In the [Grammar] Zone

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

There’s a billboard on the side of a building facing the north-bound lane on the Southern Motorway at the Newmarket viaduct – this billboard here. It currently has an advertisement for McDonald’s Angus burgers, stating that “It’s a little bit fancy – like living in the Grammar zone.” The reputation of Auckland Grammar is such that parents will literally buy houses in Grammar zone to ensure that their offspring get the opportunity to attend the esteemed school. I only know a few Grammar alumni and they’re great guys (in fact, I’m going to be the best man for a Grammar old-boy at his wedding in February) – I have no reason to believe it’s not a great school.

Over the past few months there has been a bit of negative publicity surrounding Auckland Grammar.  Back in August, the AGS First XV got into a fight with Kelston Boys, which was compounded by the fact that the AGS players appeared to get off lighter than Kelston – cue the baying masses crying racism and old-boy interference from Grammar.

And then over the weekend, a group of Grammar boys uploaded pictures of themselves doing Nazi salutes and kissing a swastika. Cue same baying masses calling for heads to roll / expulsions / students held back a year / corporal punishment to be reintroduced etc etc.

OK, so it was a pretty stupid thing to do. In fact, it was a very stupid thing to do – let alone the disrespect and insult it would have caused. There is no excuse for this, they really should have known better. And then to upload them to Facebook. Were they arrogant or just plain ignorant ? Needless to say, the students concerned should be punished, and the punishment that was dished out (to teach visitors to Auckland Museum about The Holocaust) in my opinion, fits the ‘crime’.

But do these kids (yes, they’re children) really deserve the media circus that has erupted around them? I would suggest that they probably don’t.  To their credit, the usually-terrible NZ Herald has been quite measured in it’s response – well, at least when compared to Stuff – I especially liked their choice of photo:

Nazi-worshipping schoolboys arrived at Aucklands War Memorial Museum to apologise.

The blurred image of ‘perpetrators’ trying to hide their faces from the waiting gauntlet of media as they face their execution punishment – this must be the sort of thing normally reserved for the wet dreams of news editors up and down the country.

Is this a reaction to what these kids did, or a reaction to the fact that these kids attend one of the top schools in New Zealand? It’s hard to separate the two – because they attend Auckland Grammar, a much higher standard is expected of them. But I’m not entirely sure this warrants the media coverage that it seems to have generated.

A friend of mine who attended Kings College once told me that because students at exclusive schools (such as Kings and Grammar – in contrast to Kaipara College, where I went to school) get treated like ‘gentlemen’ at school, as soon as some of them step outside the school gates, they act like mongrels. Maybe the behaviour of the Grammar boys is – at least in part – a reaction to the way they are treated at school?

BTW: James (an AGS old boy) has posted about a ‘live cross’ to the Museum on TVNZ last night. Oh how I love the live cross. Really adds to a news story.

EDIT: Got my Grammar’s mixed up. Sorry ’bout that.