Private school segregation is not really about religion
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
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The idea that religious schools should have the right to defy discrimination laws as proposed by Kevin Donnelly (Comment, 21/2) begs the question of whether there are really many religious schools. My contact with Christian schools from 1958 on would suggest those at the elite end, at least, are businesses perpetuating inequality by selling life chance enhancement as their principal product. Staff in the marketing and sports departments usually outrank the school chaplain for prime car parking and only a minority of staff, parents and students are active parishioners attending church.
A requirement that staff not denigrate the relevant faith should suffice. Anything more extreme should come at the expense of the support of taxpayers, many of whom have no hope of sending their children to such bastions of privilege.
John Carmichael, Hawthorn
Multiculturalism demands integration
In his defence of the right of private religious schools to discriminate against students and teachers, Kevin Donnelly argues that faith-based education is vital in our increasingly multicultural society. In fact, the opposite is true. The broader our range and the greater our achievements as a multicultural society, the more vital that every child in Australia is given an education that is secular and universal, that offers our young people equality of opportunity regardless of their religious, cultural, ethnic or socio-economic background let alone their gender or sexuality.
Adrian D’Ambra, Dingley Village
‘No-fee’ schools the fair solution
The problem with religious schools is not that they have the right to select staff who model the values and culture which are the raison d’etre for their separate existence. No, it is that they segregate children according to the wealth of their parents and help entrench privilege. Let private schools employ who they like, but don’t allow them to charge fees. This would give real choice and access to all parents. “No-fee” private school models exist in New Zealand, Canada and Finland and we can do it here.
Patrice McCarthy, Bendigo
Be honest about ‘old school tie’ network
Kevin Donnelly argues, “Students who attended Christian schools … are more civic-minded than graduates of government schools, as measured by involvement in political parties, professional associations, sporting and cultural groups.” Even if accurate, this level of civic engagement is not a reflection of the principles and beliefs of these schools, but a representation of the power of the “old school tie” where the network of who you know may override all else.
Michael Cowan, Wheelers Hill
Accept people for who they are
Kevin Donnelly makes sense when teachers at religious schools are involved in teaching values, however I find it confusing when the same applies to the gardener or the physical education teacher. Sad that we cannot show an inclusive model of religion and religious schools which reflects acceptance and value for each person as they are.
Julie Ottobre, Sorrento
Talent, not faith, the best measure
Plenty of atheists work successfully at religious schools just as plenty of people of faith work at secular, public schools. In these situations, the faith, or lack of faith of the teacher probably did not arise at their job interview because it was not relevant. Rather, teaching positions are filled on the basis of whether the applicant can actually teach the subject involved.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills
Banished for existing
Kevin Donnelly argues the Greens would not employ a climate sceptic, nor a refugee group a racist. So, church schools should be allowed to employ “only those who share its values”. This is a false equivalence. What the religious lobby is demanding is that church schools should be entitled to banish LGBT teachers, not for anything they did or said but simply for existing.
Brian Greig, Geographe, WA
Whose money exactly?
The Coalition is against the proposed changes to existing superannuation policy and supports individuals withdrawing the money early (“Dutton slams super overhaul”, 21/02). Peter Dutton and other senior members of the Coalition have said people should have early access to super because it is “their money”. Well yes, the contributed money is theirs but the tax concessions gained by having it in superannuation is taxpayers’ money as it is forgone money that cannot be spent on services for the community.
Apart from exceptional circumstances of financial distress, as is currently allowed, early withdrawal should trigger a repayment of concessions earned.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn
Pushing up prices
The Coalition wishes for our superannuation monies is flawed. Allowing people to withdraw money for housing sounds initially fair and reasonable but it is dangerous. The reason for not doing so stated by Treasurer Jim Chalmers is that it will deplete our retirement incomes, which are essential for life quality in later years.
Just as importantly, increasing money available for housing will increase demand and push up housing prices. What is needed is more housing supply. The plan for increasing social and government housing needs to be enacted quickly and other supply options need exploring too.
