Lots of discussions …

It has felt as though the past week has involved lots of discussion on issues that have emerged in the media. Some of these are seen as controversial, others less so, but I strongly believe that it’s always far more constructive to talk widely about these issues and involve as many people as possible in discussions than it is to ignore them.

International Women’s Day is one day in the year that often generates discussion (and for those who would like to ask, International Men’s Day is in November). My day started with a frantic search for something purple to try and show my support – my daughter was of no help (do most young people only seem to wear black, or is that just my family?) and eventually I found a scarf which had to suffice. Listening to discussions on the radio on the way to school, I was glad that we had discussed and rejected on a number of grounds the idea of handing out cupcakes at the gate in the morning; the presenter of the radio show I was listening to was quite scathing about such ‘tokenistic cupcake efforts’! I liked this year’s theme of ‘embracing equity’ and enjoyed overhearing various discussions in passing, about whether the gender pay gap is real and why it is that more men take up leadership roles, as well as the usual tired jokes about being in the kitchen. Students who take this tack have clearly no idea of my domestic inadequacies. Teachers are well-versed in discussing these sorts of issues with students and the day lends itself to some lively conversations. It was pleasing to see little flashes of purple around the campus in the form of socks and shirts and scarves. Thank you to all those who marked the day and spent a moment thinking about what embracing equity means to them.

Another issue which has caused discussion recently has been the social media influencer, Andrew Tate. Although I do have to consciously stop myself rolling my eyes at the term ‘influencer’, I have learnt to live with the fact that some young people are indeed influenced by those who post regularly online, however offensive their content may be. For anybody who is not familiar with Mr Tate, he is a British/American ex-kick boxer and previous contestant on the television show Big Brother. His supposedly glamorous lifestyle has become a big hit with some teenage boys it would seem, mainly due to his posing with fast cars, guns and cigars. Reading further into his background, he talks about hitting and choking women; posts with homophobic and racially offensive comments have featured on his Twitter page and he has been quoted as denying that depression is real.

The controversy here, is whether this is anything to do with schools. My opinion is that the job of schools is to teach students how to think, not to tell them what to think. But when someone in the media is spruiking messages which clash entirely with our school culture and values, messages which go against Australian values and indeed, I am well-advised, Jewish values, we have an absolute responsibility to educate on the topic. It may be that you haven’t yet come across Mr Tate and his views; in this case, please find here a link to a research paper that will provide the background information to enable you to initiate conversations at home.

On a lighter note, Purim wasn’t controversial. It was simply a fun day for all, teachers and students alike. Last year I had felt a little shell-shocked – I find loud music and dressing up more confronting than teaching Year 9 Chemistry – but this year I knew what to expect and enjoyed the day far more because of it. The costumes were magnificent, the reading of the Megillah by Rabbi Dan was spectacular and the Year 12 students in the High School did a brilliant job of planning and running the whole day. Sitting with a brand new member of staff who just happened to arrive on that day was a treat – trying to explain what was going on and why. I am happy to report that she did return to work the following day when things were more ‘normal’, whatever that means at Carmel.

I hope you have the opportunity to openly and robustly discuss some controversies with your family and friends during your Shabbat dinner this weekend.

Shabbat shalom.

Julie Harris