Deep civility on the skids

In light of events at Troppo over the last couple of days, now might be an opportune moment to post an extract from a post by the wise but currently absent Don Arthur at his now-moribund blog:

A deeper form of civility asks us to make an effort to treat other people with respect. It is not possible to treat others with respect when we act in a way that says that who they are or what they believe makes them worthless or contemptible as human beings. This basic respect for other people and their beliefs about what makes life worthwhile is what liberalism is all about.

We don’t know how to resolve disagreements about whether a good life is one devoted to serving God or one devoted to enlightened self interest. We don’t know how to reach a consensus about which moral values are most important or what words like freedom or fairness mean in practice. It’s impossible to say that these are not important issues but it’s also impossible to reach agreement. People don’t disagree with us about these things because they are mad, ignorant, or stupid.

The liberal response to differences like these is to agree to disagree. We don’t give up our own beliefs, our own ambitions for society, or our own feelings about what others say and do. What we do is agree to respect other people for who they are and in return we ask them to respect us for who we are.

I imagine that just about all of us would agree with Don’s observations in the abstract. But the principles of deep civility aren’t always easy to apply in practice, as several recent comment threads on this blog demonstrate.

When we accuse an opponent of “self-righteousness” (as both sides have done in the lesbian student-teacher debate), there’s a high probability that we’re thereby exhibiting that same quality ourselves.

It’s also useful to keep it in mind when we’re discussing a topic involving values about which there is wide community disagreement. Like homosexuality for instance. I imagine many Troppo readers (including me) regard sexuality as purely a matter of personal choice/orientation, in respect of which people are entitled to equal treatment and respect in every way and at every level. But those are not values held by anywhere near the entire population, perhaps not even a majority of it. Most mainstream Christian churches, for instance, preach some variation of “love the sinner, hate the sin“. Presumably many of their adherents agree and want those values instilled in their children as far as possible.

The law in this secular society now insists (with some limited exceptions) that people may not be subjected to discrimination based on their sexuality. But it doesn’t require anyone to subscribe to a moral value that effectively says homosexuality is an equally valid/acceptable choice for themselves or their families, or to teach or permit that value to be taught to their children. So how do those principles interact? Where do we draw the dividing line? We need to keep reminding ourselves that there is plenty of room for intelligent people of good faith to disagree on such questions. And that sometimes even those with whom we most profoundly disagree may still have valuable insights and experiences if we avoid closing our minds and refrain from shouting at each other.

It seems quite clear, to me at least, that anti-discrimination principles must require, if they are to have any real meaning, that gay teachers are entitled to walk the streets with their partners and show them affection in just the same way as anyone else. And if their pupils happen to see them together and get curious about it, even religiously-minded parents have no right to object (or at least to have their objection acted on by school authorities). I can understand some parents attempting to press objections even to such behaviour, because the very fact of a respected authority figure like a teacher being seen with a same-sex partner tacitly conveys a value to the child that is inimical to parental values (that the practice of homosexuality is morally wrong). However, to that extent the parents’ right to choose the moral values their children are taught must give way to the teacher’s right to live her life as she sees fit without discrimination.

But once the teacher goes further than that and responds to pupils’ questions about her relationship, she enters more troubled waters. Arguably she is then no longer just living her own life as she sees fit, but actively (and unnecessarily) espousing moral values about which parents are entitled to choose. A wise teacher would simply have declined to answer pupils’ “who was that lady you were with, miss?” question, and would certainly have known that going any further than a bare response was fraught with danger.

Points made by Geoff Honnor about the victimisation gay children suffer at school, and their lack of support systems compared with many other victims of bullying, certainly make this issue more difficult. But my own view is that kids’ need for counselling and support must be kept conceptually and practically separate from what teachers teach their pupils. If a teacher becomes aware that a child in her care may have an issue needing counselling (including a sexuality issue), there are severe limits to how she may properly act towards that child. She can’t simply be indifferent or uncaring, but she equally can’t act as a counsellor or a role model to a gay student. A teacher who goes any further than taking the child to the school counsellor is taking a major risk. As far as I know, all teachers are taught how to deal with such situations (although that doesn’t make them any easier when you’re actually confronted with one in practice).

But of course there are other viewpoints one might perfectly reasonably hold. Some may observe that this post itself has a faintly self-righteous tone, and they might even be right. But I doubt it from the depths of my deeply civil, humble heart.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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wbb
wbb
2021 years ago

“Arguably she is then no longer just living her own life as she sees fit, but actively (and unnecessarily) espousing moral values about which parents are entitled to choose.”

Ken, what do you mean by “espousing”? Seems crucial to understanding your point here. Do you mean “recommending”? Do you feel that it is permissible for a teacher to acknowledge her homosexuality to her pupils? And maybe allow it to be known that they have a partner? Or would that be needlessly risking the wrath of the some?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I mean what I said. A wise teacher would say nothing. But an unwise one who honestly but without more acknowledges that this is her partner certinly should not be disciplined IMO. But it’s clearly closer to the line.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Point taken. I’ll return those overdue books to the uni library at once.

“moral vaues about which parents are entitled to choose”

Stephen Fry wrote a very provocative and well argued piece about this issue which I can’t find online, but which first ran in the Daily Telegraph sometimee between 1989 and 1991, and then reprinted in his book “Paperweight”.

Here’s a teaser line.

