Dear Supporter (via GlobalGiving),
We all wonder at what is going wrong with society, with democracy. What explains the rise of populism around the world, and this backlash against the so-called "elites"?
Would it surprise you to hear that this was all foretold back in the late 1950's?
"The Rise of the Meritocracy" was published in 1958 by British sociologist Michael Young.
He meant the term as a pejorative - underneath the mock academic tract lay bitter social commentary. Although the test-based system of advancement emerging in post-war Britain appeared to provide opportunity for all, it was, Mr. Young argued, simply the centuries-old class system in sheep's clothing.
His warnings resonate even more loudly today.
Written initially as a doctoral dissertation looking back from the year 2034, the book described the emergence of a new elite determined not by social position but by achievement on the standardized intelligence tests that were a very real - and dreaded - fact of educational life in 20th-century Britain.
The word was adopted into the English language with none of the negative connotations that Young intended it to have. He was deeply disappointed with the embrace of this word and philosophy by the Labour Party under Tony Blair. In a scathing article in the Guardian in 2001 he states, inter alia:
It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others.
After the 1970s, meritocracy began to look increasingly like Young's dark satire. A system intended to give each new generation an equal chance to rise actually created a new hereditary class structure. Educated professionals pass on their money, connections, ambitions, and work ethic to their children, while less educated families fall further behind, with less and less chance of seeing their children move up. By kindergarten, the children of professionals are already a full two years ahead of their lower-class counterparts, and the achievement gap is almost unbridgeable.
This hierarchy slowly hardened over the decades without drawing much notice. It's based on education and merit, and education and merit are good things, right? Who would question it? The deeper injustice is disguised by plenty of exceptions, i.e., children who rose from modest backgrounds to the heights of society.
But it's this idea of fairness that accounts for meritocracy's cruelty. If you don't make the cut, you have no one and nothing to blame but yourself. Those who make it can feel morally pleased with themselves - their talents, discipline, good choices - and even a grim kind of satisfaction when they come across someone who hasn't made it. Not "There but for the grace of God go I," nor even "Life is unfair," but instead "You should have been more like me."
Two recent books have explored this concept further, focused on the US but with global implications:
The Tyranny of Merit by Michael J. Sandel, Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School. This 8 minute TED talk is an excellent (and concise) summary of the book and the ailments we face as a society.
The Meritocracy Trap by Professor Daniel Markovits, professor of Law at the Yale Law School. This article by Jesse Mulligan profiles the book well.
Does it apply in NZ?
Yes, it does. This article from Newsroom on 18/11/21 profiles Max Rashbrooke's new book, Too Much Money: How wealth disparities are unbalancing Aotearoa New Zealand.
The good news is that we are not too far down the path that the US has travelled, and we are a small enough and connected enough society to make the required changes. But it will require courage from our politicians…which they will find if we demand it.
With our thanks,
Scott Gilmour, Chairperson Board of Trustees
I Have A Dream Charitable Trust
LOCKDOWNS HAVE HIT OUR COMMUNITIES HARD
– Story by Year 7 Navigator Jon Renes
Just as it did in 2020 Covid and lockdown caused significant angst and hardship for some of our Dreamers and their whanau in 2021. Being based at Tikipunga High school meant Navigator Jon was able to assist with the distribution and delivery of kai packs to whanau in need and thus play a small part in actively supporting some of our I Have a Dream whanau.
Through collecting the specially prepared kai packs from our Dream Partner Pak N Save, and distributing and delivering packs to whanau, Matua Jon discovered first hand the extent to which a number of our Dreamers and their whanau were ‘doing it tough’. While the relationships and whanaungatanga that have always been significant to Jon helped anchor him, there were three stories that continue to vex and unsettle him.
The first story was of a 6 month pregnant mum who had come to the I Have a Dream HQ at Tiki High to collect a kai pack. The mum, her partner, and their two primary school age tamariki were in emergency accommodation in a cabin in a local holiday park. While the cabin had a fridge, kettle and toaster it did not have a table and chairs meaning the whanau had to sit on the floor to eat. All food preparation and cooking, dishes, laundry, and bathing had to be done in the camp’s communal facilities.
