

    The job of prefects was to punish other kids. They checked lunch passes, uniform, general behaviour. They could send you to our crazy deputy principal for punishment on a whim, and if they said you did it, that was the end of it. Whatever 'it' was.

    The year after I left, my school did away with prefects. I only wonder what took them so bloody long.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    I'll endorse what Jackie just said about peer learning.

    My daughter is special needs - delayed physical development and what seems to be a form of autism.

    She loves buttons, especially buttons on video/DVD players. A year or so ago she deprogrammed my parents' machine during a visit.

    Next visit she goes over to the machine to do the same thing: her cousin (who was the same age - four) hauled her off it and said firmly 'We don't do that'.

    My daughter hasn't done it since. And she had been told, many many many times, by adults not to do it. It took a kid her own age to do the trick.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    Ahhh, peer support is completely different from the prefect system.

    Yes, exactly what I am trying to say. Canadian schools have no concept of "prefects" and the concept would be quite startling to say the least.

    In my training as a coach we were specifically warned off the idea of ever leaving one kid in charge, if was specifically cited as something not to say. It was to drive home the point that the adult is always responsible. So no, I would never left one kid to take responsibility for any others if I left them unattended. Kids teaching each other? Sure, but they don't have to be in charge of other children to do that.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Woz at the Skybatch,

    Scott Robertson and Lonelygirl15 were "educated" at Mount College.

    So was Steve Braunias... not 'famous' enough perhaps?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    The concept of leaving one particular child or group of children "in charge" with "responsibility" over other children is irresponsible and unwise

    I wouldn't define "responsible for" as "boss of" or "in charge of". It's more of an obligation than a power.

    Don't know much about sports teams (didn't know gymnasts didn't wear uniforms! they always seem to have them on TV!), but I kind of assumed there would be sport related parallels to things like

    - delegating to a 17 year old the task of checking that the junior choir have their music ready to go on stage

    - having the senior students in each voice part run sectional rehearsals

    Aren't there?

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

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