Show some backbone, PM

Looks like we are seeing on several fronts what the corollary of “agility” is for Malcolm Turnbull – a surgical removal of the spine. Very disappointing. I borrowed my heading from Sean Kelly at The Monthly.

Turnbull caves to Liberal right-wingers*

…a couple of weeks ago I gave credit to Simon Birmingham, appointed education minister after the snarly mess Christopher Pyne had made of that portfolio, for sticking up for a schools program that was under threat.

Under that program a teaching manual, aimed at combating bullying against young people who might be just discovering they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or transgender, was distributed in schools.

As the Australian reported at the time, the program has the backing of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union. 

Some religious groups, however, decided they knew better. The Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman said that forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Yes she did.

Birmingham didn’t give some mealy-mouthed comment in response to this garbage. On the substance he pointed out the program was opt-in for schools, and on the principle he said: “Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment. The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’…

Today Malcolm Turnbull hung Birmingham and his pretty principles out to dry. At the prime minister’s invitation, the minister will report back to the Liberal party room on the results of an independent review of the Safe Schools program that will now occur. (For “invitation”, read “order”.)

In other words, he gave a whole lot of oxygen to the very debate his own minister had recently called “foolish”….

See also Max Chalmers, The Anti-Gay Emails To MPs: Safe Schools Program Will ‘Destroy Civilisation’Safe Schools: Education or social engineering?, Safe Schools: Malcolm Turnbull requests investigation into program helping LGBTI students, Jill Stark, Safe Schools program: why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages. From that last one:

Imagine being 12 years old and seeing your name scrawled across a school toilet door next to the word “faggot.” Or being beaten up and spat on by a gang of classmates who discovered you were a “tranny.” What if you were kicked out of your football team because you weren’t “masculine” enough?

These are just some of the real life school experiences young people have shared with me over the past few years.

We may pride ourselves on being the country of the “fair go” but in 2016, bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children remains rife in our schools. It makes the relentless and vicious attacks against a program set up to protect those children even more abhorrent.

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”…

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers. 

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I think it is brilliant and just wish that it had been there ten to fifteen years back when I was still tutoring and teaching and even on a high school welfare committee. Mind you there have been precursors like Bullying No Way and Racism No Way in NSW.

Of course I have form. Some will know my English/ESL blog, now an archive and not maintained, began as a semi-official resource c. 2000 to 2005 in the school I was working in. There is a section there called Diversity. A subsection is GLBT resources, that being the acronym 10-15 years ago. Now of course it is dated and who knows how many of its many links still work? But I am proud still of this. first written over ten years ago:

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

This page is dedicated to understanding at least and acceptance at best.

DISCLAIMER:

So far as there are cultural and religious issues involved here, I can only say 1) I have not gone out of my way to offend but have stayed within the guidelines common to various welfare areas in the NSW Department of Education and Training though that does not imply any official standing for this page, and 2) clearly individuals and families will consult many sources other than this one, and will already know what teachings their particular belief system endorses. Note also that this page was originally in the context of a boys school, which colours somewhat what is said here.

For myself, I am much encouraged by these precepts of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

Update: drongos for fanaticism and narrowness.

Malcolm Turnbull under pressure after George Christensen likens Safe Schools program to paedophile grooming

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