Annemarie Quill: Kids learning wrong lesson

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"Baby boomers shouldn't be allowed to vote" seemed to be the mood of some following last week's surprise Brexit referendum result in which Brits voted to ditch the EU.

The ageists were out in force analysing the spread of voting which suggested older people had voted to leave whereas younger generations had voted to stay.

Of 18 to 24-year-olds, 73 per cent voted for Britain to remain in the EU in the historic referendum, compared with 27 per cent who voted to leave. In stark contrast, 60 per cent of over 65s voted to Leave while 40 per cent voted to Remain. Ultimately, the Leave campaign claimed victory with 52 per cent of the vote.

The consensus in the Remain camp seemed to be that the old people in Blighty had stuffed it up for the young. This paper suggested older voters were fuelled by "nostalgia and fear", and wanted to return to hazy pre-EU days.

I am not old enough to remember pre-EU days. Yet I feel I should speak out on behalf of "the old".

Perhaps because I am sensitive to the "elder abuse" often inflicted on parents of my generation by our generation zero tweenies, who don't miss a chance to tell us how old we are.

Facebook? "That is for old people, mum."

Texting? For nanas.

Answering your phone? Benjamin Button-level ancient.

While it was true that people older than 65 voted in great numbers to leave the EU, it is not as simple as to conclude it is all down to age. There were age, class, education level and regional biases too. Even football came into play - my home town Liverpool voted to Remain, despite being a staunch working-class city, because, said pundits, Brexit put a question mark over whether EEA players would be allowed to stay, and whether they would be harder to sign. The beautiful game is always in play after all.

So, kids, hating on the older generation just because things didn't go your way is just not cricket. If the younger generation felt so strongly then why did they not all turn out to vote? Sky Data quoted in the UK's Guardian reported that only 36 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 83 per cent of people over 65.

Dissing the older generation is nothing new. Each generation thinks they know better than the last. "People try to put us down ... I hope I die before I get old", rocked The Who in the 60s. But don't write off an older generation as having their heads stuck in their incontinence pants. The oldies were smart enough to make the obvious step of turning up to vote. Wonder how Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, now in their 70s, voted?

An older person's view and vote matters just as much as a younger person's view. In a democracy, every individual has their say, regardless of class, demographics, socioeconomic status - and age. Many older people have worked their butts off, made sacrifices and have huge life experience that earns them the right to cast their yay or nay.

Despite generational angst being a recurring phenomenon, it seems to me that the level of respect for older people has diminished today. Whereas we wouldn't have dared talk back to our parents, some of today's kids, fuelled on a diet of Snapchat and Coco Pops and life hacks on YouTube, are scarily sassy. One area where you could traditionally rely on a child to have the sass kicked out their ass was school. As much as they might give it hell at home, in school they would be little angels, listening, following rules.

Every day, when I send my children off to school I mouth a silent thank you to the hard-working teachers who do so much to shape children into fine human beings. My kids regularly protest at tidying anything up at home, with my daughter telling me he "just wants to enjoy her childhood". Yet many parents are amazed at how tidy their kids are at school. Kids listen to teachers more than their parents. Responsibility starts with the parent, but teachers are your wingmen.

That could be under threat. Recent court cases between schools and students have undermined a school's authority in a way that could have far-reaching implications for society.

I am all for respecting children's rights and opinions. But handing them the keys to the kingdom? Letting them call the shots and break the rules? No.

Yet recently they have been doing just that.

So, in 2014, we saw 16-year-old Lucan Battison refusing to cut his hair despite it being part of the school rules. Battison and his family took the school, St John's College in Hastings, and its board to court after they disciplined him. He won, with the judge ruling the hair rule was too vague and uncertain. Last year, a Christchurch school was hauled into court after banning two boys from a rowing competition after they breached Auckland Airport security by riding on a Jetstar luggage carousel. St Bede's College banned them from competing at the Maadi Cup regatta near Cambridge.

The boys' parents were granted an urgent injunction by the High Court at Christchurch to allow their sons to row.

Despite the board of trustees unanimously supporting the school principal, the High Court judge considered that the punishment "might" be out of proportion to the misconduct and decided that, pending a full hearing, the pair should be allowed to compete.

Now this week - in a ruling I find beggars belief - the High Court ruled that Tauranga Boys' College acted unlawfully in expelling and excluding international students caught smoking cannabis off school grounds and outside school hours.

The school had expelled a German exchange student saying they had breached a contract with the college.

However, this week, Justice Rebecca Ellis said the school had no power to suspend.

The Bay of Plenty Times reported the contracts signed by the boys' parents said the youngsters must abide by New Zealand laws, not take non-prescribed drugs and abide by Tauranga Boys' College rules.

Now, first of all, these boys broke the law. Second of all, they broke the law as guests in New Zealand. They might not agree with the law. They might, as some (younger) colleagues argued with me this week, feel that there is little wrong with smoking a bit of pot.

Tell that to a court in Bali where you can face the firing squad for drug crimes. Tell that to a court in North Korea which sentenced an American student to 15 years of hard labour for allegedly taking a political banner from a hotel where he had been staying.

The point is, whatever your view of the law of a country, it is the law, and when in the country, you should respect and obey the law or face consequences.

As well as the police, parents and schools play a vital role in enforcing the law. When the incident happened in 2014, I fully supported Tauranga Boys College principal Robert Mangan for sticking to the hard line that the school had zero tolerance for illegal drug use. It's what I would expect from any school to which parents entrust children.

Parents - and children - should always have the right to challenge a school. It is everyone's right to have recourse through our legal system. However these cases are not cases of guilt or innocence. The young people had clearly done wrong. What was being challenged was the consequence or punishment allocated to them. What is this teaching a child, when instead of sucking up a punishment that he might not agree with, and accepting wrongdoing, instead the family lawyers up and heads to court.

There seem no winners in this increasing trend to play out school disagreements in court.

Certainly not cash-strapped schools who have to foot the bill for expensive court cases. Parents are not winners either, for instead of teaching their children that actions have consequences, they support them to the hilt even when their actions abuse the rules or law.

Parents should thank their lucky stars for principals and teachers like Mangan who teach boys to be men because Kanye West sure as hell won't

And the kids? They are the biggest losers of all. Despite emerging the apparent victors in court, what are they winning? All they gain is a world view that they can get what they want at all costs, with no respect for their parents, their teachers, the rules or the law. This sort of mentality means a kid might grow into someone who is a not very nice person to be around. A person for example like the UK's millionaire 'Lord' Aleem Iqbal, who when he was pulled over by police in his A$993,000 Lamborghini, he ranted at the officers telling them how his shoes cost more than their wages. For all we know 'Lord' might be well deserving of the Lambo at just 21, for all we know he has been saving his pocket money since birth working Saturdays stacking shelves. But to speak like that to the hard working cops who service the community, for yes, what he may think of as not alot of money, is absolutely disgusting, and if I was that kid's mother I would be taking the keys to the Lambo and telling him he can walk.

You cannot get through life fighting every battle in front of a man in a wig.

While my generation, and the baby boomers might have rued our strict parents and teachers, what they did teach us is that experience is a great teacher, that older people are older for a reason. That older people know stuff. That if you want something you have to go out and work hard for it, respecting others and boundaries along the way.

Welcome to the real world kids.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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