Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Life at Paremoremo Boys' High

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Also, my favourite teacher was later jailed twice for grooming and molesting teenage boys.

    If it doesn't involve cats, it's not really a good story :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    jesus david...had you posted this before we met i might have given you a comforting hug.

    mount maunganui college was shit, but at least the bullying was minimal by comparison (though gruelling at the time).

    the only semi-famous alumni i can think of is david skilling, of the new zealand institute, and some bloke who played for the all blacks. i forget who.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    girls can wear long or short skirts or shorts or trousers if they wish

    Heh, my old school had a version of that rule. You had to buy or make skirts at knee length for the start of the year, but then half the girls rolled them up at the waistband or had a growth spurt that took the hemlines well north of the knees. A few clever ones got their mums' sewing machines and also took the A-line in to a snug pencil style, gaping pockets, pleats and zips bedamned.

    Given that experience, I'm surprised by the number of really long skirt uniforms that have popped up since I left school. I guess there's a demand for them amongst Muslim students and those from other conservative cultures, because I can't imagine them being popular with anyone else. They're baggy and unflattering and restrict movement.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I made my uniform skirt significantly shorter and tighter with my mother's approval it almost looked like something a real person would wear when I had done with it.

    The year after I left they introduced these honking great kilts. I had to wear one a couple of times for meet-the-prospective-third-formers purposes and discovered that it was completely impossible to ride a bicycle without getting it stuck round the wheel about every four turns of the pedal.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Fortunately, my 11-16 school in England, whilst fairly shite, wasn't as bad as NZ schools of that era seem to have been.

    We got rugby or soccer on a random basis, but the former was limited by the fact that very few of the staff actually knew how to play, let alone coach, the game.

    Spanking was officially allowed, but wasn't common, largely because the established predelictions of English males would have made it counterproductive.

    There was quite a lot of bullying, which wasn't actively encouraged by the teachers, but wasn't effectively suppressed either.

    One of the staff married a 17-year old former pupil, which raised eyebrows as to the extent of their relationship during her recent time at the school.

    6th form (which includes 7th form in the UK and was in my area a separate institution) was much better. The place had more in common with tech than a traditional school. I had an openly gay form tutor, we didn't wear uniform (well apart from a self-imposed one) and the thugs had gone off to prison, factory and dole queue.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Given that experience, I'm surprised by the number of really long skirt uniforms that have popped up since I left school.

    When we were looking at applying to Riccarton High as a back-up for my son, I read their uniform code. Insane. Girls' skirt hems were not allowed to be more than 15cm from the ground. I thought the hideous impractically-long skirt was just the current trend, in the way skirt-band-rolling was in my day. But no, it's required. They also regulate colours of hair-tie.

    I made my uniform skirt significantly shorter and tighter with my mother's approval

    And when my mother saw the RGHS uniform, she asked me about the skirt lengths. I explained, and she said, "That's terrible, why would they make them look so frumpy and awful?"

    We lucked out with the uniform for my own high school. In summer it was a box-pleated kilt that danced around like a playful puppy if you had the slightest swish in your walk, slave sandals with the straps that wound up your legs, and white blouses thin enough to display the lace pattern on the whitest bra.

    They've changed it now, to a pale washed-out teal pinafore with threads of blue, red and yellow through it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Ok, it's exercised my curiosity now. I've done a quick survey of girls' schools in my area and my old alma mater. Most seem to have knee length skirts, Wellington East has optional long skirts for Muslim students, and only Queen Margarets seems to have it as standard. They also have regulation hair tie colours.

    I suspect it's designed to be frumpy and awful, in the sense that nobody should be looking at these teenagers' legs so we won't let them. It feels like a very 90s sort of approach to preventing sexual harassment (I remember the senior master at school insisting on no touching between students from their neck to their knees). I'm in favour of uniforms in general, but they should be uniforms, not shackles.

    Oh, and um, googling school uniform skirt length gets you very quickly into NSFW territory.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    They also regulate colours of hair-tie.

    Bearing in mind that every minute school staff spend enforcing such absurdities is a minute they don't spend um, educating, surely a case could be made for scrapping uniforms to enhance educational achievement.

    The almost complete absence of uniforms in public high schools in Canada, for example, does no apparent harm.

    I distinctly recall WAGS teacher/enforcers justifying uniforms in terms of their being "good preparation for the workplace."

