More from the Minister for Patronising Minors

Shorter Julie Bishop: Oh, you poor dear children, isn’t it terrible that political activists have hijacked your Rock Eisteddfod with anti-war messages when I know how much nicer everything would be if you performed something cheery?

Julie Bishop’s idea of a good Rock Eistedfodd entry.
Image Credit: digital manipulation by Gummo Trotsky

In the same article we also have a blurt from the NSW Opposition Spokesman for Tut-tutting How Free Expression Embarrasses Democratic Governments. Shorter Andrew Stoner isn’t required, as he is hoists himself on his own petard quite pithily:

“To be sending this overtly left-wing political message during the APEC meeting, is not only unwise, frankly it can be embarrassing for us as Australians,” he said.

Stoner went further: demanding that Iemma should just step in and cancel a performance involving thousands of schoolchildren from dozens of schools and that has been scheduled for this date since last year, just because George Bush has decided to arrive in Australia a few days early.

I’m a first-time Rocka parent this year, not from Davidson High School, but I can tell you that our school heaved a sigh of relief initially that the NSW Grand Final would not clash with the APEC meeting when the APEC meeting was first announced. The groans when we heard Bush was arriving early were heartfelt – was it going to affect us getting to the venue on time? Yes, probably, on a day when our kids are already going to be up before sparrows fart to pack up props, sets and costumes, then do a day of dress rehearsal before the evening performance, and then go back to school and unpack the trucks, finishing after midnight.

Nobody, absolutely nobody, wanted this performance to happen when Bush/APEC was in town. But if it were cancelled as Stoner suggests, when the hell is it going to be rescheduled to? How much extra rehearsal and disruption of already jampacked school schedules is it going to involve?

As to Bishop’s nonsense, with her doggedly repeated soundbite during her interview with Virginia Trioli this morning that the show was “meant to be” about promoting a healthy, drug-free lifestyle and that she was “concerned” that politics was being dragged into it, I’ve rarely heard a more infantilising piece of codswallop. She is totally buying into the common but strange idea that somehow kids become blank slates as soon as they put a school uniform on, and that anything they express as students must have come from a teacher rather than from themselves synthesising their interactions with family, friends and other cultural influences as well as their schooling. Doesn’t the Minister’s confidence in your integration of your education give you warm fuzzies, kids?

Her suggestion that this school has a particularly strong political agenda (implying that it’s tied to the teachers involved in Rocka) indicates that she doesn’t actually watch the Rock Eisteddfod entries if she thinks that politics and war have only ever been touched by this one school this year and in 2004: many people rang into Trioli’s show to discuss previous entries showcasing Hiroshima, Nazis, WWI, Vietnam etc. This year our school’s piece has a political theme about environmentalism. Last year the piece was an adaptation of a feelgood heartwarmer Hollywood classic. Previous years have been as varied as possible, with politics featuring every three or four years because politics is topical. Our school doesn’t do politics every year, and neither does any other school, because no school wants to be the school that the judges think “oh no, here we go again with the same old thing” about.

A Davidson High parent rang and told Trioli that before the show was decided upon all the teachers and parents were consulted because of the furore about the previous show, and encouraged to fully discuss the issue. The school body voted to go ahead: this is not a case of a rogue teacher imposing his views upon captive drama students. A student even rang Trioli to attest that the prime Rocka teacher has been very careful to distinguish between the politics of the piece and the students forming their own political views independently of the performance, and that she actually felt that the chance to discuss how that separation of work from politics is possible was a valuable lesson all on its own for someone like her who didn’t fully support the politics of the piece. Someone else rang in to complain that as a lifelong Liberal voter she was tired of being told that disagreeing about anything with the current government made her “overtly left wing”.

I don’t have a snappy finish to this post. I’m too vexed.


Categories: arts & entertainment, culture wars, education

Tags: , , , ,

8 replies

  1. And in Victorian education news:

    The Assemblies of God church have been providing free bbqs and concerts to public schools. A teacher at one school complained about making a concert by a religious organisation compulsory (The Assemblies of God sponsored the tour of the Nubian Gents from the States) and got into trouble for daring to suggest that it was less than appropriate. The Education Act does enshrine secularity after all.
    Except it may as well enshrine the right of FSM supporters to evangelise every Wednesday til the Apocolypse, because the Education Department have washed their hands of the issue, because individual schools decide on extracurricula activities. But if it’s during school time, and it’s compulsory, it’s not really extracurricula is it?

  2. Let’s see… I finished school back in 1988. I cannot remember a single year when the theme (chosen by the students) for the rock eisteddfod performance had remained apolitical. Let’s face it, even the notion of what constitutes a “healthy lifestyle” is politicised these days. Politics is something of an interest of young people, because at high school age, you’re starting to learn how the world works, and what your place in it is, and just how damn *powerless* the powers-that-be would like you to think you are.
    As for the notion that the whole thing should be cancelled because the students of one school have one performance which is critical of the policies and similar of a different nation? Absolute and utter over-reaction. What the hell do they think is going to happen? Do they think the Yanks are going to invade if Dubya gets upset about it? First they’d have to find the feckin’ country on a map, and most Yanks find it hard enough to manage finding bloody *Canada*. Besides, I’m *sure* both Messrs Howard *and* Rudd are perfectly capable of fellating the Presnit into a state of benign forgiveness. Or, y’know, Georgy-boy could just not turn up at the performance (if, indeed, he’s planning to head there anyway, which I rather doubt). Show him a koala instead.
    Officially, Australia is a sovereign nation. Officially, the only person outside our own shores we need to worry about is Queen Lizzie the Two, and she’s relatively unshockable anyway. All this fuss over the finer feelings of one boneheaded halfwitted numbskulled over-indulged over-grown two-year-old party boy is just outside of enough.

  3. OMG! 4 David Cassidy’s on stage at once! Be still my heart!

  4. Ooops, TigTog – I fear a typo or brainslip

    But if it were cancelled as Shorten suggests,

    Unfortunately, if/when we end up with Krudd gov, will Shorty & co be equally condemnatory & proscriptive of that which no appeal to them?

  5. Thanks, amphibious – fixed now. I suspect I got too caught up in the “shorter” concept.

  6. I have had a long and close reationship with Davidson High and their dance teacher (who I admire immensely) and have attended many, many ROCK performances. Davo is certainly not the only school to perform political pieces, one school even venturing into the children overboard debate and many other political comments have been made over the years. I don’t know know about anybody else but I send my children to school not only to get an education but to teach and encourage them to think for themselves, unlike some schools that just hand feed their students whom come out little replicas of what they think they should be and who find it hard to then fundtion in a world where they are expected to think for themselves and make their own mind up about things. Davidson has always been one of those schools to provide a balanced education and one in which the kids have their own input into. Their incredible teaching staff have always involved the parents and the kids in this decision making and I for one take my hat off to them – what a fanatstic school and our Ministers and such who are supposedly always harping on about the benefits of a public educaction (while mostly sending their kids to private schools) should for once also take their hats off to a fantastic example of public education – this school has got it right.
    GO DAVO!!!!

  7. Thanks for commenting, Kath. Good luck to Davo in the finals indeed (as long as they don’t beat us, that is!).


  1. Recovery day at Hoyden About Town
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