Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 7. 1964.
Platitudes And Bias At Youth Forum
Platitudes And Bias At Youth Forum
"Youth should have ideas and be prepared to express them," said Prime Minister Keith Holyoake recently on opening the New Zealand Youth Forum. If youth does have ideas they certainly weren't expressed at the Youth Forum. Conformity and mediocrity were the order of the day! Those with ideas were stifled by the incredible over-representation of church and social workers and the strenuous efforts of leaders to reinforce the 'status quo.'
An air of self-satisfaction pervaded the Forum. This was amateurs again playing at bigtime decision-making, disturbed only at times by efforts at stimulation by 'rapporteurs,' a motion reading 'that this group is concerned that the majority of members of this Forum will be back in the same rut in two week' time'; and the expulsion of Anthony Haas for disturbing the decorum.
The brainchild of 60-year-old Keith Holyoake, the aim of the Forum was for the 'youth of New Zealand to look at itself, at its place in society, and its influence on New Zealand's place in the world . . . lasting and long-term contributions to our youth and our country are sought.'
Members of the Forum tried valiantly and sincerely to realise these aims but were hindered by lack of time—leading to superficiality of topic consideration and generality of findings; and lack of expertise and insight in setting the questions so that groups often had difficulty in deciding what the questions wanted.
Group leaders, directed not to take part in discussions, came up with some valuable ideas when they plucked up the courage to speak out. It is possible that with greater training; in leading group discussion the leaders could have stimulated and provoked the groups into helpful and meaningful findings.
The Forum appeared confused because most Nucleus Group members appointed by the Prime Minister misconstrued the original aim so that all they wanted was to find the present attitude of New Zealand youth, and not what thoughts, ideas and solutions they had for the future. Indeed, the Nucleus Group did their best to 'protect the delegates from new Ideas'—the reason given when senior Political Science student Russell Campbell was refused permission to carry out a survey of opinion.
Key personnel at the Forum included Peter Darracott, Forum Chairman and Assistant General Secretary of YMCA; Don Reisiserer, Nucleus Group member and YMCA organiser; Tom Johnson. Drafting Committee Chairman and Maori Welfare Officer; and Aussie Malcolm. Liaison Officer. Child Welfare Officer and veterar niversity undergrad. Speakers a the Forum included Very Rev. Allan Pyatt, Rev. L. C. Clements. Mr. G. F. Briggs. General Secretary YMCA, and L. C. Cross, sometime/longtime YMCA worker.
It is no wonder that the Forum had a bias, especially when statistics reveal that approximately 25 per cent New Zealand youth is religious, and only six out of 112 were in this category at the Forum. One groun finding on moral value found: "That chastity is the natural state of mankind and therefore should be adhered to as long as possible.' The question may well be asked what fleet this finding will have on the community when well over 80 per cent of people indulge in pre-marital intercourse.
Although students were reasonably well represented numerically at the Forum, all except two o hree illustrated the dominant traits of delegates—in fact they vere remarkably uninformed, generaly inconspicuous and depress ingly lifeless.
Valuable ideas appeared by chance but were so well revised And generalised by the Drafting Committee and ignorant Forun members that they lost all they original emphasis and meaning. The Forum did not want specific findings but generalities, and decried knowledge because it was not representative of youth. This was illustrated in one case where a member was giving reasons for massing a specific motion on a pacific problem. He was informed that the knowledge was too letailed, and that it was not epresentative of New Zealand youth. The motion was not heard.
However, the guest speakers came out with some interesting statements. The Rev. Allan Pyatt stated that sexual intercourse is permissible when there is a certain degree of permanency and security to a relationship. In some cases, therefore, it would seem pre-marital sexual intercourse is permissible. This he did not deny.
D. D. Rowlands, speaker on School and Employment,' made the blatant statement that the higher a person got up the academic and intellectual ladder, the more he tended to regard manual workers as his inferiors. He wanted more specialisation at an earlier age in schools, but the Forum disagreed with him and tended towards a broad general education preparing the individual for living in society and as a basis for his working life. Much emphasis was placed on a 'Design tor Living' course.
The general standard of discussion was surprisingly high, and members handled such concepts as moral values with impressive facility. Some of the most stimulating' views of those few expressed came towards the end of the Forum from the few ex-prisoners and ex-borstal inmates who had been persuaded to attend.
Youth at the Forum wanted to accomplish something, they wanted to set an example to others, but they were all toc ready to pass the buck to the family, the school, or the Government. Forum groups recommended the establishment of a Ministry of Youth, a worthwhile suggestion but cancelled out good suggestions by realising findings such as 'the New Zealand education system is perfectly adequate out New Zealanders can't cope with it.'