    Interestingly, at my workplace I could wear anything from muddy gardening clothes and no shoes - through to a suit and $500 leather shoes - and it would make no difference.

    At my bank today the employees were wearing sports jerseys.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    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. Uniforms are cheaper for parents and take out one of the levers of toxic power games. Plus, having a uniform is possibly the only reason many teenagers learn how to handwash and iron.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Plus, having a uniform is possibly the only reason many teenagers learn how to handwash and iron.

    Really? Cause I didn't care about the neatness of my uniform so I figured someone who did care about ironed bouses (ie my Mum) could do that bit. I figured out the laundry thing when I had clothes that I actually liked.

    I also discovered that the secret to keeping warm in uniform was to own two (thin acrylic) regulation jerseys and wear them simultaneously. Socks the same colour as the tights (worn underneath if necessary) saved my toes in winter.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    I know some may be wondering what happened to the Captain of David's 1st 15. I hired one of Ian Wishart's investigators who found him, have sworn affidavit and a video to prove this.

    I think that's success.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1616 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    I was horrified to find that my secondary school does not have a wikipedia presence....only a page for its current existence, after an amalgamation. The alumni are a couple of sporting characters I've never heard of.
    Since Stephen Boock was a pupil when I was there, regularly taking record hauls in schoolboy cricket, you would think he would be good enough to claim....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Cause I didn't care about the neatness of my uniform so I figured someone who did care about ironed bouses (ie my Mum) could do that bit. I figured out the laundry thing when I had clothes that I actually liked.

    Ditto. Never gave a damn about my uniform, but I was expert at getting grass stains out of my white jeans.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    sorry, slightly off topic but...
    i think all these state primary schools in AKL requiring all the kids to wear uniforms (bought from a specific shop) is complete bollocks.
    adds nothing, detracts a lot.
    f-ing crass and a waste of money.

    I was on the foundation BOT of my kids' primary school, there was a movement amongst some of the parents to introduce a uniform, it went to a referendum, which failed to get enough votes. Almost immediately after the next elections, the new board ran another referendum, which also failed (luckily!).
    My official position as a board member was "and how does this improve my (or any) child's learning?"

    I was horrified to find that my secondary school does not have a wikipedia presence

    Ditto, so I just whipped up a stub. If there's any other ex-Faircol (or present) students who have the time to bulk it out, go ahead, it needs it.

    I know some may be wondering what happened to the Captain of David's 1st 15. I hired one of Ian Wishart's investigators who found him, have sworn affidavit and a video to prove this.

    Don may be tongue-in-cheek there, but one of the first XV from my school years featured in the first episode of Target, getting 'excited' about the lady of the house's knicker drawer. Not long afterwards he moved to Australia, epitomising the famous Muldoon quote.
    That bit of info I'm not putting on the Wikipedia page :-)

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Most seem to have knee length skirts, Wellington East has optional long skirts for Muslim students, and only Queen Margarets seems to have it as standard. They also have regulation hair tie colours.

    Tsk tsk, it's Queen Margaret - no plural or possessive.

    Unfortunarely for my current stock of stories, it was a largely nice place with largely nice teachers where I had a largely tolerable time.

    And fortunately, I live in the US, where I can still get lots of mileage out of "We wore unforms! We had houses! There were no boys! Except when we shipped them in for dances! We got in trouble if our socks were down!". Etc.

    Wikipedia lists no famous alumnae. Then again, my cohort alone contained an Olympic snowboarder and a Rhodes scholar. So, well, y'know.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 457 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    Bearing in mind that every minute school staff spend enforcing such absurdities is a minute they don't spend um, educating, surely a case could be made for scrapping uniforms to enhance educational achievement.

    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). So in theory, the teachers didn't lose much teaching time.

    There is also a counter argument that every minute students spend picking out clothes is a minute they don't spend learning. In general schools with fearsome uniform regulations seem to have pretty good outcomes, but it's probably impossible to tease out uniforms from all the other factors at work without running some gigantic experiment.

    Might just be the Stockholmer in me talking, but I do see some benefit in having a setup where very minor things can be "naughty": you don't need to bunk school and go off to shoot heroin if you can rebel by wearing red earrings.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 457 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    In general schools with fearsome uniform regulations seem to have pretty good outcomes

    That was the thing about WAGS. Its fearsome (and definitely staff-enforced) uniform regulations were entirely out of keeping with the low SES character of the school community, and the school's generally poor-to-middling record of achievement.

