I always thought my children – or child as it has turned out – would go to government schools. I believed (and still believe in many ways) that there should be one system of schooling, publicly funded.
And then… My daughter, at a very well regarded government primary school, made a cross from two sticks she found as a tribute to fallen soldiers for a Remembrance Day display. She was a Christian for some time before me, and this was totally her own idea on the day.
The cross was confiscated. She was not allowed to display it along with the floral tribute, although other small items (paper flowers and so on) were permitted. When I turned up at the end of the day, the cross was handed to me with the spoken message that ‘no religious symbols are permitted’. My daughter was quite upset, and felt she had done something wrong.
My own view is that her spontaneous tribute was a valuable thing. Turkish soldiers could also be honoured by other symbols. But I found it quite appalling that a primary school child’s respectful tribute to fallen soldiers was disallowed on the basis that it was religious. Of course, and rightly so, Muslim children at the school are able to wear headscarfs, but that is not seen as problematic.
And this is where it gets even more difficult. My daughter also came home from school very upset one day, as she has been told at a special presentation on Aboriginal culture that if she touched a didgeridoo, she would be made sick, and mightn’t be able to have children. I appreciate Aboriginal spirituality and culture being taught, but it is wrong, surely, to reduce a child to tears? It’s like an old notion of hell being used to scare a new generation of children.
Educationally, I had found the school wanting in some ways, so when a chance came to take up a position at an independent school a year early, we took it.
I made no protest against my daughter’s treatment, because we had the option and ability to remove her. Her new Anglican school is academically better, but also allows her to express herself more freely in a number of ways.
I’m not really seeking any answers through this overlong post, but just wanted to register my retrospective disgust at a little girl’s effort in remembering the war dead being censored. And the that certain spiritual beliefs are able to be expressed in government schools, but not others.
Her experience was fairly important to me in my developing religious beliefs, too, so I suppose I should be grateful. But I will always remember her look of shame at receiving back her confiscated cross.
The public school system lost a very bright little girl because she wasn’t an atheist. They also lost a committed family with skills to help the school. I had volunteered on a regular basis there.
But basically, the ideological position of the school, combined with a lack of options for intelligent kids, meant we left the goverment system forever. And thank God we had that choice. Many people don’t.
I’d appreciate any views on the issues raised here.