Jan Marshall, Brighton
Anyone who expects the Coalition to engage in rational, constructive debate about government economic proposals is dreaming. The toxic nature of Australian politics, as practised by wreckers like Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce – mimicked by Peter Dutton – ignores the national interest for perceived political gain.
It is fanciful to think that many economically literate Coalition members would not privately concede, for example, that the stage 3 tax cuts are irresponsible. Treasurer Chalmers knows they are not affordable, but treads a very cautious path towards change due to potential criticism over broken promises. It is the same bastardry that took badly needed housing tax reform off the table, helping to end the home ownership dreams of many Australians.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne
More pressure on rate
Much has been written about Philip Lowe and the RBA cash rate, but what is rarely noted is the connection to the looming stage 3 tax cuts. When the tax cuts (which will increase disposable income) work against the RBA interest rate rises (which aim to reduce disposable income), the RBA will once again have no option other than to increase the cash rate even further. The RBA has no other lever to pull.
Perversely, the tax cuts will go to people who, in general, have already paid for their houses, while the RBA rate rises will target those starting out, who in general have a large mortgage but won’t be on a high enough income to benefit from the tax cuts. It’s a transfer of wealth from the middle to the top.
More money for those already rich enough to not need it, together with mortgage defaults in the outer suburban nappy belt. Is that really what we want?
Geoffrey McNaughton, Glen Huntly
Exposure a disaster
I was a union secretary in a hard rock mine in the mid-1970s. By then silicosis, better known as miners’ complaint, had all but been eradicated. The solution was simple. The steels the miners used to drill holes were hollow through the core. Water was pumped through as the miners drilled and the dust was immediately turned to wet mud.
It is beyond belief that an industry has been allowed to thrive where workers have been once more exposed to the scourge of this deadly disease (“Unions push for immediate ban on engineered stone”, 21/2). At the Rosebery mine a miner caught boring dry was immediately sacked. Both the union and management were united in this fundamental safety requirement.
It is hard to fathom how the manufacturers of stone kitchen benches and those in charge of tunnelling under our cities did not know of the dangers.
Tony Newport, Hillwood
I spent a career connected to the building industry. I have known for a long time that silica dust, along with asbestos dust, cigarettes, sun exposure, coronavirus, junk food and many other things, is dangerous to our health. But many tradies have an aversion to dust control, dust masks, safety goggles, sunhats, medical masks and all things safety.
The absence of basic safety gear (masks, goggles, sunhats etc) can be observed on many building sites. There is an attitude by some tradies that safety gear does not fit with the fearless tough-as-nails can-do image.
Of course there are many tradespeople who are careful and respectful of safety rules, but there is a substantial group who defy the safety messages that are so readily absorbed by other members of the community.
I am not against tight safety rules, even banning artificial stone if necessary. But over and above this, we need to find a way to get the safety message through to our fearless tradies.
Stephen Mills, Blackburn South
Leave art to artists
Sadly, Roald Dahl can’t be consulted before his creative works are altered (“Erasing history or keeping up with times? The great Dahl debate”, 21/2). Whether done nicely or ham-fistedly isn’t the point. If someone were to change an author’s work without permission, it would no longer be the author’s work. It would be the work of the author and the people who alter it, for better or worse.
We need to let creative genius be. A story has nuance and word usage is deliberate. Let the creatives do their thing while the rest of us admire, disapprove, appreciate, vandalise and so on. Speaking of which, if eco-activists paint a nice fig leaf over art they find offensive, is this vandalism or acceptable censorship?
M. Dobbyn, Glen Waverley
Andy Griffiths is right (“Gloop is not fat – he’s enormous”), 21/2) – Roald Dahl has given the world memorable characters. But he is wrong to believe “enormous” is an acceptable term to describe one. The use of euphemism around a person’s weight only perpetuates the kind of bigotry that often begins in the schoolyard and leads in later life to the insidious trolling, especially of many in the public eye, we witness today.