“If parents want their children to really share their perceptions of the world they should insist on teachers who hold an absolutely opposite point of view.”

Think about it. One of the main points we all took away from school was that there was more to seeing the world than what our parents wanted us to see.

The only morals everyone commenting here would agree on, such as honesty, fair play, no bullying, respect for others, help those less fortunate, cleaning up after yerself and not playing foosball with live kittens, is the kinda stuff our parents are expected to instill in us anyway.

So what other moral values do you think Ken that schools should or should not be imparting to their students?

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Well Ken and wbb, et al, I’m afraid it’s still a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire here. Let’s see how we can make this point a little more obvious shall we?

Rephrasing Ken,
“It seems quite clear, to me at least, that anti-discrimination principles must require, if they are to have any real meaning, that bestial teachers are entitled to walk the streets with their animals and show them affection in just the same way as anyone else. And if their pupils happen to see them together and get curious about it, even religiously-minded parents have no right to object (or at least to have their objection acted on by school authorities).”

Now let’s just assume for arguments’s sake that the whole school community knows about our teacher’s prediliction here because she belongs to the local Bestial Rights Group and regularly advocates on their website along with her peers, that they should be allowed to marry their animals, like heterosexual couples.

Rephrase wbb,
“Ken, what do you mean by “espousing”? Seems crucial to understanding your point here. Do you mean “recommending”? Do you feel that it is permissible for a teacher to acknowledge her bestiality to her pupils? And maybe allow it to be known that they have an animal? Or would that be needlessly risking the wrath of the some”

You see here the problem in a nutshell guys?- I don’t find bestiality offensive and some of my best friends are ‘beasties’ and I just don’t know what all the fuss is about in our schools and in any case it’s not right to discriminate against people because of their sexual preferences and why shouldn’t they have the right to marry their animals too, etc, etc…..

Sorry to put it to you so bluntly, but I could have used paedophilia as the example of how a majority or even a significant minority may think. Sooner or later you gotta choose what’s right or wrong for you and your kids and that’s why many of us don’t believe in monolithic education sectors. Give the people their choice of schools, values, teacher types, etc and you won’t have this ethical dilemma all the bloody time.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Christ, observa, you’re really determined to dig your own grave on this one, aren’t you?

Surely, anyone can see that a sexual preference for an adult of your own sex has nothing whatsoever to do with “perversion” – which your comment about bestiality strongly implies.

I repeat – you’re carrying on like a pork chop.

I strongly suspect you know far better, and you’re just being provocative. If so, don’t, it’s not funny. I hope I’m right – I’d be really disturbed if you were making a genuine analogy.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

I might add that if my kids had been lectured by some vegan twit for eating a fritz sandwich, I’d have been knocking on the principal’s door. As it was I only had to stand up for the missus against the SA Ed Dept for the typical sort of crap that Sophie mentions. A threat to deal with my barrister if they didn’t stand up for her against a child abuse allegation from some nutter mum listening to her lying little shit, got them off their fat arses real quick. Can you believe this? After bringing in the CIB initially, then haranguing the missus, the principal, the whole school and Ed Dept for a giant conspiracy, she took little Johnny away to another school, but left her daughter at the wife’s school. A couple of weeks later the Minister came out with a public announcement about black-banning abusive nutter parents. Good boy minister(chuckle)

Tim
Tim
2021 years ago

“I strongly suspect you know far better, and you’re just being provocative.”

Actually, given comments Observa has made elsewhere, and on a range of topics, I’d suggest we do him the courtesy of taking him at his word. And basically, anyone who compares homosexuality to bestiality is beneath contempt.

yellowvinyl
yellowvinyl
2021 years ago

Tim, if we do indeed accord that courtesy to observa, all I can say is that the SA Education Minister showed very good sense indeed.

on the substantive post, Ken, you write:

“Arguably she is then no longer just living her own life as she sees fit, but actively (and unnecessarily) espousing moral values about which parents are entitled to choose. A wise teacher would simply have declined to answer pupils’ “who was that lady you were with, miss?” question, and would certainly have known that going any further than a bare response was fraught with danger.”

“arguably” suggests yr not sure. I fundamentally disagree. the only way we’re going to overcome prejudice is by people proceeding to talk in a very natural manner about the way their live their lives and not worrying about whether it’s fraught with danger.

it takes courage, and more power to that student teacher. it shouldn’t – it should just be a matter of course.

the reductio ad absurdum of all this is that

(a) we should not have any sex education in public schools because sex is “controversial” – whereas all the studies show that where this takes place, the rate of teenage pregnancy, abortion, HIV infection all falls – which presumably accords with most people’s values;

(b) we should give up on trying to educate about anything except the 3Rs at all lest we transgress a single parent’s values;

point (b) should demonstrate why Dr D the Death Dealing educational expert is so keen on right wing pc.

I put to you, Ken, that it doesn’t matter a fuck if a parent thinks being gay is morally wrong. maybe 50 years ago in the States parents in the South thought it was morally wrong for black and white people to marry. thus they wanted segregation in schools. it was clearly ethically right for the US supreme court and LBJ to desegregate schools, because their values were based on *PREJUDICE*.

if parents want to send their kids to some Christian fundo private school where they get taught to hate and fear gay people, then end of story. but I can’t see how it should be at all problematic in public institutions that the values of tolerance, anti-discrimination and respect should trump parental views.

