The protests could have just as much impact if they were held after school or during a lunch hour across the country. Picture: Saeed Khan/AFP
The protests could have just as much impact if they were held after school or during a lunch hour across the country. Picture: Saeed Khan/AFP

Is this what they call wagging these days?

EARLIER this week I spoke to an office bearer from the Australian Education Union about his organisation's support for Friday's nationwide strike action by school students demanding "real action" on climate change.

It was a bit like sitting down for a chat with the late Whitney Houston.

He rejected any suggestion that these protests were in any way a union-inspired or union-organised party political exercise. It was all about the kids, he said.

To borrow from Whitney, he believed the children were our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. But it's a live question whether the children are actually leading the way on this at all.

Term 4 last year finished on December 14 and Term 1 this year started on January 29.

By my count, that means there have been fewer than 50 days of schooling since the nation's last student protest for "real action" on climate change, on November 29.

Today, it has been decreed that it's time to down pens again, that the clock is ticking for Mother Earth, and that kids have more important things to be doing than maths and English when the planet is in such dire need.

 

For the record, I believe in climate change, and fully endorse the right of young people to get out and express a political opinion. I spent much of my youth lying on roads and marching around chanting, and have no quarrel with the fact that school kids, even some kids at upper primary level, want to get out and have their say.

The problems with this protest are pretty obvious. The first is that it is held during school hours. The second is that it appears to be becoming a regular event. The third is that, far from being student-led activity, it looks for all the world like a staged and partisan event organised by politically obsessed adults, held deliberately on the eve of a federal election, and sponsored chiefly by a union movement that is hellbent on ousting the Morrison Government.

It is an insult to the collective intelligence of the community for the AEU to suggest otherwise.

If you have a look at the Facebook page promoting today's protest, it features a roll call of every union in the land as proud sponsors of the event. From the Australian Workers' Union and the Australian Services Union to the maritime union and CFMEU, it is easier to name the unions that aren't involved than those that are.

This level of union endorsement is of particular interest when it comes to the AEU, which is having an increasingly incredulous time of it convincing intelligent people it isn't hugely partisan in its operations.

Surely we should be equally concerned that our students can’t spell properly. Picture: Jenny Evans
Surely we should be equally concerned that our students can’t spell properly. Picture: Jenny Evans

The union had a bit of explaining to do last year when one of its own delegates, Woodville High School teacher Regina Wilson, wrote on the AEU's own Facebook page that she saw it as her role as a teacher to educate students about the evils of the Liberal Party.

In her own confused way she thought she was doing so in a manner that wasn't party political.

"I am going to try to ensure that the next generation of voters in my classroom don't vote Liberal, without being political of course, as I won't tell my students what to think, but I teach them how to be critical thinkers who question those in power and especially those who seek to keep the status quo for the rich, upper classes and refuse to acknowledge the rest of us," she wrote.

You can find this same line of impertinent thinking in the AEU's advocacy of these climate protests.

The origin of these protests is in western Europe, principally Sweden, where a girl by the name of Greta Thunberg decided to go on strike for several months in protest at global inaction on climate change.

If Greta is so fired up about the issue that she wants to make such a dramatic point under her own steam, good on her, but the Australian protests look nothing like Greta's actions. This is less a case of kids taking it upon themselves to take action, rather kids being invited or even urged to take action, with all of the organisational infrastructure being operated by adults.

Within this Facebook page you can find adults giving kids tips on cool slogans to write on their placards, which invariably involve the direct denunciation of the Morrison Government over its carbon policies, or lack thereof.

Far from being the kind of revolution we saw in the US over guns, this is a mundane and transparent adult protest, with kids being enlisted as the frontmen and women. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts
Far from being the kind of revolution we saw in the US over guns, this is a mundane and transparent adult protest, with kids being enlisted as the frontmen and women. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Far from being an exciting kids' revolution, as we saw in the US over guns, this is in fact a mundane and transparent adult protest, with kids being enlisted as the frontmen and women to achieve a party-political gain.

If that's the way organisations like the AEU want to operate, that's fine. But they should stop pretending they're simply following the will of the children and admit that it is actually their political intention to campaign against the Liberals by whatever means they can.

RELATED: Academics won't be penalised for skipping class to attend student climate ralls for the timing of these protests, it is clear they have been scheduled during school hours to maximise their perceived radical edge.

The protests could have just as much impact if they were held after school or during a lunch hour, and they would be more likely to win over mainstream sentiment if that were the case.

While you can make the case that young people can on occasions learn more outside the classroom than inside the classroom, the truth is that in Australia today, the rate of meaningful classroom time focused on traditional subjects has been declining for years, with literacy and numeracy rates falling accordingly.

I am not sure what these bimonthly school day stoppages to ratify the Paris protocols will do to reverse that trend, a trend that seems of less interest to the AEU than revving up the kiddies to go to war with the fascist Scott Morrison regimen.



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