What Are Our Kids Learning From Politicians – Time To Wake Up to Ourselves Before Someone Gets Hurt

(C) Julie Boyd

Back in the 1600s, the witchhunts of Salem saw innocent women burned at the stake because of the misinformation which had been spread. We need to ask ourselves what is different now – other than the fact that radio waves, national newspapers and social media now replace the town criers.

When Tony Abbott stood before those offensive placards at the anti-carbon tax rally all those months ago, it signalled a new low not just in politics but in Australian society.

Not content with the racist rants of the Hansonites when One Nation was at the height of its popularity, the current wave of anti-Gillard rhetoric that has gripped the airwaves and pages of so much of the press in this country, has taken on a very dangerous undertone.

I don’t recall another instance in my lifetime when scientists in this country have had to seek police protection for simply doing their jobs and providing data on which decisions can, and must, be made.

I also don’t recall a period in my lifetime when opinions of non-scientists have been considered more valuable than years of work subjected to rigorous, peer reviewed findings.

But the damage is not just being done to Julia Gillard. While the purveyors of the sensationalist tripe surrounding this government are trumpeting their ‘winning’ in the ‘opinion polls’, what they are all missing is the impact it is having on the ill-informed, and more worryingly on our kids.

As a psychologist and teacher, my job was to help kids pick up the pieces of their lives often after experiencing some form of highly distressing abuse. But abuse is not just physical. It can be social – as we are now seeing with the advent of cyber-bullying, it can be emotional- which often results in severe depressions, and it can be intellectual – which is what we are now seeing with our scientists, those who believe in anthropogenic climate change, and our current Prime Minister.

The current tactics employed against Julia Gillard might be good for short-term political gain, but they are devastating modelling for the children of this country.

It’s time for responsible adults to step up and say enough is enough and ask ourselves a few hard questions.

In schools we know that modelling is the most powerful form of learning for kids, That what you say, how you say it, and what you do, impacts on impressionable young brains and leaves a lasting effect.

In schools we try to teach kids the concept of respect. How is this being modelled for them by the language being levelled publically against the Prime Minister?

In schools we try to teach kids that bullying is unacceptable. When they watch question time in parliament what exactly do they learn? Certainly not oratory, or good behaviour.

In schools we try to teach kids social skills which include disagreeing agreeably. Where is this being modeled by the screaming sensationalism of media shockjocks and banner headlines?

In schools we try to teach kids that this is one world and we all have to live, learn and work together to leave things better for the next generation. Where is this being modeled by the raucous ‘climate deniers?’

In schools we try to teach kids that concern for others is a value that is essential for a compassionate and decent world. Where is this being modeled by the ‘it’s all about me, stuff you’ attitude so clearly observable in our daily lives?

In schools we try to teach kids that challenging yourself is the game, not winning at the expense of others.

In schools we try to teach kids that you are entitled to your opinion, but if you don’t have evidence to back it up, think before you open your mouth!

In schools we try to teach kids that the Charlie Sheen’s of the world with their ‘winning…winning…’rants are not appropriate role models to emulate

No wonder some claim our schools are failing!

Tony Abbott’s demeanour when he walks into public meetings right now is that of a prize fighter entering the ring looking for the championship belt. As if he doesn’t care if he takes out the referee and his own trainers in the process. His pugilistic attitude of winning at all costs is so tangible, he almost looks punch drunk. In the same way that the crowds at the Coliseum bayed for blood, the wretches at the guillotine clawed for mementos of hair, the crowds in Salem cheered the witch burnings, and ultimate fight fans cheer over seeing someone being beaten half to death, it’s time all adults, including politicians, took a damn good look at exactly what they are modelling for Aussie kids.

Australia is faced with a very clear choice right now between a woman who has shown the strength and ability to negotiate over 150 pieces of legislation successfully, to take on the ‘hardest moral challenge of our time’ unflinchingly, but who has a grating voice and questionable oratory skills, and a man whose sole intent seems to be to shout loudest and, in the words of Paul Keating ‘to wreck the place.’

The recent News of The World scandal languished from at least 2005 until the Milly Downer straw broke the camel’s back and outrage about lack of decent behaviour finally took hold.

Politicians and all adults of Australia, grow up, stand up,  have a damn good think about exactly where your kids are, and where they are learning their behaviour, before someone  gets really hurt!


Julie Boyd is a teacher, scientist, psychologist and writer who stood at state and federal elections as an Independent, whose professional life spans education, community and corporate sectors. She can be found at www.julieboyd.com.au and Twitter jboyded