Select Page

About Polly Chester

Polly is a thinker, writer and social worker with passions for human rights, caring for the environment, social justice, social policy, epistemology, philosophy and psychology

Educator Polly Chester takes a dim view of Adrian Piccoli’s thin excuses in banning the screening of documentary Gayby Baby in a NSW school.

 

It’s a bizarre dichotomy to be employed in an institution that teaches students about equity and diversity, knowing that in a not-so-distant parallel universe called New South Wales, State education minister Adrian Piccoli has banned all screenings of Gayby Baby; a documentary about children’s lived experience of growing up with gay parents in Australia.

What better way to begin a critique of this badly disguised demonstration of institutionally endorsed homophobia than with an appraisal of the bad disguise itself. Mr. Piccoli’s two main criticisms of Burwood High School’s attempt to screen the documentary were the auditory political-diatribe version of one person sitting atop another’s shoulders in the line of a cinema, wearing a very long trench coat, frantically trying to disguise themselves as one person so they only have to pay for one movie ticket. You are fooling no-one, faux tall man.

And neither are you, Mr. Piccoli.

Mr Piccoli attempted to make it clear that his reasons for banning the film were essentially not content-related. In his interview with Tom Tilley on Triple J’s Hack program on Wednesday night, Mr Piccoli attempted to justify the banning of the film on a couple of technicalities. Burwood High School had apparently made a couple of errors:

(1) That the school had not sent permission slips home with students to give parents the option to have their kids ‘opt out’ of the screening

(2) That the screening was inappropriate due to the way it impacted on the delivery of planned lessons.

But before we unpack those two points, let’s contextualise them.

Firstly it’s important to note that prior to banning the film from schools, Mr Piccoli hadn’t seen the film. Secondly, that his decision to ban screenings in schools had manifested after several complaints from parents and the public – yet when pushed, he could not name a figure. The NSW Department of Education has since confirmed that Burwood High School received nil complaints about the screening of the documentary during school hours. In which case, one could conjecture that Mr. Piccoli mistook the loudmouths pedalling bigoted vitriolic rubbish about Gayby Baby on commercial radio stations as ‘formal complaints’, but I guess we’ll never really know.

Though as an educator, what really annoyed me more than his ignorance and lies were his piss weak justifications for banning the screenings, which I will now address.

(1) That the school had not sent permission slips home with students to give parents the option to have their kids ‘opt out’ of the screening

Given that we are living in the 21st century, in a democratic society, where human rights are supposed to be revered, administering a permission/opting out slip for viewing a documentary that offers education about the diversity of the modern family unit seems like a massive waste of paper. Allowing people to opt out of rights based education on equity and diversity is an anachronistic idea, and one that unfortunately and predictably fits snugly with the ideals of politically conservative and non-secular ideologies that still underpin many school curriculums.

(2) That the screening was inappropriate due to the way it impacted on the delivery of planned lessons.

The funny thing is that it seems as though this was in fact a planned lesson – a lesson on the diversification of the family unit within contemporary Australian society, designed to generate compassion, empathy and comradeship amongst young people. It’s a damned shame that the NSW Department of Education considers humanistic curriculum content to be such an inappropriate intrusion upon the sacred heart of the institution of education. The audibly silent assent from the parents of Burwood High School students overwhelmingly indicates that the screening was welcomed, rather than being considered a negative impact upon the school day.

I live in the hope that at the minimum, basic education on human rights, equity and diversity are standard issue in school curriculums. If they are not, it’s about time that they were. Denying that oppression has taken place in this situation has sanctioned the heteronormative voice, which allows it to remain dominant. In this instance, rather than using power and privilege to combat oppression of the LGBTIQ community through education, the cycle has been perpetuated by an institution that was elected to serve the needs of the public.

Education, delivered casually and informally, are conduits through which social change can be initiated. Educational institutions are ideal and safe places for broaching hard discussions about actioning equity and welcoming diversity within our communities.

Challenging prejudice and discrimination is never comfortable, but the only way to do it is through some kind of educational process, and it is absolutely necessary to visit uncomfortable spaces if progress is to be made.

 

 

 

 

Share via