In the recent airing of the You Can Say No campaign video against Same Sex Marriage (SSM), there was a distinct focus on the impact of education as having a role to play in swaying families to vote. Parents in the controversial video by the Coalition for Marriage claimed that:
- A school told a male student that he could wear a dress to school the following year if he felt like it
- In countries with SSM, parents lose their rights to choose
- Children in year 7 are being asked to role play being in a SS relationship
So what role does education play in the SSM debate, and are we doing the right thing by drawing focus mainly on education in our decision to vote?
I should begin this piece by saying that I am a staunch Yes Campaign supporter. I believe that it is every person’s right to have equal relationships and experience the values and freedoms that come along with marriage as it currently stands for people in opposite sex relationships. I don’t think that it is fair that a portion of our society are not allowed to access these rights and freedoms and stand with the community in supporting change to the marriage act.
And so I will continue with my analysis of the SSM debate and its role in education.
It was not long ago that we were exposed to the Safe Schools debate where the program was hyped to “make schools harmful” by traumatising students, damaging their innocence and asking them to sexually fantasise about their own gender. This argument was again dredged up by a recent mail out of letters to families in North Canberra which stated that the program, like the SSM debate, is as a tool to “groom” children and encourage students to imagine having gay sex. This letter came under criticism in its link to the SSM debate and its deeper roots in homophobic ideas.
So what place does the SSM marriage debate have in education if it is not to link with the Safe Schools Program?
As an educator I see value in empowering young people to critically analyse the debate and openly express their ideas and feelings. After all this issue is going to be our legacy to them and they will have to live with the outcome of the plebiscite and the parliamentary vote. In fact, it has been said by health groups that that a Yes Vote could prevent 3 000 suicide attempts a year from our young people. If this is the case then we need to start a conversation with our young people to protect them in the case of a No Vote.
As we have seen in recent times with the surprise election of Donald Trump and the return of the Liberal government in Australia, the conservative vote has very strong power in our society. Left-leaning voters are becoming seemingly complacent in their opinions and I know from my own social circles the left are disenfranchised from the system working and so are less likely to cast a vote. I know of a few people who cast dummy votes in the last Australian federal election due to lack of strong candidates in the left teams.
And I know of one person who refrained from voting in the USA election as they do not believe in the system. When I said that meant that they passively voted for Trump they disagreed instead stating that they were passively protesting.
As we draw closer to the announcement date of the SSM plebiscite vote, we should take time to draw conversation with our young people and colleagues about the issues of stereotyping that we are seeing in the No Vote campaign, and the drowning of No Vote campaign voices by the left. Education can be the key to responding to the outcome of the vote in the necessary ways and ensuring to continue to empower our young people that they can be agents of change, even fit hat change is not now. We need to not be complacent in our ideas of the left and right voting tendencies and draw into our social circles the idea of active citizenship and voting for change.