Anyone who works in the CBD will have doubtless seen the "soft packs" of clipboard-bearing year 8 to 12 school kids wandering around off the leash.
They are supposed to be studying the architecture, of course, going to museums, being astonished by the planetarium, "wowed" by the arts, absorbed by the cultural icons and amazed by the aquarium.
I've always thought kids seeing dolphins was a bit of a joke because they are very similar in many ways: we know they're intelligent but we just can't communicate with them.
But if my kids are anything to go by, the educational content of these exercises is not so much in the astrology, the ichthyology and the cetology as the ecophysiology, the interaction of these spotty little organisms with their environment.
Let loose with nothing more than a map, a meeting place and four hours of free time to fill, it is always interesting to see where the horde gets to after the compulsory visit to the nearest 7-Eleven for a slushee. There is a lot to learn in the CBD and some of the first lessons seem to include:
■How to walk 15 abreast on a pavement.
■How to read a map.
■What to do when lost.
■How to travel on public transport and pay for it (not that easy).
■How to text, drink a slushee and walk at the same time.
It's interesting stuff but I can't help feeling that if you're going to go to the trouble of dragging a lot of absorbent juveniles into the city, you really should make more of the experience and rather than fill them with fantasy experiences like sharks and whales, use the opportunity to let them experience real life, something many of them have never known and doesn't exist in their virtual world where everything is provided, everything is cleaned up and everything is free.
So having got them here, why not show them something that will dwell with them long after the squeaks and toots of the dolphins have gone. Like showing them a whole year's worth of their mobile phone bills; taking them to the office cubicle where their parents sit and making them sit there and do something of value for the same amount of time their parents have to sit there to pay it off, because if their parent (to be generous) earns $100,000 pre-tax a year plus super (the average wage in Australia is less than that at $69,992 a year), they'll have to sit in that cubicle for:
■Five days and one hour to pay their kid's $1000 annual phone bill. Vastly longer when they run over their monthly plan with no more regret than a "Sorry, I didn't know".
■Another three days and seven hours for every iPhone 5 they lose and don't give a stuff about.
■Seven days and two hours to cover that MacBook Air.
■Three days and five hours for a year's worth of zone one public transport travel.
■Thirty-seven days and six hours to cover their personal family food bill.
■Four days and two hours to
cover their share of the family electricity bill.
■Extracurricular sports memberships, two days five hours.
■Clothes, let's call it a month.
■The school fees for one year - Catholics: 12 weeks, two days, four hours; non-Catholics: 26 weeks, two days, four hours; and the school fees for that top grammar school in Geelong: 33 weeks, two days, seven hours. (The top grammar school year 12 fee is now $32,400 after tax, absorbing 66 per cent of the average Australian annual salary after tax, and it went up 5 per cent last year, double the inflation rate).
Now no one begrudges our spotty little irks costing us money, of course. Someone did it for us, and when they have kids they'll
have to do it for someone else. But the next time they're up in the city taking the effort to depart their fantasy world for a moment, let's not show them another one full
of stars and aquariums. Let them visit the real world because
there are no whales or dolphins
you can't communicate with up here, except of course for the other clipboard-toting juveniles swimming 15 abreast.