I love your show, and I appreciate the way you make news and current affairs interesting, not to mention funny.
Having worked with Gen Y for the last 6 years, sometimes it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to get them take an interest in things other than the latest Adele album (not that there’s anything wrong with Adele…).
And so shows like yours can reach a generation that’s normally disengaged when it comes to news and current affairs.
Having said that, I’d like to raise an issue with you.
It’s about a recent segment you did on Safe Schools.
In it you mentioned that responses opposed to the Safe Schools programme ranged from ‘angry, inflammatory, to just weird’.
Would I be right in saying you don’t think there’s any good reason to oppose Safe Schools?
Make no mistake: I strongly agree with campaigns to end bullying of our young people, whoever they identify as.
But to be honest with you, when it comes to Safe Schools, I’m one of those with concerns (and I promise not to be angry/inflammatory/weird). I’m with transgender advocate Cate McGregor, who admitted recently:
‘[T]here’s legitimate controversy [over Safe Schools]’.
And so your segment left me with a few questions…
1) Isn’t Safe Schools more than just an anti-bullying program?
It seems to be promoting a particular view of sexuality/gender
Provide practical strategies and skills to enable students to create a school environment that recognises and celebrates the diversity of each person’s unique sexuality, gender identity or intersex status.” [emphasis added].
I’m sure that for you and many of your viewers, this outcome is a worthy goal.
And as a Christian, I certainly want to celebrate people (regardless of who they are) as made in the image of God, of infinite worth, and deeply loved by Him (whatever their identity).
But if you look closely, you’ll notice something: this statement is asking for something beyond tolerance or love of LGBTIQ students (as important as that is): it aims to get schools celebrating a particular view of sexuality and gender identity.
In other words, isn’t this more than a mere anti-bullying campaign, with the explicit aim of schools affirming a particular worldview?
An analogy to clarify the issue.
If all that’s all too abstract, let me illustrate.
Imagine Muslim students in a South-Western Sydney high school were being bullied for being Muslim.
And in response, the school decided that it would end Islamophobia by getting the whole school community to celebrate Islam:
- Public talks from visiting Imams on why Islam is so good;
- Changing the food and clothing rules for all students to combat a ‘secular-normative’ environment that might make the Muslim students feel uncomfortable or offended (short skirts, anyone?);
- Flying the Shahada Islamic flag on the school flagpole;
- And of course, compulsory Islamic classes.
Would the Muslim kids feel supported and affirmed? Of course they would.
But how might the Atheist (and other non-Muslim) kids feel?
Could there be a better way to combat bullying, whilst safeguarding students’ freedom of conscience on matters of worldview?
2) The urgent questions raised by Safe Schools
Four questions that need answering
And so the Safe Schools movement, with its aim for schools to celebrate/affirm it’s view of sexuality/gender, raises some urgent questions:
1) Is it the place of public schools to promote a particular (and contested) view of sexuality/gender? Shouldn’t this be left up to the parents to teach their kids about (just like religion)?
2) Do you think it’s possible to genuinely love and care for LGBTIQ people, whilst holding to a different view of human sexuality?
3) Can a school become ‘Safe’ for LGBTIQ students, without subscribing to the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?
4) In a ‘Safe School’, what happens to those students who are fully against bullying of any kind, but in good conscience can’t celebrate the Safe Schools view of sexuality/gender?
The more the controversy drags on, the more these questions need answering. But finally:
3) How do we make Schools Safe for All Students?
Living with our deepest differences
As you know we live in a multi-everything society, where people have very different views on religion, morality, life, and yes, sexuality.
And I certainly understand that there are some things we must all agree on if we’re to be a cohesive and civil society: ‘no bullying of others’ is near the top of that list.
But must we expect others to affirm and celebrate our worldview, as the Safe Schools programme seems to require?
Or can we politely – and without name calling – agree to disagree over things as deeply-held and important as religion, and yes, sexuality?
I think Philosopher John Haldane sums it up nicely when he writes in The Guardian :
Anglophone societies are increasingly diverse, multi-cultural, multi-moral and multi- much else besides. They can only hold together if they recover and renew the principles of tolerance – not endorsing but putting up with that with which one profoundly disagrees, and accepting that one’s own convictions may be countered in good faith.’ [emphasis added]
Charlie, the controversy over Safe Schools isn’t going away anytime soon. But I wonder if some of the questions raised in this post might be a decent place to start a civil conversation about how to make our Schools safe, for #allofus.
Photo Source: ‘Charlie Pickering’ – commons.wikimedia.org Photo by Eva Renaldi; Rainbow Wall – Dollarphotoclub.com