I don’t view myself and my sexuality as a moral problem. if I decided to go and study education and become a teacher, should it be? why?

I think you need to stop sitting on the fence on this one, Ken. you know the answer to what happens to people who sit in the middle of the road – they get run over unless they make a quick step to the left or the right. it’s actually not a left/right thing in the political sense but I’m appealling to your better angel to hear you condemn prejudice against lesbian or gay teachers in schools unequivocably.

what about it?

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

“We need to keep reminding ourselves that there is plenty of room for intelligent people of good faith to disagree on such questions. And that sometimes even those with whom we most profoundly disagree may still have valuable insights and experiences if we avoid closing our minds and refrain from shouting at each other.”

This blog does make me wonder sometimes….

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Well Scott, I come here for the argy-bargy m’self.

And I had no idea that –

“I might add that if my kids had been lectured by some vegan twit for eating a fritz sandwich, I’d have been knocking on the principal’s door. As it was I only had to stand up for the missus against the SA Ed Dept for the typical sort of crap that Sophie mentions. A threat to deal with my barrister if they didn’t stand up for her against a child abuse allegation from some nutter mum listening to her lying little shit, got them off their fat arses real quick. Can you believe this? After bringing in the CIB initially, then haranguing the missus, the principal, the whole school and Ed Dept for a giant conspiracy, she took little Johnny away to another school, but left her daughter at the wife’s school. A couple of weeks later the Minister came out with a public announcement about black-banning abusive nutter parents. Good boy minister(chuckle)”

– was actually a parody. Damnit, I was all set to play along in character.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Mark,
I make that analogy to show you how many people view your stand and all your arguments about homosexual rights. (hint: go back and read all your arguments in this light) They do view it as ‘perversion’. Can’t you get that through your thick bloody skull? Why the hell do you think homosexuals have been closeted for so long? Because they preferred it that way?

Personally I don’t care what adults do sexually in private but if you want to be a professional like a teacher, you’d better watch your audience. Also as a heterosexual I have to admit that homosexual attraction is about as foreign to my understanding as is paedophilic attraction. So is bestiality for that matter. For most of us this is the case. Now one thing I do understand is the value of heterosexual monogamous marriage and contra, all the problems that can occur when it fails, particularly for children. This is where I feel those advocating homosexual rights fail them by advocating gay marriage. To do that you have to devalue its iconic and time tested status and most of us know that implicitly. We know what comes next-polygamy and IVF rights being the obvious and then where to? As Kevin Donnelly points out, that just don’t feel natural baby, but then you ought to understand the feeling here Mark. What about a bit more logging in the Tarkine mate?

yellowvinyl
yellowvinyl
2021 years ago

deal, Observa…, just deal.

we’re here, we’re queer, get over it.

you and yr prejudice against “unnatural perversion” are on the way out.

the tide will turn, my friend, and it might even ripple through yr water cooler.

hey, Ken, “deep civility on the skids”, you said truer than you knew, yeah? when we have commenters like Mr Observa peddling their prejudice, civility breaks down pretty quickly, does it not? funny that? no, not really, because prejudice and rationality are incompatible.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Nabakov I can be as emotive, irrational and as contrary as the next bloke. I have my beliefs and you have yours and they often come out in contrary ways.

In general I’d have to say that I’m stunned that some of you so called intellectuals think you can get by without believing in something. Personally I think Ken tried valiantly to rise above it all with high principle, but unfortunately some were calling him back to particular case law. Sooner or later you have to believe in something or you end up at the Stargate of empty nothingness. Scratch below Mark’s surface and although he thinks homosexuality is fine, he has a problem with bestiality and paedophilia as ‘perverted’. He can’t understand that others would add homosexuality to their list. In fact it hasn’t even occurred to him that most of his countrymen disagree with his definition and so maybe he’s wrong in some sense, or perhaps he needs to emigrate. OTOH perhaps in a few years we’ll all be fully enlightened like him and have moved on to having the same argument about paedophilia, or bestiality.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

“you can get by without believing in something.”

“he has a problem with bestiality and paedophilia as ‘perverted’.”

Yer pissed aren’t you, observa?

Cool, so am eye.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Yellow, homosexuality doesn’t really affect me or concern me, except to say that I would protect the institution of marriage against all comers(eg polygamists). For me with my kids growing up it was more the violence/porno thingy when they were young, but as they get older well its the drugs/alchohol/driving to worry about. Also I do think we’ll have to demystify paedophilia one day to properly get a handle on the problem. Like homosexuality we’ll have to learn to deal more peacably and appropriately with different sexual urges. They are after all loving ones unlike say rape.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I’m going to ignore the whole exchange involving Observa (well, not quite – see below). I’ll pick up on Nabakov’s initial comment. Almost everything we do involves conveying values. Teachers are shaping young lives by their words and actions, and they DO have a responsibility to parents.

Teachers, like politicians, must always be acutely aware of how their words and actions convey values. They are in sensitive positions where their every action is scrutinised by small censorious beings who will judge ruthlessly and report to their parents, sometimes innocently and sometimes maliciously.