Anders Ross, Heidelberg
Book always changing
Book revisions? The Christian Bible underwent many revisions even before the invention of printing and there have been numerous amendments ever since, some purporting to improve clarity but many to advance the peculiar interests of hundreds of rival sects.
One of the most glossed-over examples is the Catholic Bible’s entire omission of the commandment concerning the prohibition of idolatry then splitting the commandment prohibiting coveting into two to make up the required 10.
If we really wanted a more modern, inclusive Bible most of the prohibitions would have to be edited out, together with most of Old Testament.
Robbert Veerman, Buxton
Just a bit of weeding
As a public librarian with post-grad qualifications in history, I’m a bit perplexed by this near hysteria Northcote High seems to have generated by weeding its Australian history section, something that seems long overdue (“Censorship deciding how we see the world”, Letters, 20/2).
It is common practice for libraries to withdraw items (referred to in the trade as “weeding”) that have become outdated and/or include inaccurate information, particularly non-fiction. What use is a travel guide, medical text, legal handbook or computer book published in the 20th century in 2023? Historical works should not be immune from this process as knowledge and understanding does evolve over time with research. Library collections, particularly public and school – (academic and state have a different function) – ought to reflect works that are accurate. This should not be confused with excluding works with alternative views.
Michael Smith, Essendon West
I am delighted that at last the processed food industry is coming under the scrutiny of the medical profession (“Calls for warning labels on unhealthy foods”, 20/2). I have been checking the ingredients before I purchase any processed foods since I bought some cocoa with “99% Sugar Free” blazoned across the front of the packet.
Using my trusty magnifying glass to read the ingredients I was amazed to find my cocoa contained “natural sweeteners, glucose syrup, coconut oil, salt, black tea extract, flavours(?) emulsifiers, anti-caking agent and colour”. Plus the possibility of traces of soy. The use of words like “raw sugar” and “cane sugar” is used to describe sugar in some products – presumably to make sugar sound healthier. No wonder Australia is facing an obesity epidemic.
Maria Prendergast, Kew
Recipe worth sharing
I read carefully your pancake recipes “Batter up: 50+ of the best pancake recipes” (Good Food). Adam Liaw’s American pancake recipe was nothing like the recipe my American friends have given me.
Instead Stephanie Alexander’s buttermilk pancake recipe with separated eggs was almost exactly the American recipe I’d been given. The only difference was that it had a cup of blueberries folded into the final mix before cooking. These pancakes are very soft and fluffy. They are best cooked in butter.
Eileen Ray, Ascot Vale
And another thing
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
If only Roald Dahl were still alive. He could have written an acerbic, witty and whimsical cautionary tale about protective zealots who seek to purge his stories of vocabulary deemed harmful.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East
Are there so few quality children’s books being written that we are reduced to modifying old books to bring them in line with “today’s thinking”?
Kristen Hurley, Seaholme
Roald Dahl? Cancel Andy Griffiths for undermining decency and Western civilisation by using rude words like bum and fart in his stories. The poor kids never hear such words anywhere else.
John Hughes, Mentone
I’m definitely hanging on to my children’s unredacted Roald Dahl collection.
Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk
Perhaps the revision of language used in Dahl’s books has more to do with updating to today’s standards, in order to sell more books, rather than censorship.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East
The Resolve Political Monitor might indicate that Albanese’s honeymoon is over but it also indicates Dutton won’t even get to the altar to have a honeymoon.
Phil Alexander, Eltham
I worry that some who dipped into super for house purchases may end up with neither. Irresponsible lending and borrowing will lead to sales when householders can no longer meet repayments.
Elaine O’Shannessy, Buxton
With the drop-off of people having any religious belief, can privileged private schools really afford to be so choosy on whom they employ?
James Lane, Hampton East
Super tax concessions to cost the budget almost as much as the age pension. Billions of reasons for change.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch
It’s curious how folk with acquired brain injury are developing British and Irish accents … (“Odd spot”, 21/2).
Jeff Moran, Bacchus Marsh
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