Island Life by David Slack

28

Won't Somebody Think Of The Children

I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

At the very least don’t give them earworm.

I have been mucking around with my DuckSpeak engine and other word-counting programmes to see what insight we might get from the two leaders’ state of the nation speeches.

If you haven’t already gleaned it from the news reports, the most-used words are “young” and “youth”. You can see it represented in pretty picture form here. The bigger the word, the more frequent its use. Here’s one for John Key’s speech and here’s one for Helen Clark’s.

If he didn’t think it was a good idea before he walked towards Waitangi with a child’s hand in his, Key has certainly understood it ever since: expressing his ambitions for the country’s kids casts him as tomorrow’s man. Thanks to this month’s statistical aberration in the murder rate, we also learn that this putative Dad of the nation is prepared to consider a dose of tough love where he thinks it might be needed.

Well, this is all good news to a troubled media-attentive nation, especially if you are of the mind of the talkback radio caller yesterday afternoon who phoned in from Clendon to endorse the strategy. After the caller had spent some minutes lamenting the effect of Tupac, Fifty Cent, Eminem and TV violence, Willie Jackson sympathetically asked him how things were feeling right now down there at Ground Zero. Oh, the caller said, it was all quiet around his neighborhood; they never had any trouble where he lived. Close-knit communities shaken to the core: a staple of the Six O’Clock news; a semi-mythical and tantalisingly elusive entity when you go poking your microphone about for a vox pop.

What I’d really like to see in either party’s plans for our young people is some encouragement to be inventive - something that suggests there is a way to make money other than buying and selling houses; something that proposes a career other than lawyer or accountant or panelbeater or dare I say it, market trader. We have plenty of all those. What we don’t have are many exporters. We need a whole lot more. That’s where the climb back up from number 22 starts, and yet they’re almost as small a minority as violent kids.

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