Good on you, Rainee!

They must not get away with this.

“Protest is not violent, war is violent,” student Rainee Lyleson told Wednesday’s rally. “We will not be intimidated.”

Rainee is fifteen and in Year 9 at Mosman High School. She spoke at the rally, at Belmore Park, attended by 300 school kids. And good on her for ignoring the intimidation, because that’s not too strong a word.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione warned students that officers would be working to identify truants and would notify their parents and schools.’

And it wasn’t just the police cracking down:

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the students who attended the protest would now be subject to their school’s respective disciplinary processes for failing to attend classes.

That would be the NSW Department of Education, whose Deputy Directer General, Trevor Fletcher — another great champion of students who want to engage with the world they live in —

does not want children skipping school but he is also worried about their safety.

“People often attend these events with the expectation that they’re going to be peaceful and calm, but of course we know from history that they often don’t turn out that way,” he said.

“We expect our students to be in school and I believe there are other ways for young people to, beyond talking to their parents, to articulate their concerns.”

The NSW shadow education minister thinks it’s a disgrace too, but instead of giving the government credit for its tough stance, he uncharitably blames them for presiding over a school system that breeds these attitudes in young people:

Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner says he has had complaints from parents whose children have been exposed to their teacher’s anti-Bush opinions.

“I think most parents want to see politics kept out of the classroom,” he said…

More from Stoner in a minute. But, first, what about Kevin Rudd, leader of the nation-wide progressive forces in generally, and opponent of the Iraq War specifically?

Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has urged children not to take part in any protests timed to coincide with APEC.

“Kids at school stay at school. They’re at school to do something – it’s called learn,” he said.

“I would strongly suggest that kids stick to their books. This is not a time for kids to get mixed up in protest activity.”

Flashback to 1973. My entire primary school marches three kilometres in the blazing sun (neither hats nor sunscreen had been invented then) to the main highway where Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, was due to drive past in a motorcade from the airport. The exercise takes up the entire afternoon, all for a fleeting glimpse of a bald man in the back seat of a Rolls Royce, assuming that was him.

I wish Kevin had been around then to protect us from this kind of negligence.

As far as I know, Rudd was never any great student radical. But does he really believe that school kids shouldn’t attend peaceful rallies, or is he just scared of Alan Jones? This was the Parrot’s endorsement of the state opposition’s line:

Andrew Stoner says “If New South Wales Government schools are being used as ideological battlegrounds then it’s little wonder some students will be more inclined to participate in protests.”

He says, “New South Wales Government schools should teach the philosophy of how to think, not what to think.”

And he said it wasn’t enough for police to disperse student protesters.

He said “Police need to crack down on student protesters but it’s not enough to take down their details and send them back to school … the Iemma Government needs to stop begging schoolchildren to stay away for their own safety. It needs to send a strong message about discipline …

“Students found to be protesting should be suspended and any teacher found to have been encouraging students to protest should be sacked.”

Another flashback, this time to 1969, and Grade 2 Catechism class at St Joseph’s Convent. “Who made the world? God made the world! What did He make it of? He made it from nothing.” I can say with some confidence that those nuns were more interested in teaching me what to think than how to think. Where were Jones and Rudd then when I needed them? Thank goodness that sort of indoctrination doesn’t go on in religious schools these days.

As I said, good on you, Rainee. You’ll shrug off the condemnation of Messrs Scipione, Fletcher and Stoner, who apparently want you to obey for the sake of obedience. As for Messrs Jones, Rudd, and anyone else who wants to lecture you on how political protest is waste of your precious learning time, and how you’re too young and ignorant to be entitled to political opinions, just ask them politely if they apply the same principle to children who are sent in school time to cheer the school rugby team, or who participate in religious ceremonies.

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16 years ago

So your argument is that because you were forced to attend religious education at school, then it’s fair payback that today’s students should be forced to sit through ill-informed leftist twaddle from today’s teachers? Just as a form of retribution for your own poor schooling experiences?

That’s kind of sociopathic of you.