    Many of those who made it to 7th form did go on to do well, but my feeling was this was in spite of, not because of, the often indifferent teaching, and the entirely counter-productive uniform obsession.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    The stereotyping of 1st XV players on the PA forum is taking on NZ First type proportions ;-)

    I know some may be wondering what happened to the Captain of David's 1st 15. I hired one of Ian Wishart's investigators who found him, have sworn affidavit and a video to prove this.

    Actually Don, this is where he ended up

    http://www.radiosport.co.nz/WhosOn/Detail.aspx?id=205

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The stereotyping of 1st XV players on the PA forum is taking on NZ First type proportions ;-)

    Sorry, here. I can testify that a former captain of the Nelson College 1st XV was a lovely, polite handsome young man more than happy to be of service to others.

    In general schools with fearsome uniform regulations seem to have pretty good outcomes, but it's probably impossible to tease out uniforms from all the other factors at work without running some gigantic experiment.

    I was delighted to learn when reading up on my old school yesterday that for the last two years, the trendy liberal school where the 7th formers don't have to wear uniform at all, and which gets the kids who get expelled from other schools, has beaten out every other Timaru High School in terms of NCEA results. The TBHS old boys must be spewing.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    The TBHS old boys must be spewing.

    Probably bemoaning the lack of school certificate/bursary etc.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    well whaddya know. Scott Robertson and Lonelygirl15 were "educated" at Mount College.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    My sister sat School Cert Science twice so that Riccarton High School got a better average on that subject and most of my mates were culled before School Cert for the same reason.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    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. Uniforms are cheaper for parents and take out one of the levers of toxic power games.

    This is a strange and endlessly repeated assumption - and it ignores the reality of fashion, where it comes from and why . More importantly this assumption fails to recognise the real origins of the toxic power struggles that seem to dominate NZ school experiences.

    There is no jacket, scarf or outfit in the world that will render an unattractive person attractive. People wore cool clothes at my school in Canada (1970s) but a really awesome suede coat, leather jacket or an amazing silk-velvet blazer could do little to compete with physical beauty. Some of the most gorgeous and popular boys in my school wore the most alarmingly ugly, generations old Nordic sweaters - but not only did no one think they looked anything but fabulous, boys with names like Thor, Elkir and Blade set a new style other boys copied - there was a fad of ugly pullovers with reindeer or snowflake patterns because gorgeous, weirdly dressed boys made them look cool.

    The most charismatic kids would pick up a style and everyone would copy it. There would be kids dressed to the nines in silk, velvet and suede and kids wearing rain gear and hiking boots - often the same kids on different days.

    There were beautiful girls, but the best dressed girls were not necessarily the richest. Many kids earned money to buy a real Courreges, Yves St Laurent or Valentino (as opposed to a knock-off that looked exactly the same) and pretty much everyone owned either a leather, suede or shearling jacket, which was usually the big-ticket item of the wardrobe. But these made no more difference to your popularity than if you owned first rate skis or if you rented your gear. Popularity wasn’t even entirely indexed to looks: it was very much noticed if you were nice or not. Bullies and bitches had been socially pressured since elementary school to behave decently. The Valentine’s Day box is the great leveler, not fashion.

    Expensive clothes don't necessarily make you look great. But if someone who did look great turned up wearing something, it was a great coup to have imitators by the end of the week. Whether this was glitter on a bare shoulder, an aviator scarf or an ankle bracelet - it wasn't the thing so much as the impression it made.

    There were no rules about what you could wear. In my senior year (1975) the David Bowie craze had hit well and truly, and both girls and boys had that Bowie haircut, some dyed copper. Some boys and some girls wore glitter, eye makeup and shaved their eyebrows and wore eyeshadow.

    No teacher had the right - or the inclination - to tell anyone how they should dress. It was perfectly acceptable to wear very bare halter tops in warm weather, if one wished. Bare midriffs could be seen on young men as well as young women. Some kids opted for a low maintenance, preppy look that survives the ages (duffel coat, chinos) and others went for the whole west coast granola thing hippie stuff mixed with denim, stout hiking boots boots and eccentric hats or beaded headbands. Cowboy boots, Calvary boots, Indian moccasins, Ashtrakan coats were all popular with both girls and boys. Some kids, both boys and girls (including me) wore ex-military gear, styled in different ways. There were a lot of looks to choose from, and most people tended to mix it up. A lot of tiny girls wore huuuge clothing, the jackets and sweaters and shirts of the boys with whom they were going steady.

