No Love From Charlie

Charlie Pickering Didn't Respond...But Many Others Did

Dear Charlie,

I realise you’re a busy man. And so I didn’t expect you to respond to the letter I wrote you, about your Safe Schools TV segment.

However, I did get responses from many other people. And one common response warrants further exploration.

Charlie Pickering Angry large size

Charlie Pickering. Photo courtesy

I made the allegation that Safe Schools Coalition wasn’t merely an anti-bullying programme, but was pushing a (contested) worldview.

And the common response was this:

“The Safe Schools Coalition  is not pushing a particular worldview: they’re just helping students accept that people are different.”

This was best articulated by ‘Paul’ in his comment on my blog:

‘* It’s not a “particular” view of sexuality that is one of many alternatives. It is simply a reasonable and secular view of sexual diversity that accepts people are different. It is the only view you can expect to be promoted in a secular public school system.’

In other words, Safe Schools isn’t pushing a view of sexuality (and gender), as I alleged: they’re merely saying that ‘people are different: they have different sexualities, and we need to accept that’.

Charlie, that sounds so neutral, doesn’t it? How can anyone disagree?

And yet, on closer inspection, there really is an embedded view of sexual morality/gender ideology underlying the Safe Schools Coalition.

The Uncontroversial Bits

Gender Confusion and The Diversity of Sexual Desire

There’s no doubt that some students report experiencing innate sexual desire of a ‘non-heterosexual’ kind: same-sex, bi-sexual, pan-sexual desire, and so on.

And  some students report being confused about their gender. 

The Safe Schools Coalition highlight this reality in their material.

If Safe Schools only taught the reality of these experiences (for the sake of preventing bullying), there wouldn’t be nearly as much controversy.

However, the Safe Schools Coalition teach a lot more than ‘mere facts’: they also teach a worldview, a morality, an ideology about sexuality and gender.

Where It Gets Controversial

The Worldview of Safe Schools

After expressing the reality of gender confusion and diverse sexual desires, the Safe Schools Coalition then make the following points:

  • Diverse Sexual Desires? They’re all good
  • Gender Confusion? That’s all good too.

Do you see the difference,  Charlie?

It’s one thing to say ‘gender confusion/diverse sexual desires’ are a fact of life; it’s another thing to say they’re good.

Saying something is ‘good’ is a worldview statement: we’ve left the neutrality of ‘physical facts’, and have now entered the contested world of morality/ideology/beliefs.

(Like much religion).

And it’s this morality/ideology/beliefs that’s promoted by the Safe Schools Coalition.

That’s where the controversy lies.

An Important Clarification

People must not be bullied, whatever their worldview

Now obviously, you and many of your viewers will have no problem with the Safe Schools worldview.

And no-one should be bullied for holding to, or acting on their worldview. Any such bullying is completely and utterly unacceptable (and I think Christians need to do better at caring for our LGBTIQ friends, family members, neighbours and colleagues).

But Don’t Take My Word on This

Hear what one of the architects of Safe Schools has to say

You don’t have to read much of the Safe Schools Coalition material to realise this worldview is embedded throughout.

In fact, one of the chief architects of Safe Schools, Roz Ward,  has admitted as much. The Australian newspaper reported a speech she did:

Railing against a “push to fit people into gender constructs that promote heterosexuality’’ at a Marxist conference in Melbourne last year, she alluded that Safe Schools was part of a broader strategy to change society.

Programs like the Safe Schools Coalition are making some difference but we’re still a long way from liberation,’’ she said. “Marxism offers the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordin­arily new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today.” [emphasis mine].

Doesn’t intellectual honesty compel us to say that the Safe Schools Coalition is more than merely an anti-bullying programme’?

Is There a Better Way to Stop Bullying?

There is: it’s Called the ‘Safe Schools Hub’ (yes, really)

You might not know this, but there’s already a Commonwealth government funded anti-bullying program, called the ‘Safe Schools Hub’ (not to be mistaken for the Safe Schools Coalition – confusing, I know). You should check it out: it’s a really good thing for schools to sign up to:

  • No contested worldviews;
  • No Gender Ideology;
  • Just anti-bullying (how about that?).

I wonder if this might be a better way ahead to stop the bullying of all students, making schools safe for #allofus?

Leave a Reply

14 thoughts on “No Love From Charlie

  1. Thanks so much, Akos.
    Please, please …. can readers visit the Guardian website and click onto the section on Safe Schools which gives a live account of the current Canberra discussions on this issue. There is the opportunity to post your own short comment.

    Take the opportunity asap.

  2. Thanks Akos.

    If I understand correctly, the underlying point you were (and are) making is that it is not necessary to make the normative jump of saying sexual diversity is good and to be celebrated in order to have an effective anti-bullying program. By making this jump the program demonstrates that it has aims which go beyond anti-bullying. This is clear not only from the material itself, but also in the comments from Roz Ward, who you quote.