Joshua Gans
16 years ago

I should have anticipated that criticism, and made the argument clearer. The ‘ill-informed leftist twaddle’ is a figment of the rightwing imagination, originating with shock jocks and tabloid editorialists, and amplified in the echo-chamber of rightwing blogs and websites. But even if there were any truth in it, the point is that, in the here and now, much time is still wasted in pointless activities unrelated to learning, and religious brainwashing continues apace. If the critics really cared about abuse and neglect of young minds, that would be a good place to start.

16 years ago

Flashback to 1976: Joh Bjelke-Peterson lobbed up at my Queensland country school one morning, gave a speech and promptly told us to have the rest of the day off, mightily pissing off everyone. Apparently he could do that.

Joshua Gans
16 years ago

At least you got to meet the great man, Colin. NSW kids were given the whole day off today, and the kids didn’t get to meet George Bush, or even watch the motorcade for that matter. But that’s the price we have to pay if we want to be part of the global action, a player on the world stage, etc., etc. I should have included that in the post, too.

16 years ago

Very good, James.

I remember being dragged out of class once a year for a 10 kilometre forced march in the blistering heat of summer known as the annual fundraising walkathon!

Joshua Gans
16 years ago

10 km? That were luxury! We had an eighteen-mile ‘Scoutabout’. (And when we got home, our Dad…) Granted, it was on the weekend, but I’m sure we were so sore that most of us took Monday off anyway.

Roger Migently
16 years ago

This is excellent JF. The message seems to be that schools are places where children are taught to be obedient in preparation for their futures in the workplace. The crime these kids have committed is that they actually have learned to think for themselves, despite what the education system is so well set up to do. All of the arguments that have been made against their attendance at rallies are red herrings, spurious and dishonest.
And by the way, “Yobbo” misses the point (intentionally?) and needs to go back to school where he can be taught how to think.

16 years ago

A crucial part of any good liberal education is encouraging active citizenship. So what if these kids have half-baked, idealistic notions. I applaud them.

Tony T.
16 years ago

As a teacher, I’m all for encouraging thought in students.

I’m also sure every single one of those students at the rallies had thoughts to think, as well as something worthwhile and absolutely essential to contribute to the body politic.

16 years ago

I know this is off-thread but has anyone thought about the sort of society that has engaged assassins to protect it’s elected leaders from their electorate by threatening to shoot anyone that crosses an arbitrary line on the street ? If the cast of The Chaser have done nothing else they have highlighted a situation where Bush is so reviled that he cannot appear in public.

I thought we had moved on from Joh’s martial state where teenagers were punished and UNI students bashed for expressing their opinions, but it appears that, for APEC at least, things have got worse. I say take down all the barricades and let Bush (and the others) take their chances, then The Chaser mob wouldn’t have anything to ridicule would they ?

16 years ago

I know this is off-thread and off-my-tree, but

If the cast of The Chaser have done nothing else they have highlighted a situation where Bush Clinton/Carter/Reagan/Ford/Nixon/JFK is so reviled that he cannot appear in public.

Oh whoops, only Bush is/was reviled! The others were just Presidents victims of the jealousy provoked by their excessive wonderfullness. Especially the two that were actually shot at, unlike reviled Bush.

I think that it is fine for kids to go to these sorts of protests, but they still deserve a detention. I might have often skipped school as a kid, but I never complained about the resulting detention (Although I might not have actually gone to it, ever, which may explain why I didn’t complain). And frankly I often skipped school for much better things than indulging in pointless if not counterproductive whingeing about capitalism/America/western oppression/the /failure of small-minded electorates to appreciate the wonders of socialism/whatever..

PS, R Migently shouldn’t criticise Yobbo. His point was soundly based in logic, even if it might not have been completely fair-minded. The argument in relation to religious ceremonies (were you at a religious school by any chance?) and school sporting events on one hand and protests on the other, by comparison, is truly abysmal.

James Farrell
James Farrell
16 years ago

“…indulging in pointless if not counterproductive whingeing about capitalism/America/western oppression/the /failure of small-minded electorates to appreciate the wonders of socialism/whatever..”

Yes, if you’re going to indulge in something, much better to opt for a torrent of mindless cliches. Actually, the rally was against Bush’s war and his failure to participate in coordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions. Extremely good causes, as it happens. And I’m sure that the students followed your example and bore their detention proudly.