The second harrowing story came from one of our primary school Navigators who called in to the HQ to collect kai packs to deliver to a number of her whanau. ‘Thinking out loud’ while loading the packs, the Navigator was trying to come up with a temporary refrigeration solution for perishable items in the kai pack for one particular whanau who recently had rats get inside their house and chew through the power cords to their washing machine and fridge.
The last whanau situation that has had a lasting impact on Jon involved a family of five who had been ‘couch surfing’ with whanau and friends since the beginning of the year. Toward the middle of Term 3 it emerged that the two oldest children, a girl in Year 7 and boy in Year 8 had not attended school since early Term 2 as they, along with mum and two toddler siblings were staying with friends on a rural property 50 minutes from school. Even if the whanau had their own car their financial situation would have made it nigh on impossible to get the two taitamariki to and from school five days a week. In talking with the mum about their situation, Jon learned that due to the limited space in the house they were staying at, all five of the family were sharing a single room. As a way of giving mum a break of sorts, Jon offered to have one or both of the high schoolers stay with him and his family for as long as needed or wanted. After a few days discussion and contemplation the Year 8 boy opted to stay with Jon and his family for what turned out to be a ten week period spanning the second half of Term 3, the Term 3-4 school holidays, and lockdown. For the balance of Term 3 the boy relished being back at school, his attendance was 100%, and his teachers and whanau teacher delighted to see him back. In mid October the whanau secured a Kainga Ora house in Otangarei and are now reunited, the high schoolers are back at school, and the mum is elated to have her own whare.
Before Jon started working for I Have a Dream he had read and seen news stories about the lower socioeconomic socially disadvantaged groups across the country however, it is one thing ‘reading’ about these sorts of issues and another experiencing them first hand and being able to truly understand and empathise with the position some whanau are in. While stories like these ‘cut deep’, Navigator Jon also feels incredibly grateful, humble, and thankful that through the generosity and altruism of our Donors, he is able to be a part of the amazing kaupapa that is I Have a Dream.
As a Navigator, Jon gets to be a life-long coach and a mentor – someone who can be there when the times get tough for tamariki (students). He gets to work with the kids, at their home with their whanau and at school. Every child needs someone to guide them, to help them navigate this life and Jon, as a Navigator feels privileged to be able to do this.
SELF-CARE FOR SELF-ESTEEM
– Story by Year 11 Navigator Daisy Rodgers
Every year, Navigators task their Dreamers with raising money through a fundraising activity which they can put towards an end of year activity. Navigator Daisy’s Year 11 Girls really wanted to go to Rainbows End to celebrate the end of 2021, but with lockdown restrictions, this soon proved unrealistic. In amongst this and as the year progressed, it became apparent to Daisy that many of her Year 11 Dreamers were dealing with self-esteem challenges. The prospect of their first school ball seemed to peak anxiety in a number of girls, with many concerned about having to do their own hair and make-up, some worried that they wouldn’t be able to find a ball dress that suited them and others opting to not attend to avoid this pressure altogether. Daisy realised that her Dreamers were in need of some self-care and with Rainbows End off the table, the group came up with the idea of a weekend away full of pampering and a touch of luxury.
Self-esteem refers to whether you appreciate and value yourself. Your self-esteem develops and changes as a result of your life experiences and interactions with other people. [source: University of Queensland]
Daisy enlisted the help of a business mentor (Josie Rogers of New Beginnings) who came in to discuss how through an injury, she needed to find a way to financially support herself and therefore got creative and made a business out of material that would otherwise have been thrown away. The ‘Recycled Earrings’ project was born. During after-school programmes, the Dreamers made 130 pairs of earrings and sold them over 10 months at various markets and through private sales. After costs, they raised over $1,500 which was put towards their weekend away. Tangible benefits aside, the fundraising activity helped the girls develop creativity, entrepreneurial and proactive attitudes, drive and enthusiasm.
