Queensland schoolgirl nearly catches The Gay

9 10 2006

Intellectual sodomy: here is your average Queensland Christian fundamentalist student being forced to acknowledge the existence of homosexuals, or to read Shakespeare from a feminist perspective, or to analyse Big Brother, etc.

In a victory for right-wing political correctness, a state school has been forced to withdraw an assignment because its references to homosexuality offended the religious sensibilities of one of its students.

Students in the grade nine class at a high school south of Brisbane were asked to imagine living as a heterosexual in a mainly gay colony on the moon. The assignment was aimed at teaching students what it is like being in the minority.

The assignment asked the students to consider ten points in writing their term paper, including the origins of homosexuality and what strategies they would use to exists in a mostly gay society.

The 13-year old refused, citing her religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. When she did not turn in a paper she received a failing grade for the course.

In philosophical circles, this kind of activity is known as a thought experiment, and in the context of a high school classroom it can be a good way to stimulate critical thinking. Basically it involves the use of an imaginary or hypothetical situation in order to explore a particular problem or issue. Sadly, critical thinking–not to mention the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy–is anathema to those whining the loudest about the “travesty” perpetrated upon the poor little homophobic fundie. Take Queensland Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney:

The government “has created a system that tries to tell kids what to think instead of teaching them how to think,” he said. “It is completely out of line for students to be graded on their moral beliefs. It’s not the job of our schools to politicize our children. It is their function to provide our kids with the basics, like reading, writing and math.”

Except that no-one was being “graded on their moral beliefs.” The students were not being forced to adopt a particular stance towards homosexuality–they were merely being asked to complete an assignment requiring them to participate in a thought experiment. A fictive, unfamiliar situation that would enable them to better understand what it is like to be part of a minority. You do understand the difference between reality and fiction, don’t you Jeff? Or do you really believe there are gay colonies up there on the Moon?

And how about this from the schoolgirl’s mother?

She was being challenged, but she should not be challenged like that at her age.

There’s the fundie mindset in a nutshell. Don’t think outside the warm, safe, cozy little box in which you are being raised like a chicken’s hatchling. Don’t dare ask questions. Someone needs to remind this woman that we still live in a secular democracy. If she wants to raise her children in a protective Christian bubble, shut off from the evil sinful secular world until Rapture, she’s more than welcome. Just don’t expect the rest of society to re-organise itself just so your precious little angel can grow up to be a mindless fundie like you. Homosexuality is no longer illegal in Australia. Get used to it.

Of course, Julie Bishop had to weigh into the debate with the following:

“Parents need to know the content of school curriculum so they can be confident their children are receiving a high quality education that is also consistent with their values.”

That’s great, Julie. I suppose this is a foretaste of your “common sense curriculum”–one that is consistent with the values of parents? The educational value of the syllabus is secondary, of course: what really matters is that we don’t trample all over the sensitivities of the poor oppressed Christian fundamentalists.

The great irony, of course, is that if the schoolgirl in the story above had been a Muslim, the tune from the Federal Government would have been very different. We would have been subjected to sermon after sermon, from Peter Costello on down, on how “the separation of church and state is good for society and should be embraced by the Muslim world,” on how Australia is a tolerant and diverse society, and on how Muslims shouldn’t presume to inflict their values and beliefs on the rest of us.

The message: It’s bad when Muslims impose their beliefs on a secular society; but it’s good when Christian fundamentalists do it.

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