10 August 2012
‘Generation Student’ includes everyone!
Pete Hodkinson, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), spoke up this week at Unitec’s popular Forum for the Future series against the ways that negative barriers are perpetuated between “Old” and “Young” New Zealanders.
The overarching theme for the series in 2012, as facilitated by journalist Rod Oram, is “Whose world is it anyway?” Hodkinson was joined on the forum panel by fellow student Soraiya Daud, Tertiary Education Institution representatives from Unitec (Rick Ede) and Manukau Institute of Technology (Cilla Rathbun), the Head Boy of Avondale College (Adeel Suremderan), Greypower’s Bill Rayner and business commentator Bernard Hickey.
Key topics raised at the forum included:
• the way that home ownership has moved beyond the reach of young New Zealanders; noting that simple availability of affordable housing may be a better aspiration to focus on for the future
• the high levels of all forms of debt, including environmental liabilities, being bequeathed from a wealth exploiting older generation to a wealth depleted younger generation
• the failure of the ‘market model’ of tertiary education
• the lack of shared communication about “hopes and fears” since the global financial crisis began
• the growing disconnect between the number of new graduates attracted to the promise of future opportunities but ‘shut out’ by the lack of jobs at the same time as the myth of perpetual economic growth has been exposed and when the state of economic innovation needed to create the “workplaces we haven’t heard of today” has yet to arrive
• an absence of any broad conversation about the imminent ageing boom and its implication for financing pensions and healthcare (described by Bernard Hickey as the elephant in the room)
• a call to support a “currency of new ideas” and “next generation of ideas”
Speaking after the forum, Hodkinson argued that the handling of inter-generational issues has to move beyond statements that pigeon-hole people simply because of their age, in favour of improving intergenerational communication by recognising the common values that we hold regardless of age.
“It has become an obsession to label people as belonging to supposedly homogenous generations - be that Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials or Baby Boomers. Often this labeling becomes a tool for negatively creating false and divisive barriers between generations, or setting one generation against another. Carelessly used, these labels perpetuate ideas of ‘them’ and ‘us’, rather than helping us to build greater social cohesion,” said Hodkinson.
Citing Professor Simon Biggs, a world expert on lessening the barriers between generations, Hodkinson said it is far more constructive and productive to think about the integral experiences that everyone shares, or has shared, at important stages of their entire student and working lives.
“There are lots of shared experiences that create what Professor Biggs calls generational intelligence. Being a student is definitely one of those shared experiences that continues throughout our lives, not just as a fringe experience.
“Just think about how much better it would be if we could look at the world in terms of the shared experience we gain by being a part of ‘Generation Student’, because ‘Generation Student’ immediately includes everyone”, said Hodkinson.
Read more about the Forum for the Future events at http://www.unitec.ac.nz/news-events/ftf/fff-2012cfm
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.