    It self-evidently cannot be the case that the normative jump is necessary for the program to be effective. People are bullied for all manner of reasons. Sometimes the trait possessed by the person which is the basis for the bullying is not ‘good’ and not to be celebrated. People picked off your Muslim analogy, but other examples also serve the point. Take obesity. Obesity might be caused by over-eating, poor diet, inactivity, genetics or a combination of factors. Obesity is not ‘good’ even though the person may only be able to control it to a limited extent depending on the underlying causes. We don’t tackle the bullying of obese people by celebrating obesity. Sure we encourage a health view of body image, but not that obesity is good. A person who is obese should be loved, included and cared for like anyone else regardless of whether or not their obesity is a good thing. We don’t need to put the normative point at issue we just need to love the person with empathy and understanding.

    I think one of the reasons this issue arises is because the secular world cannot have a moral framework for issues like love, empathy and understanding. You can’t mount an immutable secular reason for why a person should be treated in such a way. Science becomes the de facto fundamentalist text for the secular argument and a link is being drawn between the science and the ‘good’. But this to to ask science to address questions is can’t answer.

    Clearly the question of whether the expression of sexual diversity is a good thing and incapable of change is contested (even within science e.g. neuro-plasticity). The public school system is not the place to have that contest. The sad reality is that by over-reaching the program will render itself ineffective, or worse, counter-productive. Parents will withdraw their children, there will be arguments at P&C meetings, children will be debating in the playground. If the aim is to stop bulling and suicide, the approach taken in the Safe Schools Hub is a much better option.

  3. Thank you Akos for trying.

    I am disappointed to hear that Charlie did not bother to respond, but I am not surprised.

    Pickering is one of a swag of comedians, journalists, and pseudo-academics in Australia who will not, and cannot, engage intelligently on this issue. At present they bask in the adulation of adoring fans and acolytes who celebrate their every word. When you’re on the crest of the wave, you can demean and mock your opponents with impunity. And they do.

    I rarely look at ‘The Drum’ website, but did notice Michael Jensen’s excellent piece, ‘When did all the comedians become sanctimonious televangelists?’ Jensen took on Pickering, as well as Adam Hills and Tim Minchin. But what was revealing were the ‘comments’ left on the website – 443 to be exact. Few were favourable to Jensen’s argument. The overwhelming were negative. And of that majority, most were mindless in their mocking, relishing a public opportunity to unload angry anti-Christian vitriol. In the vast truckload of commentary there was little or no considered argument, no careful analysis, an absence of presenting facts or the need to assess the facts. I would be thrilled if thousands celebrated my point of view: I would be embarrassed if they supported me by demeaning and mocking my opponents with impunity. Apparently, Pickering and company get energised not embarrassed.

    The level of studious disengagement on SSM and Safe Schools Coalition is rampant in our media. Otherwise thoughtful commentators and journalists descend to the cellar when it comes to these issues (exceptions abound – those in the national ‘Australian’ come to mind). The ABC is the stellar example: intelligent, educated and informed, yet they cannot sustain a fair and considered engagement on aspects of homosexuality.

    It’s funny. Jensen, yourself and others stand in a ring; gloves on; warmed-up; and willing. But we wait anxiously for our opponents to step into the ring with us and take us on. What are they afraid of?


    • They are afraid to be proven wrong, because in all reality they know that they are wrong in all aspect of the debate.

    • Hi Malcolm – thanks for your comment, too. I read that article of Michael Jensen’s and it was also excellent. The similarity to Islam strikes me – you shall not question Allah. You shall not question the leftist liberal elite. End of story.

      • And what a great world it would be
        If that were law. Ironic complaint given what the Christian churches used to do to heretics! But yes certain things aren’t up for debate – like the right of LBGT people to exist and not have their identities attacked. The attack on SSC is no less ideological – it’s simply heteronormative and cisnormative world views – nothing neutral about that, just conservatives blind to their privilege as usual.

        Conservatism is shameful

    • Hi Malcolm!

      Thanks for your reply – very encouraging.

      And I’m not surprised to hear about the response to Michael’s argument: that’s the sea we seem to be swimming in.

      As to why people don’t respond directly: I think many do, but the we get to a place where the worldview differences mean we can’t go any further in the discussion…which is why I’ve tried to go a little bit further ‘upstream’ in the discussion with the above post, and uncover some of the assumptions…but more is required.

      Your thoughts?


  4. Great post – well thought out and clear.

    I’ve looked at the “Safe Schools *Hub*” though before, and it’s just a framework. Also, there are some troublesome parts on the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism. Anyway, it’s a framework, not a program.

    Check out CASSE ( for a brilliant program that actually deals with the root issues of bullying, rather than just shifting who bullies who.

    • Thanks Nathan!

      I’ve had a quick look at Casse website: do you know of any schools that are using it?

      Thanks again.

  5. Have you noticed how Pickering looks like a young Malcom Trunbull who has combed his hair on the opposite side to look manlier! The prime-minster’s politics seem to be increasingly guided by Pickering, so I wonder if there is not some mutual admiration society thing to see who can be most popularist. Don’t take my word for it, check the photos 🙂 Good fodder for the cartooninsts!