A ‘cultural pass’ could help our children – and the economy
OPINION: Two of the groups most affected by the Covid pandemic in New Zealand are those involved in the arts and culture sector, and young people who are leaving school.
It goes without saying that education and learning outside the classroom is essential in bringing the formal learning program to life – providing authentic experiences to complement what students are learning at their desks.
Government support is provided to the Department of Education, which holds a questionable funding fund for many community organizations to develop and provide rich learning experiences in a number of areas of learning. These are the programs our children can participate in in places such as zoos, museums, historic parks and galleries. Sadly, the pandemic has ended many of them over the past year and a half.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirms the school holidays will not budge, despite disruption caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
As a mother of three teenagers – two in their final years of study and one in her freshman year of college – I have seen the impact the past 18 months have had on their lives – with little experience in outside of the classroom, making for a fairly ordinary school year.
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One of the biggest disruptions has been the cancellation of the many artistic and cultural experiences that young people typically engage in at this age. School camps, balls, theater trips, dance exhibitions, poetry slams, and participation in mass cultural festivals provide many senior students with some of the best memories of their school years.
I remember how excited I was in sixth grade with my little French class in town to watch French movies to test our skills, and then visit a French cafe afterwards to order our pancakes and coffee in French. For English, we went to local theater productions to see Shakespeare and to watch local writers read at writers’ festivals.
These are classic experiences that our children have missed due to recent blockages and restrictions.
For those involved in the arts and culture, the pandemic has affected their ability to organize events or conduct business as usual. School groups have to provide much of the custom that keeps many arts businesses and activities afloat, and they too will have suffered the loss of activity outside the classroom in recent times.
School field trips also undoubtedly contribute to the spark of interest in young people which can trigger an ongoing love for performance, fandom, or a connection that develops from these group experiences.
Engagement in arts and culture is part of a well-balanced life to balance the serious side of becoming an adult, and the sector should be encouraged and supported by public funding as a vital part of our society, not only a “good to have”.
One way to address both of these issues – supporting the arts sector and recognizing the disrupted experiences of young people since 2020 – is to pressure the government to fund a ‘cultural pass,’ in which young people are given a pass. credit. card or account loaded to spend on artistic and cultural activities or products as they see fit.
Countries like France and Italy have funded “cultural passes” for their young people in recent years, giving 18-year-olds between NZ $ 500 and NZ $ 800 to spend over a few years. The pass can work on a pre-loaded physical card, or via a smartphone application. The French pass is a phone application which, when GPS is activated, will display the activities or experiences available in the user’s vicinity.
In both countries, there is evidence that programs are intended to expose young people to particular national cultural traditions and icons, as part of an effort for social cohesion and national pride.
However, neither program restricted the app to such activities, prompting some backlash from critics, who scoffed at the choices of some cardholders who used their funds to see Hollywood blockbusters. or buy math textbooks, rather than museums, theaters, galleries and classical concerts. Young people used their passes to attend rock concerts, purchase novels and subscribe to streaming subscriptions.
I would support a broadly open program – perhaps with a list of approved providers, but clearly offering a wide choice to cater for the tastes of many. Frankly, part of its appeal is the freedom of young people to spend funds as they wish without judgment, promoting independence and choice.
For some, such freedom would be the first time in their lives that they have had control over discretionary spending, and it offers opportunities for some good life lessons in budgeting and prioritization.
This could be a great equalizer for young people from families who have been going through a particularly tough time, where budgets simply weren’t enough to attend the Matatini festival or a big concert featuring their favorite artist.
Developing a ‘cultural pass’ in Aotearoa could serve a dual purpose of exposing young people to activities and experiences that many have missed, while supporting local artistic and cultural economies.
Governments around the world have put in place a number of economic response measures to both cushion the impact of the pandemic on the lives of citizens and the business sector, and to support their recovery.
In the United States, federal stimulus payments of NZ $ 2,500 per person have significantly boosted spending and economic recovery. A culture pass could extend our ethic of benevolence towards young people while increasing expenses.
Khylee Quince is Acting Dean of Auckland University of Technology Law School.