Dean’s Address – 2013 Formal Assembly

As a media studies teacher it would come as no surprise that one of my most memorable experiences this year was watching a film called The Bling Ring. This was a film that was on at the NZ Film Festival and I watched it in a sold out Embassy – the very location that the Noscars played. Among the 750 people, I watched a fairly damning portrayal of what teenagers do and the decisions they make. It was a film that examined the idea of role models and it challenged me to think about some new things in a new way.

The film was about the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, a group of seven teenagers, not much older than you – based in California who burgled the homes of several celebrities in 2009 mainly. They stole about $3 million in cash and belongings from celebrities homes, including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan. What the teenagers did was they found out from the Internet when a celebrity was going to be away, then they googled their street address, went to their house and robbed it, often by using a key hidden under the front mat.

One of the reasons the film stayed with me is because of the way that is captured youth. These were teenagers that didn’t think about consequences. They got swept up in a culture and made lots of bad choices. It captured a lot of teenage habits accurately. For example – the film showed the obsession teenagers nowadays have with recording their every move online. The characters were constantly taking selfies and posting status updates. In fact this led to them being caught. The photos they took inside the homes they were burgling, were posted on facebook, which were seen by the police, who then arrested all the seven members.

This year, being the first of five years with you guys as your dean, I’ve been keen to establish traditions. This is the first of five end of year speeches I will give, and it was thinking about this film in which I came to the idea of what to establish as our tradition.

In this last speech of the year I’d like to look at the role models that you’ve had in 2013 as a way to sum up the year. I hope that some of my comments here about the people that have defined 2013 might give you something to think about. We live in an age where technology developments are creating access to almost anything, so the role models teenagers like you are provided with often appear to have twisted morals and glorify irresponsible behaviour.

Some of you will have heard me talk about our first fail model in the staff v student debate. In that debate I claimed that Miley Cyrus is a good role model because she provided a refreshing version of femininity and encouraged us to keep our garden tools clean by licking them. Now, let me tell you what I really think.

What on Earth has happened to Hannah Montana? Miley is now creating adult themed songs for a teenage audience, wearing clothes – well possibly, sometimes I’m not sure – she’s wagging her tongue repulsively, advocating objectification, and of course infamously riding a wrecking ball naked. This is a girl who said that she is “Deeper than a normal person”. I admire her for what she is doing well: she is getting attention. But for what? To sell her records? is that all? Is that all she wants? Attention? Does she have something to say about the world we live in?

I’m sorry Miley, your 2013 may make your one of the most talked about people but someone who is capable of talking articulately about the issues that matter to your target audience – you are not. She doesn’t make anyone’s positive role model list. And frankly Bangerz isn’t a particularly good album.

Our next fail model of 2013 has successfully managed a marriage that lasted 72 days and continued a TV career built on a home video. Kim Kardashian is a member of a family so unhinged and dysfunctional that, in comparison, the Sally and Jamie Ridge seem well-adjusted, everyday folk. Keeping Up with The Kardashians first aired when Kim was 26. Prior to that, she had achieved . . . absolutely nothing. Never having worked a day in her life, she was just another rich, indulged trust-fund princess who spent her days shopping at malls and her nights falling out of clubs.

My sad confession is I’ve watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Although Kim and her family sometimes exhibit a charming loyalty among themselves, as a unit they represent some of the worst things about the universe. Kim’s insistence on being in full hair and makeup while giving birth this year is just one example of how this family values appearance over substance. Add to that relationship drama, objectification, and a general insipidness exhibited on the show, this a person – a generous term in these circumstances – who is not worth keeping up with.

My third fail model could have been Amanda Bynes, Chris Brown, Kayne West … But ofcourse, the third fail model of the year goes to… Justin Bieber.

There will be a few people here that will consider Justin their Chipmunk Prince. So apologies for any offense caused. Justin spent 2013 having a public meltdown. He stated that Anne Frank would have been a big fan of his, he filming himself going to the bathroom in a cleaner’s bucket at New York restaurant then posted it on the Internet, along with a string of outbursts at the media, run-in’s with neighbors, and of course his attempt at smuggling his pet monkey out of Germany.

Justin makes a poor role model for his spiraling decline. My prediction is that soon, he will find himself on his own, tossed aside for the next teen star. My hope is that he bows out respectably, rather than continue in his desperation to maintain his diminishing idol status.

What these people have in common is that they are all high profile celebrities, and teenagers are hearing a lot about them. The other thing they have in common is that they are making what I believe to be bad choices. I’ve spoke about choices all year, and it comes back to what I said in March: one of our jobs here at Newlands College, as your teachers, as your Form Teachers, as your Dean, Deputy Principal and Principal is to help you make good choices.

That’s why I’m pleased to say today that I’m so proud of this year level. I’m so proud of you because while just about everybody in the world has heard of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian, there are 187 people in this room who are better than all three of them. I’m proud of you because you are making good choices. You are doing the right thing in your classes, and being recognised with endeavour awards, or maybe even you were lucky enough to come along to a morning tea, you are doing the right thing by being involved in the school in some way maybe on the sports field or in a cultural activity. You are doing the right thing by just being nice people, using your manners and being polite and getting on with things with a positive attitude.

I’m proud to be your dean and I’m proud to have this opportunity to celebrate you in this forum today.

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2 Responses to Dean’s Address – 2013 Formal Assembly

  1. Karen says:

    What an amazing accolade to all Year 9 Students. They should be very proud of their achievements and we all look forward to watching them progress and shine next year.

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