Why can’t we handle the truth?

Too Right!

A regular column by John Black


In a speech delivered to students, Fraser High School principal Virginia Crawford said she didn’t want her students to become statistics.

Last week saw a truly stunning event in New Zealand Education. A lone voice in a profession known for its bloviating bullshitters actually decided to tell the truth. No impenetrable teacherly jargon, nothing wrapped in political theory slightly left of Pol Pot, just some facts.

And she got nailed for it.

Hamilton Principal Virginia Crawford of Fraser High school told students at a school assembly that the more they were truant the more they ran the risk of a string of unfortunate life outcomes ? among them imprisonment, illiteracy, decreased life expectancy, drug problems and rape. RAPE. Needles scratched across records, pearls were collectively clutched, and gobs were collectively smacked.

?RAPE doesn?t ?discriminate!? It?s ?disgusting? to tell students they will get raped if they wag school.

So, the outrage went, on media both mainstream and ?social? (anti-social would be a more appropriate term).

The truth, of course, doesn?t have a twitter account.

In the 2017 U.S National Crime Victimization Survey, women from households earning under $7500 a year (below the U.S poverty line) were twelve times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped.

There are no similar statistics on the New Zealand situation but also no real reason why it would be a different picture (we have a similar number of rapes reported to police per 100,000 people, 30.6 to their 28.6).

The link between school attendance and getting out of poverty is just as clear. Conservative commentators in the U.S call it the ?Success Sequence? as identified by Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brooking?s Institute. If you do three things – finish high school, get a full-time job, and wait until 21 to get married and have kids you are 74% more likely to wind up in the middle class and only 2% likely to stay poor. ?Wagging? school especially when it develops into chronic absenteeism, doesn?t help you to complete the first step.

So Principal Crawford was correct.

Just not politically so.

When some Hamilton High students organized a ?day of wagging? protesting the speech ?a staff member? told Newshub that they were ?brave and commendable? in standing up against sexual assault ?victim blaming?. Here you see what Principal Crawford is up against, social theory and cant in place of fact and lived experience. She was no more ?victim blaming? than parents are when they warn their kids about accepting rides from bearded men in Volkswagen Kombis.

A constant in the pushback against sensible commentary such as Principal Crawford?s is the devaluing of personal responsibility in the quest for overarching structural explanations. Low educational attainment among the poor isn?t due to their lack of motivation and aspiration, its due to ?isms?, ?sexism?, ?racism? ?Capitalism? etc

Yet we have known for decades that the key to success (or failure) in life is not the colour of your skin but the content of your character. The infamous Stanford ?marshmallow experiment? carried out in the late 60s, illustrated this. Children were offered one marshmallow now or two later if they could manage to ?defer gratification? for a set period of time. The life outcomes of the children were tracked; those who had declined the first marshmallow in the hope of future marshmallow riches were much more likely to succeed in life measured by a range of data from University Graduation to B.M.I levels.

There are certain traits, those your grandmother would recognise – punctuality, perseverance, reliableness, hard work and yes, delayed gratification that unsexy as it may be, help you advance in life.

We all know this but current fashion is to obfuscate the harsh truths of life with third-rate sociological drivel.

If Principal Crawford made a mistake it was in being too honest. In our current cowardly epoch of equivocation, straight shooters are shot down.

That is to our shame. Our kids deserve more. As principal Crawford concluded her speech ?If I don?t tell you who else is going to tell you?. We know the answer: At present?no one.


Comparisons of crime in OECD countries? www.civitas.org.uk