    I owned a lot of clothes, but the item that created the greatest sensation was my Mum’s WWII RCAF dress uniform jacket, a smart, dark blue jacket with beautiful silver buttons and an adorable wing-and-zig-zag insignia (she was a wireless operator during the war). This jacket was a greater object of admiration and envy than my snow white, obscenely expensive Courreges jacket or my collection of suede, leather and shearling jackets, and unlike those, I never lent it out my Mum’s jacket to friends. The RCAF jacket (form fitting, belted) looked great with jeans and a white tailored blouse or with high waisted skirts and a little silk top. It also went well with tailored cream coloured trousers and a black turtleneck cashmere sweater.

    My parents had both joined the RCAF partly because the uniforms were so cool. That and the country needed them as there was a war on and stuff, but mainly the uniforms were adorable. They were both teenagers at the time, and an RCAF uniform was the thing to be seen wearing.

    Unfortunately we had destroyed my Dad’s sheepskin flight jacket and leather aviator’s hat thing playing war as kids, but on of my brothers did wear my Dad’s dress uniform jacket for a couple seasons. At school in those days it was considered bad form (very bad form) to wear any medals your parents had been awarded, it was considered wrong to wear a medal if you didn’t win it yourself. The uniforms were a different thing and lots of kids wore them, some wore those khaki jackets if their Dads had fought in army during the Korean war.

    The list of physical attributes that are admired are unchanged down the centuries and do not vary from culture to culture. Usually they are associated with good health and good nutrition (great skin, pretty eyes, long legs, white teeth etc). What exists is the charismatic kid's ability to influence a trend or start a whole new style, by sheer force of style. In university some young men resurrected the male bare-midriff - in high school it had been jocks in cut-off football shirts - and in University it was flannel cowboy-and-indian flannel pajama tops a look that actually swept the campuses across North America and was picked up by Kurt Cobain and Evan Dando a few years later). It looks quite silly, that bare expanse of middle, but if the body is great and the boy is gorgeous, a it is_ cute. Like the old song says "My Dad said we looked ridiculous, but boy we broke some hearts". So true.

    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.

    My husband -( who wisely hid the fact that he'd been captain of the rugby team from me while he was dating me - correctly guessing I'd like him better if I thought he'd been an arty, sensitive milk-drinking type) tells of a nightmarish atmosphere of brutality, petty mindedness and cruelty. And he'd been the popular boy. But he hated the school, and its rules, hated catholicism, hated the forced conformity, hated the atmosphere of racism and brutality.

    For myself, when I first met the women Paul had grown up with (they mostly went to EGG or catholic schools) I was startled by how little it mattered to them how they were perceived socially. My impression of them was that they were bizarrely intolerant, bullying and socially immature for women (who by that time were) in their 30s. Of the women I met in those first months here it was not uncommon for the first words out of their mouths to be something negative and challenging about Canada. Sometimes it was couched in half-polite terms "Oh, you must be so glad to be in a county like New Zealand where there are clean green spaces - I guess it's pretty polluted where you're from." but usually it was even ruder and more pointedly confrontational.

    Much of a person's identity is predicated on being well regarded - considered kind, smart, charming, honest, gentle, gracious etc. I was quite shocked by my first encounters with women who were quite happy to be perceived as a terrifying, bullying queen bees. In fact they seemed to relish that sense of socially grinding someone down. That kind of social pecking order is much frowned upon in my neck of the woods. I am happy to see it disappearing in wider NZ culture, it does seem to be on the wane. But I agree with Paul's observation that these pecking orders are established in these schools - they seem to be much less prevalent among people who either went to more liberal schools or rejected the petty, pointless rules if they'd been forced to attend those schools that enforced them.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    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?

    Since Nov 2006 • 2074 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    WOW Dyan
    I think you just changed my mind about uniforms...
    kind of!

    the free-for-all you have described worked largely due to the community/society within which it existed... totally foreign to how it is here... or what i see and experience anyway.

    as a parent i love school uniforms
    my children are at a primary school this year where the uniform is voluntary (but only 10% wear it, not my kids)

    the school they went to last year had a compulsary uniform (Catholic) and life was so much easier! Yes uniforms are pricey - but compared to having to buy lots of clothes like I do now it was way cheaper. Also the 2 daughters spend a lot longer getting ready in the morning than they used to. (They now need to think about what to wear)

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

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