Frecklington, graffiti and the Genderbread Person

You may have caught some comments from Leader of the Qld LNP Deb Frecklington this week.  If you were hoping for some positive Opposition policies to provide additional funding for education programs or advocate for better pay and respect for teachers and school leaders in the face of growing demand for teachers  and the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining teachers then like me, you will have been disappointed though not necessarily surprised.

As Queensland’s students, teachers, school leaders, support staff returned to work this week, what were the big ticket items for the LNP in education this week? The use of graffiti as a media text in the learning of the Australian Curriculum: English and a free and widely available online resource that helps explain gender identity and sexuality.

Frecklington was outraged about ‘lessons in graffiti for Year 9 students’. Never mind that the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority suggests that when teaching Year 9 English, the use of graffiti as a media text is appropriate for analysis given it often combines images and text, gives an opportunity to consider visual language features of media texts and offers an opportunity to consider historical, social and cultural contexts.  And forget about demonstrating any respect for English teachers who carefully plan engaging learning experiences for students in Queensland classrooms everyday and do so admirably despite ongoing poorly informed commentary from people who are not teachers, such as Ms Frecklington.  (Incidentally, teachers have used graffiti as a text in English classes for decades – even – shock horror, when the Australian Curriculum was being implemented in Queensland when Campbell Newman was Premier and John-Paul Langbroek was Education Minister).

So upset was Deb Frecklington about teachers teaching the Australian Curriculum that she asked, ‘is it any wonder that many of our Year 9 students struggle in their NAPLAN writing tests?’  A question which perfectly illustrates one of the key reasons teachers and school leaders are concerned about NAPLAN – politicians using NAPLAN results to score political points and make generalisations about curriculum, teaching and student learning outcomes. 

In fact, if Deb Frecklington is worried about the NAPLAN writing task, she would do well to read the report released last week where Les Perelman, Ph.D. explains why ‘In summary, the NAPLAN essay fails to be a valid measure of any serious formulation of writing ability.’  

Frecklington’s commentary regarding the Genderbread Person model is a study in hyperbole. 

The Genderbread Person is a resource freely available on the internet and used widely around the world that uses a visual representation to help explain the complex topic of gender identity and sexuality.  It is not a ‘program’ and doesn’t indoctrinate children.  Frecklington’s description of the resource says more about the LNP’s understanding of gender and sexuality than it does about the resource itself.  In fact, her claim that ‘if kids aren’t confused about their sexuality before being taught this program, they will be afterwards’ ignores the fact that for a number of students, the model will go some way to explaining why they have been feeling confused and will let them know that what they are feeling is not unusual and is nothing to be ashamed of.  

It’s hard to believe her claim that ‘schools should embrace and accept every child so everyone is included’ when she describes resources or programs that aim to do just that as ‘disturbing ideas’ used for ‘brainwashing’ and ‘indoctrination’.

Teachers seeking resources to support them to explore difficult concepts with students deserve better than being attacked by someone who hasn’t sought to understand the issues at hand.  Frecklington says that ‘our schools’ core priorities should be teaching students subjects such as maths, languages, science and literature’ and teachers agree (though I can hear some of my colleagues calling out other subject areas such as The Arts, HPE and Design and Technology).  Teachers and school leaders would love nothing more than to focus on the curriculum, however, the reality is that there are real and serious demands on schools to deliver so much more than curriculum content.

A report by the University of Queensland released this week indicates that the average teacher is spending up to 10 hours a week on student health including ‘building students’ life skills, helping kids navigate family and friendship problems and teaching children about everything from positive relationships, to respectful behaviour, cyber safety and stress management’ techniques.

Deb Frecklington is of the view that ‘our curriculum is crowded enough without teaching our kids about graffiti and the Genderbread Person’.  Well, if any political party should understand the crowded curriculum, it’s the LNP.  It was under the Newman LNP Government that John-Paul Langbroek refused to listen to teachers' and school leaders' serious concerns about the amount of content being pushed into classrooms with the implementation of the Australian Curriculum forcing teachers to take action.  In contrast, Labor negotiated manageable timelines for curriculum implementation and by this week indicating that they trust teachers to identify appropriate texts and learning resources that suit the needs of the students in their classrooms and schools, the Palaszczuk Government have demonstrated respect for the teaching profession.

If the LNP are serious about attracting and retaining teachers and school leaders in Queensland’s great state schools they will turn their mind to important matters such as calling on the Turnbull Government to reverse their cuts to education funding, call for better pay and conditions for teachers and school leaders and support calls for a review of the NAPLAN testing regime.

PIC-SamPidgeon-125.jpg  Sam Pidgeon
  QTU Vice-President
 20 April 2018