Chat to any spirited teen and it’s clear schools are like medieval villages run by humourless priests. Independent thought threatens, and wherever you turn and whatever you say, eyes are upon you, looking for heresy. But their priestly overstepping may well have created responses they will not like.
The first is greater parental interest in the detailed content and language of classroom activities. Classrooms are a black box with enormous teacher discretion, and more parents are reviewing the assignments and texts their kids bring home. What they see is skewed in content, language and examples.
The constant political battering our kids get is remarkable. From Principal speeches declaiming that “90 per cent of women are afraid to walk outside” or promoting gun control, to Ash Wednesday prayers for the “victims of climate change”, to maths problems calculating the ages of “four female mathematicians”, to the choice of Year 6 speech topics like Unity in Diversity, Racism isn’t just Bullying, or Multiculturalism at the World Cup. Even interpreting the Lord of the Flies is filtered through the prism of climate change.
Looking at energy in Year 8 science? Write to the state transport minister demanding installation of solar panels in all state roads. The indoctrination push is varied, broad and deep. That’s not even considering the slant in textbooks, teacher training or approved teacher resources.
Parents see this, and the energy is remarkable. A lot of parents are angry and have nowhere to go. They can’t pushback formally – many parents are afraid their children will be penalised if they disagree in class, or if the parents complain. Moving from public to independent or Catholic sector makes no difference. Changes in government make no difference. They’re stuck.
The second and far more important response is the cynicism of the mainly male teenagers that are being browbeaten.
Teenage boys are notoriously unreceptive to finger-wagging and are particularly so in a female-dominated environment that treats them as second class. Given that in NSW public schools 84 per cent of primary teachers and 62 per cent of secondary teachers are female, and curricula and school culture are thoroughly imbued with gender concerns, that is the environment teen boys face. And though by their teens they may have internalised enough discretion not to blurt out their annoyance, many are carrying quiet contempt for what they have been force-fed.
At the recent Anzac Day dawn service I turned to a 14-year-old of my acquaintance and asked if his school had cadets like those participating in the service. His response was instructive and biting: “Naaah. We just have social justice shit.”
Another teen, raised in a Green household in a hippie zone, has so thoroughly rejected his force-feeding that he is a suit-wearing accountancy student who argues online with school friends against every element of the progressive narrative (Alex P Keaton lives!).
It’s not just the boys. The daughter of a friend stood and announced to a high school class on gender identity: “Well if that’s the case, I identify as a table.”
The scolds – and the overweening hypocrisy of the gender, racial and other narratives they push – are creating spontaneous, if cynical, teenage conservatives. At an academic level, those kids are learning to parrot a political line from primary school onwards, lest, as one 11-year-old said to me, “If I don’t say what she wants, I’ll fail”, regardless of the truth or the quality of the argument.
Many stay silent, withdraw from the classroom and social media debate, and are (sometimes) unfairly dismissive of the honesty and insight of their teachers, and of institutions in general. Students now have to “suss out” their teachers’ political leanings to know what to say and who to trust.
Worse, because much of their education is politicised, I’ve observed teen boys put less value on education overall, see it as highly feminised, and retreat to video games and private online communications. It isn’t merely men going on strike; our schooling culture is pushing boys to opt out in their teens.
In much the same way as humour functioned in the Soviet Union, those boys bond behind deliberately offensive jokes and insults, knowing that they are giving the finger to authorities telling them what to think and say. They embrace deliberately provocative insults as teen boys have always done, only now the worst of the worst is “Feminist!”.
They may not speak up. They may not disagree. But they will simmer. The silent simmering of those who have been marginalised and silenced, and who have learned that it is too risky to express an opinion about it.
If you believe we have peak Reddit and 4chan, I suggest a few honest conversations with male teens to disabuse you of that idea. It could just be that our indoctrination factories are creating an army that will bite back, and hard. While that will be well-deserved, it won’t be pretty.
Illustration: Comedy Central.
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