Then came the task of organising the weekend away. None of the group had ever stayed in luxury accommodation before, nor had they been treated to an afternoon of pampering from professionals. Through research and Dream Team support, an amazing holiday home was sourced in Whangarei Heads (of which a second night koha was gifted) and the expertise from the team at Lush Life was enlisted to provide all the beauty treatments. But it wasn’t a guarantee that all the girls would automatically go on the trip. The group came up with their own set of prerequisites that each girl had to meet in order to attend:
- All had to achieve NCEA Level 1
- There had to be at least 80% attendance for fundraising throughout the year
- Girls had to show visible contribution and a good attitude
Thankfully, all the girls achieved these requirements and the trip was booked.
Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and more. [source: Southern New Hampshire University]
As with many Year 11 teenagers, there is a lot going on emotionally, physically and mentally. The Youth19 Rangatahi smart survey of nearly 5000 secondary school students found that 23% of students reported significant symptoms of depression. This was particularly high for students at low decile schools and for those living in high deprivation neighbourhoods (i.e., lower income communities). More females reported significant depression symptoms (29%) than males (17%). [source: National Library of NZ]. Over the weekend, Daisy and the Dreamers held a lot of korero around these themes and explored how they can try and help themselves, and one another, work through these various thoughts and feelings.
Overall the weekend was a great success. The girls were overwhelmed by the beautiful home they stayed in, with one Dreamer commenting that they were “going to get a good job so I can get a view of the ocean every day”, and the pampering brought up everyone’s confidence levels. Daisy was ecstatic that the weekend had its desired effect and more,
“The weekend was incredible. I knew that a pampering weekend would be a good example of self-care but it had the added benefit of exposing them to another lifestyle and the girls wanting to work hard so they can achieve that for themselves.” said Navigator Daisy.
With the feeling of aroha high, the Dreamers wanted to say thank you to the generous hospitality of the holiday home owners and Lush Life staff. They made them earrings, crystal key chains, and bought flowers as a token of their appreciation. They also showed their gratitude to their Navigator, Daisy and prior to the trip, each Dreamer and their whanau coordinated a special gift to share with her.
It was a very special weekend with lots of bonding and memories made. These kinds of shared experiences are important for all rangitahi, to grow confidence and create a sense of belonging.
Meet Jodie - our locally-based Fundraising & Partnerships Manager
Jodie Hannam joined us in June of this year, in the first locally based Fundraising & Partnerships Manager role. With the growth of our organisation in Northland and opportunities for expansion, it had become apparent that someone local was needed to manage the Whangarei opportunities.
Jodie's background in sales, marketing, fundraising and event management brings wide range of experience to the role, along with her expansive network of existing relationships in Whangarei. Jodie has been blown away by the levels of interest and support for IHAD, "Although IHAD has been present in Whangarei for over 6 years now, many locals were totally unaware of the amazing work we are doing here and the great impact our programme has on our Dreamers and their whanau. Everybody I speak to just wants to find a way to help in some way and anything is possible. We can generally make any form of support work for us. Every opportunity to help our Dreamers and enrich their lives is a good opportunity." says Jodie
If you'd like to discuss ways to get involved, contact Jodie - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dreamer Work Experience Successes
Jodie has been busily meeting with various Northland businesses and has had some great successes. These are just two examples of how our supporters can help enhance the scope and prospects of our Dreamers futures.
Mary Kelleher of Kombi Nation recently offered her services as a mentor to show an interested Dreamer everything she had learnt over the last 40 years in the fashion industry. Navigator Daisy took one of her Year 11 Dreamers - Danielle - to visit Mary in Paihia and they got on fantastically. Danielle will begin work experience on Mondays and Tuesdays for the next four weeks. If everything goes to plan and Danielle shows the initiative, the right attitude and desire to learn, Mary will offer her a job through the summer and possibly weekends once back at school. There is a travel challenge of getting to Paihia every week, but with the agreement of Danielle's whanau, Mary has offered to host Danielle each Monday night during the trial period. As you can expect, Danielle is ecstatic about this opportunity who is keen to become a fashion designer.
Jodie has also met with the new owner of Huanui Orchards, Grant Luscombe and arranged for another Year 11 Dreamer - Tevita - to have a job interview with the manager Chris. Tevita was offered a job immediately and will start working Mondays, with the possibility of work through the Summer and into 2022, working around school. There is also the opportunity for more Dreamers to get jobs over the Summer and Navigator Daisy is discussing this with those that are interested.