Last week Australia's Daily Telegraph ran a story about a documentary called Gayby Baby that was being shown at Burwood girls high. Those familiar with the Daily Telegraph won't be surprised that the article was somewhat critical of the screening. The film follows the children of four same-sex Australian families, focusing on the obstacles they face at home and in the community.
Despite the article's claims of "a backlash from parents," a Presbyterian minister was the Telegraph's only source for parental complaints. According to the Guardian, the concerns he heard were never expressed to the school's staff.
Ostensibly the Telegraph felt the matter was newsworthy because schools should be apolitical zones, places where children learn skills like math, science, and reading and then go home. They certainly shouldn't interrupt the teaching of the curriculum for a movie with a political agenda. Sure, Gayby Baby is political. But so is all education.
A school doesn't have to disrupt normal classes to inculcate its students into a particular way of thinking about the world. The decision to teach primary school students the history of Australia without going into any detail about what happened before white settlement has lasting political ramifications. The decision to do the opposite would too. Choosing art and literature for children by limiting yourself to wholly apolitical material is impossible.
Not to mention the times when class is disrupted. No child in Australia goes to school on Anzac Day. Holidays are organized around times of the year important to the Christian calendar.
On a Remembrance Day when I was in primary school my class was asked to observe a minute of silence, the teacher telling us to reflect on "those who had died for us." This particular view of our military and our military history was my own for many years—it remains the view of many today. It wasn't apolitical, it was a cultural ritual that had a great impact upon me. Is there anyone who'd argue that doesn't push certain values onto children?
Instead of teaching us about any particular war and the cultural and political reasons Australians died in Turkey and France in the 1910s, we were given the vague impression that there was something holy about our war dead, and that our military was always wielded in our defense.
The Daily Telegraph doesn't believe schools should be apolitical anymore than they think the Daily Telegraph should be apolitical. It's why they don't even bother presenting intelligent arguments for their point of view.
An opinion piece by Piers Akerman acted as a companion to the article. In it Ackerman goes on a tirade about something a child, Ebony, said in the documentary.
"'It's not normal. You're not normal.' They're the kind of things that go through my head."
Well, Ebony, normality is the state of being usual, typical, or expected according to the Oxford Dictionary and according to the 2011 Census, there were only around 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia, with 17,600 male same-sex couples and 16,100 female same-sex couples. Same-sex couples represented about 1 per cent of all couples in Australia—which would indicate they do not meet the definition "normal."
Children in same-sex couple families are one in a thousand of all children in couple families (0.1 per cent). Statistically, you are not in a "normal" family, no matter how many LGBTIQ-friendly docos you may be forced to watch by politically-driven school principals.
The drive to create the fantasy that homosexual families are the norm come from the politically left-leaning Teachers Federation..."
Firstly, one in a hundred probably fits most people's idea of "expected" even if it isn't "typical" or "usual." Secondly, honing in on one quote from a child is hopelessly obtuse, even as political criticism. Obviously the purpose of the film isn't to show that children of same-sex couples, and same-sex relationships in general, are the norm. It's to show that they're a part of the community. It's to educate people about the peculiar struggles they face. It's to provide proof of how very alike they are to every other family in Australia.
Using Piers's logic we should be telling all sorts of children they're not normal. Like kids with red hair, and orphans.
If the Telegraph had a purpose (other than to sell papers) it failed. The film's director and an alumnus of the school, Maya Newell, gave a talk to the students in lieu of a screening and you can't pay for the kind of press and attention the Telegraph's story and opinion gave the documentary.
The truth is you can't avoid pushing political agendas on children, socio-political opinions inform everything we do. There's a political agenda behind the status quo, and the Telegraph knows it.
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