A researcher on active and global citizenship from CQUniversity, Dr. Karena Menzie-Ballantyne, has reprimanded the government for its comments regarding the worldwide ‘students’ strike’ Strike 4 Climate Change.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year objected to students participating in the strike on the grounds that civic involvement shouldn’t come at the expense of classroom time.
“We don’t support the idea of kids not going to school to participate in things that can be dealt with outside of school,” he said. “We don’t support our schools being turned into parliaments. What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”
Resources Minister Matt Canavan was more scathing in his assessment: “Walking off school and protesting, you don’t learn anything from that,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB. “The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join a dole queue.”
But Dr. Menzie-Ballantyne views such comments as corrosive of the democratic process, and discouraging of civic involvement by students.
“These comments by the PM, Minister and other MPs show a Government stuck in the 1950s and completely out of touch with the educational needs of young people in the 21st century global era.”
“I am appalled that the highest elected officials in Australia could be such poor role models for upholding democratic process and the right to free speech that is central to that process.”
Dr. Menzie-Ballantyne took her condemnation even further, suggesting members of the government were abridging children’s fundamental rights:
“Prime Minister Morrison’s and Minister Canavan’s comments not only set back Australia’s educational agenda by decades, they undermine article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which upholds children’s right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.”
Furthermore, she claimed that it was the very tenor of such comments which alienates youngsters from mainstream politics:
“Through their comments, the Prime Minister and Minister Canavan have not only undermined all the excellent work educators do fostering the necessary knowledge and skills inherent in the Australian Curriculum, they have told young people in no uncertain terms that their voice is not worthy to be heard. Little wonder young people are turning away from mainstream politics and taking matters into their own hands through protests like Strike 4 Climate Change.”