Anything at all about their teacher concerning sex and relationships is voraciously observed, dissected and consumed by children. Teachers need to be acutely aware of how they dress, speak and behave. Irrespective of their sexuality. I could give you lots of examples of this, but they would breach other people’s privacy. I’ll stick to my own situation. When I was married to Jenny Parish we didn’t need to worry too much about displaying aspects of our relationship when we met at school. We were an old married couple and it was ho hum. But not when Jen and I first got together. Her students were desperately curious to find out about “miss’s” new boyfriend, and we needed to be acutely aware of that fact and moderate how we behaved when I met her at school. Overt displays of affection would have been minutely analysed, and perhaps reported to parents. “Inappropriate” displays of physical affection (i.e. kissing and cuddling) have sometimes been the subject of disciplinary action in schools, irrespective of sexuality.

However unfairly, teachers must be aware of these things. If you don’t want to have your every action minutely observed and potentially used against you in ways that would be unfair in other contexts, don’t become a teacher or a politician.

Turning to yellowvinyl, I simply don’t agree with you. At least not when you’re dealing with kids of primary age. It is simply inappropriate to discuss sexuality in a manner that unavoidably conveys approval of values to which many parents object, and which they don’t want inculcated into their children. Observa’s bestiality eample is offensively provocative, but he has a point. Many people (and just about all churches) DO regard homosexual behaviour as morally wrong, and don’t want their children taught to the contrary. We need to make a distinction betwen primary and secondary age kids. Older kids are much better able to grasp finer moral and ethical distinctions and make up their own minds about such things. For example (on a totally different tangent), kids tend not to be turned into raving lefties by their high school politics teachers, even though one suspects few of those teachers vote for John Howard. Primary aged kids are just too young, and parents can quite validly demand that their kids not be exposed to overtly value-laden teaching. Talking about the teacher’s own gay relationship (except to barely acknowledge its existence, and only when that’s unavoidable through the children having seen the teacher and her partner together in a context that requires a minimal explanation) is by its very nature value-laden. Parents are going to object, and they have every right to do so. I’m not sitting on the fence at all yellow. I guess I just wasn’t making myself clear enough. A trusted (often worshipped) authority figure teacher discussing their sexuality in this context conveys a powerful message of approval/acceptance of behaviour that many parents object to being presented in those terms, to children too young to make up their own minds in an independent rational manner.

There is a critical distinction between a class teacher discussing the existence of different sexualities in the abstract in sex education classes for primary age children, while being careful not to express any view as to the morality of any such behaviour, and discussing it in very concrete terms after the children have seen the teacher with her partner. The latter unavoidably conveys the value that this is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice no different from any other. Like it or not, that is a highly socially-contested value. You and I may agree with it, but many Australians don’t and they have every right to object to you and I inflicting our values on their children. If you don’t accept that restriction on the freedom of your words and behaviour while in the presence of the children you teach, then you shouldn’t be a teacher at all.

yobbo
2021 years ago

The fact that Mark is upset by observa’s analogy just shows what an intolerant hypocrite he is.

You assume that paedophilia is universally reviled, whereas homosexuality is universally accepted as a sexual preference.

I think you’d find that most of the world would prefer you had sex with a 13 year old girl than a 25 year old man.

In fact, in some countries you could marry your 13 year old girlfriend, but be executed for touching your 25 year old boyfriend.

The analogy is quite valid. The fact that you think homosexuality is more acceptable than paedophilia is simply your own opinion. Many people agree with you. Many people find both equally repugnant.

The fact that Australian law agrees with you doesn’t take away the right of others to hold their own differing opinions, or their right to send their child to a school where their values are respected.

You have the right to live your life as you wish, but others equally have the right to disapprove of it.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“The latter unavoidably conveys the value that this is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice no different from any other. Like it or not, that is a highly socially-contested value.”

Well, it is perfectly acceptable in a legal sense and it’s not, of course, a lifestyle choice. People do not “choose” to be gay. It’s simply an innate variant of legitimate adult sexual and affectional expression with other adults. Most adult people are attracted to the opposite sex, some to the same-sex and some people to both.

Obs, it has nothing whatsoever to do with cows, sheep, dogs or really cute goannas nor does it have anything to with sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. The latter can occur in adults across the sexuality spectrum and – if anything – occurs far more frequently within extended families: generally to kids under male ‘protection.’ But it has no intrinsic link to heterosexuality either.

I accept that various faiths see homosexuality as a sin or an abomination etc. There’s an interesting debate about the extent to which kids should be religiously encouraged to hate people going about their perfectly lawful existence but I certainly see no place for enabling it in the Australian public school system.

Discussing matters sexual with kids is clearly perilous – I accept that totally. Still, there’s a way to convey the facts (see above) that has nothing to do with propagandising.

jen
jen
2021 years ago

“I don’t view myself and my sexuality as a moral problem. if I decided to go and study education and become a teacher, should it be? why”

Your sexuality is not a problem, but perhaps the lack of gentleness and tolerance that is entertaining on a blog, might bring you grief in a classroom.
But take heart teachers can make no great secret of their partner orientation at school. The qualities that allow acceptance among peers and students are talent, obviously, care, and active and unremitting tolerance. When self-discipline allows those qualities to be at the forefront of teaching practice, they are, I have observed, reflected right back.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“You have the right to live your life as you wish, but others equally have the right to disapprove of it.”

Sure. But the question really is where society – rather than an individual – might place the weighting. If the people opt to legally sanction a legitimate form of sexual expression and identity – as they have in Australia, then it’s about time that some individuals got over it. I don’t think anyone is arguing that people have to unreservedly “love” homosexuality. They do however have to eventually accept that homosexual people have a legitimate right to be and adjust their outlooks accordingly.

