From the VP: We value respect
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 7, 5 October 2018, page no. 9
Since becoming Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has had a fair bit to say about respectful relationships and the values being taught in schools.
Most of it involves him reflecting on what is being taught from his own ideological perspective – or worse, his “gut feeling” about programs. He told a radio shock jock that some of the activities suggested in Victoria’s respectful relationships program made his “skin curl”. He’s gone further to say that, rather than tackling gender stereotypes and their connection to family and domestic violence, state schools should be “focusing on learning maths, learning science” (as though schools can’t do both and more – but that’s a discussion for another time).
It may confront Scott Morrison that some young people are sexually active. It might make his “skin curl” that young people with diverse sexualities would seek respectful relationships education that includes reference to them and that they don’t wish to be invisible. He may even struggle with the fact that gender stereotypes are present in society and impact on development and attitudes from a very early age.
Someone needs to explain something to Scott Morrison: pretending LGBTIQ+ people don’t exist and don’t deserve to feel safe at school and feel visible in curriculum materials doesn’t make them suddenly disappear. And removing reference to gender theory from any curriculum addressing domestic and family violence renders any such curriculum bereft of the fact that the clear majority of gender-based violence is perpetrated by men onto women.
Scott Morrison’s elevation to Prime Minister, and the fact that it took him only days to begin surfacing his views regarding the important curriculum work happening in schools on the basis that the best place to start to create a society free of violence against women and those of diverse sexualities is with our young people, should be a warning to us all. Leaps and bounds achieved over decades can be wound back rapidly when people in powerful positions decide to impose their will.
Scott Morrison said he sends his girls to a private school because “I don’t want the values of others being imposed on children in my school.” Which prompts the question, what are the values that form the foundation of state schooling that Morrison finds so offensive? Is it the idea that students have a right to safely learn in a secular environment? Or perhaps he’s not a fan of students learning to be decent citizens who show respect to those who are different from them? Maybe it’s the aim of public education that all students be supported to reach their potential, regardless of their postcode or their parents’ income? Or maybe I’m aiming too high and his real problem is that state schools are more often than not reflective of the community in which they are situated, they are places where we encounter people of various ability, diverse backgrounds, experiences, cultures and sexualities – where students are taught to show kindness and that there are many different ways to be a successful person. The very values that lead hundreds and thousands of parents to enrol their students at state schools every year.
We should be appalled at Scott Morrison’s attempt to intervene in school programs because they personally offend him. His attitude and apparent determination to wind back the excellent work done in relation to gendered violence and violence and bullying experienced by LGBTIQ+ students are reasons alone to be concerned about the kind of Australia a Morrison government will deliver.
He should step away and leave school policy and curriculum to the people who know what they are doing.