Freedom of expression is an essential element of a modern, functioning western society. It allows us to express opinions and ideas without interference or threat of retaliation. When healthy debate is encouraged, ideas are tested and we invariably get better results.
As an independent secondary school student, I see this right increasingly threatened by both peers and the school institution itself. More and more we are being forced to conform to a single folk belief on various fronts.
i am a white man Unfortunately for me, history class has become less of a lecture on fascinating events, people, facts, or lessons learned, and more of a very public disgrace for the actions of our white male predecessors.
It is not uncommon to be referred to as “privileged” or as a “white colonist”. In fact, racism is often the subject of various subjects – from the books we study in our English classes to the units and topics we learn in our history classes.
While a strong understanding of the long and dark history of this subject is necessary, it should not be used as a weapon against any particular demographic of students.
We’re taught, “You can’t be racist toward white people.” I am sure that the Jews under Hitler, the Irish under English Lord Cromwell, and countless others over the years will not entirely agree with this line of thought. But even a small hint of this can lead to a hostile reaction from classmates or even adversely affect the grades and reports issued by the school and its teachers.
Feminism is also regularly at the forefront of class discussions and is unfortunately often misused to promote a victim mentality.
Open discussion of this topic is often repressed by both peers and school, resulting in many concepts being presented through a biased lens that typically portrays men as villains.
One example is the gender pay gap. A quick Google search reveals that in 1969 the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ruled that women should be paid the same wage as men for work of equal value. Mentioning this undeniable fact often leads to the label “misogyny”.
As with racism, there is no denying that women have historically lacked opportunity and privilege. The origins of feminism are well founded and it is important to understand history, acknowledge and learn from our mistakes and then move forward together as a single community. The continued promotion of a victim mentality, particularly among young and developing minds, is fueling division and dangerous movements like the hashtag #KillAllMen, which has recently been trending on Twitter.
Gender and sexual orientation bring additional complexity to school communities.
sorry you’re bi Oh, and you’re Pan? And you are non-binary? Sorry I used the wrong pronouns. you them? I see, and singular sie for you, ze/zem for you and es/sie for you. Roger that. Oh, and you want me to learn your flags along with your pronouns? Okay…I’ll do my best to memorize these, along with the sexual, gender, pronoun, and flag preferences of my 150 other classmates.
But with all due respect, sometimes I stumble. No… No… I’m not homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or enbyphobic. I was raised to lead with empathy and to treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of identity. Only my math, physics and history also need attention at the moment and unfortunately there are only so many hours a day to study.
Schools should provide an environment where young aspiring minds can discuss controversial cultural and political issues openly and freely, and have the opportunity to do so in a non-mainstream way. However, independent secondary schools have tried to push a single narrative to the detriment of many students.
Is this an attempt by the school to appear more progressive?
Is it for fear of being “cancelled”?
While I am happy and grateful for my educational opportunities, it is still worrying to see such basic and fundamental freedoms being gradually taken away through no fault of my own.
The school community has split into conservative and progressive extremes. In reality, after healthy debate, the best ideas and solutions are usually found somewhere near the center. These groups need to work together and work together – like a football team, where conservative defenders rely on what has worked in the past to steadfastly protect goal, while creative liberal attackers try to find new and innovative ways to score achieve.
Those students who do not bow to a single popular belief become “white privileged, misogyny,
So I wonder if those who are now doing better with labeling and marginalization than those who are being targeted for historical offenses?
Tom Smart is the pseudonym of a year 11 student at an exclusive non-government school in Melbourne.
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