Rex
Rex
2021 years ago

My view is –

-Parents have a right to have a say in who teaches their children (and by implication what moral code they are taught)

-Different people have different views on what consitutes acceptable moral behaviour

– Teachers, if they don’t want to get caught up in all this stuff, better keep their private lives, and their moral positions partitioned from their role as teacher (unfortunatley this it what we’ve come to) .

– If malicious people ‘out’ a teacher as a way of destroying their career, and the teacher has not invited the scrutiny, then those people should be prosecuted, and pay compensation to the teacher for potential lost income and embarrassment.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“Well, it is perfectly acceptable in a legal sense …”

That simply isn’t the case. Anti-discrimination laws outlaw discriminatory CONDUCT in relation to sexuality in specified areas like employment and provision of goods, services and accommodation. They don’t mandate acceptance/equivalence for all purposes. Religions are free to teach that homosexuality is morally wrong, and so are parents. And all of us are free to believe what we choose. Not even all conduct of a discriminatory nature is prohibited. There are exceptions for religious schools, for instance, and for employment of people within the family home. They’re quite carefully designed to maintain a distinction between freedom of belief and behavioural mainfestations of those beliefs that may inflict them on others in an oppressively unfair way.

I agree that this is a somewhat fine distinction, and I’m not at all sure that it’s really workable in the long run, but it’s certainly the basis on which anti-discrimination laws currently operate. They are an uneasy compromise between secular liberal values of toleration and acceptance on the one hand, and religious convictions about moral right and wrong on the other.

In fact, I have doubts whether the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” Christian church formula is capable of being understood and applied by most christians. It far too easily becomes a pretext for hating the sinner under the guise of pious hypocritical doubletalk.

Finally, I realise homosexuality is not a “choice”. I was simply portraying the attitudes of parents who have strong moral objections to homosexuality. But that in turn leads to another important point. There’s an unavoidable clash when religious values dictate that particular behaviour is a sin and an abomination, whereas that behaviour as a matter of scientific fact (apparently) is innate, natural and unchangeable (at least in an orientation sense – you can’t cease to be gay, only become gay but non-practising/celibate). Religious fervour on this issue springs partly from the general teaching that the Bible is the unchanging word of God, but partly also from a misconceived moral panic/fear that one’s otherwise straight children might be suborned into homosexuality by predatory gay adults. One would hope that enlightenment (as you and I would perceive it) will one day dawn on most of them, but until it does it isn’t the province of the law to impose on people moral rules that aren’t fairly generally accepted, nor is it for agents of the State (i.e. teachers) to do so through what they teach our children. The practical working-through of deep civility requires that mutual tolerance/respect for differing values and opinions must operate in the way I’ve argued IMO.

Robert
2021 years ago

Religions are free to teach that homosexuality is morally wrong, and so are parents.

Religions are also free to discriminate against homosexuals in a way that other organisations are not. We’re talking about a public school here, though, so Geoff’s point stands.

In my opinion, even if the lady was wrong, the principal overreacted. It’s clear from the level of discussion that there is a grey area here, and we know that she was an inexperienced student teacher. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to give her some guidance on acceptable answers, rather than the sack? (Explaining why straight folk can be more open about their relationships might prove more difficult, though.)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“We’re talking about a public school here, though, so Geoff’s point stands.”

No it doesn’t, because to allow teachers to freely teach their own preferred values to children, in defiance of the wishes and values of their parents, would effectively negate the freedom of families and churches to inculcate the values in which THEY believe. The approach that people like you and yellowvinyl advocate brings liberalism dangerously close to coercive authoritarianism. Children can and will be subjected to a wide variety of opinions and values as they grow up, but allowing trusted/authoritative agents of the state the right to abuse their position of power and influence over children to impose values contrary to those of their family and religion is unacceptable coercion on the part of the state. State schools are not truly open to all if only those who subscribe to the ideologies of the prevailing bureaucratically-dominant oligarchy can safely send their kids there without having them brainwashed. In fact your attitude amounts to quite spectacular intolerance of diversity masquerading as tolerance. The attitude seems to be: “Our values are right and yours are wrong, ignorant and stupid. We’re going to impose our values on your kids whether you like it or not, and if you don’t you can piss off and take your kids to a church school. And we’re going to keep doing this even though no-one ever gave us a democratic mandate for it, and even though a high proportion of the population disagree with us. They’re just ignorant fools. We know better.” This is exactly the sort of arrogant political correctness against which so many ordinary Australians instinctively rebel, and which John Howard exploits so successfully.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Bloody hell! Now I’m getting angry and uncivil too. But it IS arrogance. I can’t think of anything else to call it.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Just quantifying my last point that a high proportion of the Australian population disagree with PC values about homosexuality, this 2001 comparative survey ( http://www.international-survey.org/A_Soc_M/Homosex_ASM_v4_n1.pdf ) found as follows:

“Fully 28 per cent of Australians think that homosexual behaviour is ‘Not wrong at all’. 15 per cent take a slightly more censorious view, declaring it to be ‘Wrong only sometimes’. Only 9 per cent say ‘Almost always wrong’. But fully 48 per cent say that homosexual behaviour is ‘Always wrong’. Scoring the answers on a tolerance gradient at equal intervals from 0 (always wrong) to 100 (not wrong at all), the mean is 41 points, rather below the middle point.”

