So yesterday I started my programme ruminating about the lack of knowledge of our own history. As part of it, I marvelled at how many people are perfectly fine with this country being named after a province in the Netherlands and not only that it’s misspelt.
Then I asked you a question. Should we change the name to something a little more logical? Because that’s what I do. I ask you a question you give me an answer. Then I tell you what I think. My job is to get us all thinking.
Well, some people got very up in arms that I dared to ask the question. Some thought I should resign. Some said I was dangerous. Which I thought was hilarious because a lot of those people were jumping up and down about the way Don Brash was shouted down at Waitangi this year.
This is the thing about freedom of speech. It also allows speech you don’t approve of.
But my feeling about everything is that everything needs to be questioned, over and over again in case it no longer makes sense. And questions aren’t scary but sometimes answers are especially if they’re the wrong ones.
So here we go again. A new year and another batch of schools getting press as they ask for hair to be cut and beards shaved. The latest is Te Puke High School who asked a Year 13 student to shave off his summer beard.
Brody Hide’s beard was a good one, he looked good and it was well groomed. Without he looks young. With it, he looks grown up. But the school had a rule and the rule is no beards. He shaved it off and felt his self-confidence slide.
Now don’t get me wrong the rule is the rule and the school is free to enforce that as an entry condition.
The question you have to ask is why is no beards a good rule in the first place. What is it teaching these young men?
Now the other day Kate Hawkesby put me onto a book by Jo Cribb which questioned our antiquated school systems full of rote learning and standardised exams. It wonders why we try to make everyone the same when the future of work will require creativity, problem-solving and enterprise skills as the robots take over the humdrum jobs.
Surely we can ask the same question about short back and sides and no beards for young men aged 17 or 18. Many schools with strict appearance rules also force their senior students to wear walk shorts in winter. The common refrain is that its discipline and there are rules on dress in the workforce, which is increasingly balder-dashed. So what else is it teaching them?
You could argue that the blind obedience to appearance rules is grooming the population for blind obedience to a communistic, autocratic state where everyone looks and thinks the same. Which would horrify the conservatives who support them.
So let me state that if a school has an appearance rule then it has an appearance rule and if you don’t like it find another school.
But may I congratulate the parents and kids who ask the question why? If we stop asking questions that way risks becoming serfs. And by the way. Why are we named after a Dutch province?