Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Opting in and opting out

I'm sick of opting out.

Ask me what I want to opt into.

I don't want to opt out of religious celebrations at public schools. I want them to just not be on.  Do your religious celebrations in your own time. If you can't cater for everyone, don't run the event at all.

 I don't want to opt out of overseas trips at public schools. Aside from language studies, I don't understand why they are offered, except as a way of competing with private schools. A band playing in a room in Sydney isn't any different from the same band playing in a room in another country. Don't we have world class teachers and facilities in Sydney? Do students get tired of playing at the Opera House? Schools don't have to provide every experience for students before they turn eighteen. Are their privileged experiences not enough of an opportunity? Do your overseas trips in your own time*.

I know public schools want to offer everything to everyone (except people who can't afford such things) and I wonder if these things are driven by vested interests - church groups, travel agencies - rather than by students and parents. The people who are in the in crowd argue that others can opt out, and that's fair. That's not fair. Opting out means not being included. It means other people are having experiences and building relationships and gathering points of reference that the opting out people are excluded from. The opting out students are left behind. They are marked by their difference - either by religion or by expendable income. You shouldn't have to declare such things at a public school. Children are not asked to opt out on the basis of gender, race, class, ability or sexuality, and they should not be asked to opt out on the basis of religion.  Again, if everyone can't attend, don't run it at all.

Ask me what I want to opt into. I want to opt into transparency, inclusion and respect for everyone. I want equality of experience regardless of gender, race, class, ability, sexuality and religion.

Public schools are supposed to be compulsory, secular and free. If you want your religious celebrations and overseas trips, opt into another school system.

*High school band touring Europe. Total cost $379,170.00 for 66 students and some teachers. 

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