The study may also hold the key to why debate on this topic here at Troppo has been so heated:

“Surprisingly, the answers to this question are among the most strongly polarised ever reported on an attitude item in this country: the vast majority of Australians are either unambiguously tolerant or unambiguously censorious, with very few holding ambivalent or nuanced views in the middle.”

Rob
Rob
2021 years ago

Strange how this series of posts seems to have struck such a raw nerve. We’re all getting heated and uncivil. I know I am.

Sophie started off with a perfectly civil and civilised rejoinder to Mark’s polemics. Before you know it the coals of fire are being ladelled out in spades and what do you know, she’s a PC crusader in an unholy war that sacraments intolerance, notwithstanding everything she says is explicitly to the contrary. Welcome to the debate, Usama bin Laden. Pity about your politics, mate; but at least you always got the polemics right.

Ken’s quite right. This kind of stuff just plays into Howard’s hands. He knows what he has to do and he does it to perfection. He appeals over the head of the commentariat to the Oz people and says, Look, I’m one of you, I agree with your values, I identify with your aspirations. Then he provokes the left into doing exactly the f**king opposite.

Go on a crusade of your own for gay marriage and watch Labor’s chances going south like a duck in winter just like bloody Kerry’s did.

[Wipes angry and uncivil forehead….]

And some interesting and thought-provoking comments in your most recent post, Ken.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2021 years ago

It’s a tricky one, with some interesting views presented. I’m inclined to agree with Ken that your personal orientation ought to be separate from your professional resonsibilities.

That cuts both ways of course. Nobody should be drummed out of teaching because they’re homosexual. If parents, because of their religion or other values cannot live with this, it is up to them to find another school.

Professional values are just as important as personal ones. I can almost picture German-origin teachers being hounded out of their jobs during WW I. Nobody’s the better for that type of hysteria.

But it’s part of being a pro to stick to the task required. As a young leftist working for the SA Govt Tourist Bureau in Sydney I often had to defend positions with which I privately disagreed, but I was representing the Govt at that time. On that score, I always admired Don Dunstan’s decision never to discuss his personal or private life. It kept the focus on what he wanted to do publicly.

My neighbour is homophobic, xenophobic and an admirer of Hansonism and John Laws. In my normal stance on things I’d regard him as a redneck. Yet in direct relations he’s one of the kindest persons I’ve known and certainly the best neighbour I’ve had. He knows my views and we discuss broadly without animosity. He even said once that he’d vote for me if I stood for council or parliament.

That stunned me, seeing our views were so far apart. But he said he valued the integrity of the individual above their ideology.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

I agree totally with Geoff on this one:

“Sure. But the question really is where society – rather than an individual – might place the weighting. If the people opt to legally sanction a legitimate form of sexual expression and identity – as they have in Australia, then it’s about time that some individuals got over it. I don’t think anyone is arguing that people have to unreservedly “love” homosexuality. They do however have to eventually accept that homosexual people have a legitimate right to be and adjust their outlooks accordingly.”

The logic of your argument, it seems to me, Ken, is that we shouldn’t have anti-discrimination laws relating to sexual orientation because some people believe that homosexuality is “sinful”. I see no way we can meaningfully dispel prejudice except by educating people about it, but you want to rule this option out.

I don’t have time to track down the survey evidence, but I believe that younger people are far more accepting of same-sex orientation. That came out – with regard to the issue of same-sex marriage – last year in a Nielsen poll conducted for sbs where the older the demographic, the less the approval. In the 18-25 demographic, as I recall, a large majority approved.

I think yellowvinyl’s analogy regarding segregation in schools (and reading the history of the Civil Rights movement reminds us that fears were often expressed in terms of sexual contact between black men and white women) is a powerful one, and I’d like to see you respond to it, Ken.

jen, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about yellowvinyl’s personality based wholly on her participation in blog debates. People can get quite heated in these discussions, but be quite sweet in “real life”.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

This is a very intersting thought provoking and thus entertaining thread, I must say.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“Bloody hell! Now I’m getting angry and uncivil too. But it IS arrogance. I can’t think of anything else to call it.”

Yes you are and I’m not sure why. I’ve never argued that people aren’t free to think what they think and my response to Sam Ward bears that out. My point is a simple one: homosexuality and homosexual relationships are legally validated in Australia. That doesn’t mean that people have to be required to warmly approve of homosexuality – that’s an absurd proposition. Most heterosexuals, by definition, find the thought a bit confronting – hence the response to the survey you cite.

They do however have to accept that homosexual Australians have a right to be so and therefore respected on that basis. I see absolutely no reason why the acknowledgement of that principle should be so problematic. In a pluralistic, liberal democratic society it’s surely fundamental.

I don’t think churches – and mosques – should be prevented from preaching their moral precepts but there’s a fine line between disapproval of the act and hatred of the person – Islam generally doesn’t bother to make it. A secular state must necessarily balance this. If Roman Catholicism had it’s moral way, abortion and divorce would be banned along with contraception. As a society – as Roman Catholics even – we reject this. George Pell dishes out communion every Sunday to hundreds of ladies of childbearing age who can’t produce more than 1.2 kids a piece. At the same time he refrains from offering it to people who own their homosexuality. The moral absolutes of religion are no such thing – even in my lifetime they’ve evolved considerably and much of that has been due to the influence of the liberal democratic context within which religion here evolves.

