Sean Plunket slams 'snowflake' youth consumed by 'self-entitlement'

RadioLIVE's Sean Plunket has criticised New Zealand's "cotton wool" youth culture, likening them to "snowflakes" with a "sense of self-entitlement". 

"I do wonder if our current generation of young people have any resilience left in them at all, given the way they are being wrapped in cotton wool, and their egregious sense of self-entitlement," he said during a Friday morning segment. 

The term snowflake refers to children raised in ways that give them an inflated sense of their own uniqueness. It's used to characterise today's youth and young adults as being more prone to taking offense and less resilient than previous generations. 

Plunket's comments came after Auckland's Silverdale Primary School said in an October newsletter it would cancel its end-of-year prizegiving ceremony, over concerns of ranking students against each other. 

He also slammed a group of year-13 history students who created an online petition criticising NZQA for including the word 'trivial' in an exam, because they didn't understand what it meant. The petition says the inclusion of the word caused confusion among students.  

Silverdale Primary School principal, Cameron Lockie, gave his reasons for banning prizegiving this year, saying there's "abundant research showing that awards, rewards and other external incentives undermine intrinsic motivation". 

"If we continuously tell our children that every single one of them is important to our school, I do not see how end-of-year prizegiving aligns with this belief," he said. 

Plunket strongly opposed this view, saying, "Life, I hate to say it, is short and brutal, and it is competitive in every way". He said people like Mr Lockie are "part of the whole problem with society these days". 

"If you are going to bring New Zealand kids up wrapped in cotton wool, telling them that everyone's the same, and either you'll get a prize for taking part or no one gets a prize because that would make some people feel bad, you are part of the problems that this country faces.

"Obviously, this has been going on for a while, because now we have a bunch of NCEA year 13 students who have launched a petition worried that they will fail their level 3 history exam because they didn't know what the word 'trivial' meant."

An NZQA spokesperson said the language used in the essay - a quote from Julius Caesar, "Events of importance are the result of trivial causes" - was within the expected vocabulary range for an NCEA Level 3 history student. 

Plunket agrees. He said students who know who Julius Caesar is should know what 'trivial' means. While over 2000 people have signed the online petition, Plunket said you "can't get to 17 or 18, and still be in education, and not know what 'trivial' means".

"Or, if you are there, and you don't know what 'trivial' means by that age, presumably you've been in an education system that was all about providing you a safe, caring environment where you didn't actually learn anything."

The NZQA spokesperson said students will not be penalised for misinterpreting the meaning of the word. The petition page says it was created simply to "recognise the hard work and efforts put in by many across the country."

Silverdale Primary School principal Mr Lockie said the school will continue to hand out Principal Awards throughout the year, which is "based on our values and recognise what children have done".