Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What education is

The announcement that Australian Army facilities near Woodside in the Adelaide Hills are to be upgraded to house up to 400 asylum seekers strikes me as an overwhelmingly Good Thing, but there's something a little strange going on with the ABC's reporting of it. The radio reporting, which I've been hearing intermittently in the car all day, has been pretty unrelentingly negative, with reports of SA Premier Mike Rann being annoyed that he only found out about it an hour before it was publicly announced (fair enough too, I guess: didn't the premature announcement of the phantom East Timor centre teach the PM anything?), reports of locals having insular, knee-jerk negative reactions, reports of the local mayor being worried about the effect on the provision of services, and nothing much positive at all.

So it was weird to check the ABC's website a minute ago and see quite a different spin on all this. Obviously quite a few people are, if not actively welcoming it, at least being accepting and open-minded (and open-handed) about it. But one local woman I heard being quoted on the radio whinged, complete with whiny upward inflection, 'But those children will be going to the local primary school? It'll make class sizes bigger? And my children will be disadvantaged?'

Tell you what, love, if I had kids at school and someone told me to expect an influx of children from asylum-seeker families, I think it would remind me of my high-school days, when I learned at least as much about the size and complexity of the world from the Italian, Polish, Russian, German and, most of all, Greek kids I went to school with as I did from the curriculum. I'd welcome the chance for my kids to find out something about the other side of the world, and what some people's lives are like there. And I'd welcome the opportunity for practical lessons in tolerance of cultural difference and generosity to people in trouble, as well as -- if necessary -- in how to stick up for kids who are being given a hard time. I think the kind of education afforded by that broadening of their horizons would far outweigh any disadvantages of being in a bigger class.

16 comments:

ana said...

Indeed.

Deborah said...

I've been a bit taken aback by the negative comment in the local press. My girls have learned an enormous amount from the children from Indonesia and the Philippines and South Korea who are in their classes.

Mitzi G Burger said...

I concur. The more multicultural the better, especially in country towns or non urban places.

Anonymous said...

Prejudice means to pre judge something. Shame people can't give this a fair go.
From the eastern states, Adelaide looks mean and parochial.
Sadly, the politicians have succeeded in generating fear and loathing of refugees.
Nice to read your comments.
Barbara

Frances said...

Yesterday, on the ABC website, comments were briefly allowed under a news item re allowing refugee women and children into such as this.
I was absolutely gobsmacked to see that only 2 or 3 comments out of 28 were pro the scheme.
The others were all along the lines of, "I am a compassionate person, but .." Mean and mean-spirited.
Unfortunately, I don't think that it is just an Adelaide thing...it is widespread.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Of course it's not just an Adelaide thing. The idea of the eastern states judging Adelaide as 'mean and parochial' given words like 'Villawood', 'Cronulla' and 'bashed-up and murdered Indian nationals' would be hilarious if it were not so gobsmacking.

As for commmenters on the news media sites, they're just the equivalent of talkback radio, heavily skewed to the indignant ignorant, no matter what the topic.

Emily said...

I can hear the negativity from Victoria. The ABC nationwide and Adelaide media going from bad to goodness knows where. Hopefully the majority of South Australians will start speaking out and welcoming the release from detention of these children and families.
Anonymous said "from the eastern states Adelaide looks mean and parochial". I disagree with this because from my experiences in S.A. they are anything but.

I wonder what Don Dunstan would have made of this?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Emily, as we saw during the runup to the federal election when the media gave actual policy announcements no oxygen at all, it won't matter how much speaking out South Australians do if it's never reported anywhere. This is where I think social networking and blogs (and not the things the mainstream media sites call 'blogs', either) might be able to make a real difference in years to come, and already are making a bit of a change -- not in the sort of news-gathering associated with traditional journalism, but certainly in giving a bit of oxygen to otherwise unreported points of view and pockets of public feeling that the Rupert Murdochs of the world have an interest in not reporting. And in the case of things like Facebook, disseminating that sort of alternative reportage quickly and widely, too.

Juice said...

The unintended yet obvious consequence of improving conditions for asylum seekers who arrive on Australian shores is that it will encourage more cashed up people in poorer countries to set sail for Australia. Many will die at sea, as with the 400,000 Vietnamese who died at sea fleeing Vietnam.

Gillard will need to accept part of the blame for each and every death that occurs in such circumstances.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

'Gillard will need to accept part of the blame for each and every death that occurs in such circumstances.'

Rubbish.

Juice said...

We are responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions. It's about taking responsibility for one's behaviour- I suspect most adults have no trouble understanding this concept.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I don't know who you are, "Juice", but if you are coming here simply to air your contrarian views to the people who read my blog and include weak insults while you're about it, then I suggest you get your own blog and express your opinions there. This is my personal blog, not a public forum.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote down what I thought when I heard that same radio snippet!

Mindy said...

@ Juice, most of the asylum seekers are adults themselves. They know the dangers and they are coming anyway. They came anyway when it was Christmas Island and Nauru. They are that desperate. On shore processing won't make any difference to that. Since the majority of them are genuine refugees it doesn't matter anyway.

Juice said...

"Since the majority of them are genuine refugees it doesn't matter anyway."

True, but they are generally also the most cashed up and resourceful and better suited to fend for themselves than those who have no chance of getting here by boat. Consequently we end up with adverse selection, if I may borrow a term from economics.

But decisions like this have nothing to do with ethics or best outcomes, they are about the politics of the warm inner glow.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

'But decisions like this have nothing to do with ethics or best outcomes, they are about the politics of the warm inner glow.'

I'm guessing you wouldn't recognise a warm inner glow if it jumped up and bit you on the arse, Juice. And even if you were right, which you're not, I'll take the warm inner glow over the cold inner darkness any day, thanks.