People have every right to imbue their kids with their values but it’s not open-ended. We wouldn’t as a society see race hatred, for instance, as a value worthy of inculcation and schools would have no hesitation in ignoring parent insistence that it should be taught.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Mark

yellowvinyl’s analogy is a false one. Requiring that people may not discriminate by conduct (e.g. by dictating what school they can attend or who they can marry) is qualitatively different from telling them what they must think, and ensuring that the next generation subscribes to YOUR preferred views by brainwashing their kids against the wishes of the parents.

I should also slightly qualify my earlier statement that homosexuality is not a “choice”. My general non-expert understanding of research is that sexuality is a continuum, with many people experimenting with same-sex activities at some time of their lives (e.g. yourself). I don’t think the precise role of nature and nurture in all this is yet known. No doubt it isn’t a “choice” for people with a strong orientation to either end of the sexuality spectrum, but there may be some role for nurture/experience/conditioning with at least some people. Thus it may be that social taboos perform some instrumental function (which might or might not be a desirable one depending on your views about population growth). If you are a person who believes that homosexuality is simply morally wrong (as most Australians still do), and if (as I believe to be the case) it can’t be established that social taboos have no effect on keeping the incidence of homosexuality in check (although at what cost?), then one can make at least a vaguely plausible case for maintaining taboos to some extent, while insisting that all people must be treated with dingity, respect and equality irrespective of their sexuality. Our current anti-discrimination legal regime arguably reflects that sort of approach.

If, as you say, attitudes are changing over time anyway, with younger people much more tolerant and accepting of gayness (I have a similar recollection), then there is no strong utilitarian case for coercive attitudinal re-education anyway. The dangers involved in that sort of coercion vastly outweigh the benefits IMO.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Again, Geoff gets to the core of the issue.

In a liberal society, tolerance of others’ choices is a fundamental value overriding other values.

I don’t see that those who claim to be on the side of “deep civility” are engaging with this argument. I wish they would.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“Go on a crusade of your own for gay marriage and watch Labor’s chances going south like a duck in winter just like bloody Kerry’s did.”

For what it’s worth Rob, most gay Australians aren’t ‘crusading’ for gay marriage though few would actively oppose it providing it’s not compulsory :) It’s just not an issue for most of us though relationship validation in partnership situations outside marriage certainly is of interest and the states – and latterly the commmonwealth even – have recognised this. This may be why gay marriage isn’t such a big deal.

It’s a mistake to think that sexuality somehow provides a universalist approach to the full spectrum of controversial issues. It doesn’t. We’re pretty diverse and the only “homosexual agenda” you’re ever likely to see is on a menu board outside a Darlinghurst cafe.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

“In a liberal society, tolerance of others’ choices is a fundamental value overriding other values.”

Well yes, but as I commented earlier the approach of yellowvinyl (and presumably yourself) is really the opposite of tolerance. At the risk (well, the reality really) of repeating myself, what you’re really saying is: “Our values are right and yours are wrong, ignorant and stupid. We’re going to impose our values on your kids whether you like it or not, and if you don’t you can piss off and take your kids to a church school. And we’re going to keep doing this even though no-one ever gave us a democratic mandate for it, and even though a high proportion of the population disagree with us. They’re just ignorant fools. We know better.” That isn’t tolerance.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Ken – what’s the difference between “values” that suggest you should support segregation and “values” that suggest you should condemn homosexuality?

I’ve put up a post filling out that argument in greater detail.

Are you suggesting that any social evil (which all discrimination is) ought to be accepted passively if some religious groups or parents claim it is in accordance with their “values”?

It seems to me this is where your argument leads.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I don’t think paedophilia or bestiality are choices, any more then homosexuality or heterosexuality. Observa makes some valid analogies, but as usual the one-eyed ideologues of the Left can’t see past their prejudices.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

And I don’t think arrogance enters into it. The premise of liberalism is that people can choose their own path to the good provided it does not harm others or interfere with their choices. The proviso implies values which ought to be entrenched in the public sphere and public institutions which override private opinions. J.S. Mill argued this beautifully in “On Liberty” and I don’t think he was being arrogant or a PC Warrior.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“No doubt it isn’t a “choice” for people with a strong orientation to either end of the sexuality spectrum, but there may be some role for nurture/experience/conditioning with at least some people. Thus it may be that social taboos perform some instrumental function (which might or might not be a desirable one depending on your views about population growth).”

Ken, what you do sexually and how you identify sexually are often very different things, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that would suggest that homosexuality occurs in any greater proportion now than it ever has. Millions of predominantly homosexual men have lived out their entire lives in a outwardly heteronormative way because that’s always been the societal expectation. The notion that two men – or two women – might openly live their entire adult lives together in homosexual coupling and still share societal benefits and privileges is only about 30 years old in the West. The notion of a fluid sexuality that transcends the “monosexual” is newer still but I suspect that it would be many generations before people stopped seeking security and comfort in a relatively fixed sexual identity and I see absolutely no reason to believe that heterosexuality won’t continue to represent the most significant part of that.

People will always experiment – I actually have some discomfort with chucking “gay” labelling around in respect of adolecents who may or may not be “gay” in the accepted adult sense. It’s probably best to let these things evolve over time
and in most instances they do.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

Left-wing policies have nothing to do with J S Mill. Mill argued for liberty, while Left policy depends on coercion.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Mill argued that education was necessary in order to overcome prejudice.

I actually think couching this issue in terms of left/right is all wrong. There are plenty of liberals around who’d argue the case I’m making. It gets framed that way because the Dr Ds of this world turn it into a sub-argument in the “PC is evil and lefties are destroying family values” furore. Most of which is just seeking partisan advantage and conservative dreaming for a non-existent glorious past.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

“A deeper form of civility asks us to make an effort to treat other people with respect. It is not possible to treat others with respect when we act in a way that says that who they are or what they believe makes them worthless or contemptible as human beings. This basic respect for other people and their beliefs about what makes life worthwhile is what liberalism is all about.”

You quote Don.

How, Ken, are we to foster respect and avoid regarding people as worthless or contemptible if not by doing something to combat prejudice?

Choosing the value of respect necessarily implies making a value-judgement which negatively evaluates those values which promote disrespect.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Anyway, I’m off to work. Enjoy your afternoon of deeply civil discussion, everyone!

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Anyway, I’m off to work. Enjoy your afternoon of deeply civil discussion, everyone!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Mark

I don’t know how I can put this any more clearly than i already have. You’re effectively defining tolerance to mean coercion. That is, you and those of like mind believe you are entitled to inclucate your preferred values in other people’s children whether they like it or not.

You would have a point in terms of liberalism and tolerance of it weren’t for existing anti-discrimination laws and their prohibition on ACTING in a discriminatory manner towards people because of their sexuality. But it is quite logically posiible to maintain a position which says to your children:

“You must never discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexuality/orientation i.e. treat them differently because of it. But homosexual behaviour is nevertheless morally wrong and against God’s law. Some people may have no choice about what they do, and if you end up being in that category we will love you just the same, but to the extent YOU have a choice we think you should maintain the same beliefs and practices in your personal life as we your parents have done.”

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

“I don’t think paedophilia or bestiality are choices, any more then homosexuality or heterosexuality. Observa makes some valid analogies, but as usual the one-eyed ideologues of the Left can’t see past their prejudices.”

I take it that you can’t exercise choice either Evil given your apparent inability to view anything outside a Left/Right context. :)

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Ok, one more comment.

I don’t think it’s coercion. What we’re talking about is education in schools which might conflict with parental “values”. The point of education is to enable people to critically evaluate arguments and make up their own mind, not to say “believe as your fathers have done”.

I note that you’re avoiding responding to the analogous argument about desegregation in US schools – probably because you’re unable to square your argument with a belief that schools ought not to promote parental “values” that are racist. I think it’s you who’s being illiberal, Ken.

If accepting whatever prejudicial beliefs people might hold as legitimate is part of a liberal society, then I don’t think we live in one.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

It’s still a left/right issue, Geoff.

Mark is arguing the coercive Left case that people should be forced to think in “correct” ways, while Ken is arguing the free Right case that people should be free to think what they like.

Ron
Ron
2021 years ago

Perhaps we should start agitating for a prohibition on Christian proselytizing, Ken. We wouldn’t want to influence kids swinging between atheism and being ‘born again’. I wonder how many teachers wear crosses around their necks, turbans or hijabs in state schools? Would not these teachers have at least a sublimal influence on the young, undeveloped minds?

Also should priests be allowed to wear their ‘uniform in public’? Could be offensive and probably is to some, particularly of other religions.

It doesn’t matter how you argue around it, there really is no difference between the racist arguments of the American south and what I have read on these threads about homosexuality.

Pity Australians are not as enlightened as Canadians seem to be these days.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Mark

I responded to your question about yellowvinyl’s analogy. You’re beginning to sound like Rafe Champion. yellow’s analogy is false. She’s talking about conduct, I’m talking about beliefs and values. I fully support current anti-discrimination laws, and I would support educational programs to teach kids that it’s unlawful to discriminate and that you should treat everyone equally irrespective of their sexuality, race etc. But it’s a large additional step to advocate teaching not only non-discrimination but that such behaviour is in no sense morally wrong, and that believing that it is wrong must be treated as mere irrational prejudice. And that’s especially so when the majority of the population disagrees with you.

If sexual orientation was beyond doubt totally innate and not a matter of choice to any extent at all, then one might reasonably draw a complete analogy with race. It’s unarguably true that to teach kids that being black is wrong or evil or inferior or something is just plain silly. They can’t do anything about it. But we simply don’t know that this is true of homosexuality. Indeed, as I said earlier, it appears that there IS some element of experience/conditioning/nurture involved with at least some people. So yellow’s analogy is false on that count as well.

Note that I’m now being pushed into defending a rational Christian position (or my own imagined version of it) just as you felt yourself pushed into defending a “left” position on recent threads. My own moral position is no more to be equated with it than yours is with a monotonic “left” one. In fact, as I said before, my personal position is that I DO accept homosexuality on all levels, and I teach my daughter that it isn’t wrong and is a matter of personal orientation that isn’t anyone else’s business. But I also accept the right of others to have different moral values than mine, as long as they don’t BEHAVE in a discriminatory manner towards gay people. I don’t reckon I have any right to tell others (or their children) what they must think. You seem to believe that you do have that right.