Our Respectful Relationships Program

This week there has been some controversy regarding a proposed program to be implemented in Victorian schools. The program, Respectful Relationships, aims to end the cycle of family violence by teaching students practical and positive social skills.

This includes discussing and analyzing gender stereotypes through stories, fairy tales and other activities. It’s safe to say, many people and media outlets aren’t happy about this possible change.

Seeing a bigger picture isn’t always easy

Right now there is an opportunity in front of us as educators, parents and human beings to actually think critically about the many subtle messages surrounding us each and every day.

In case you haven’t been into a school in the last 10 years you may have missed the mission and purpose of schools this century. As teachers our purpose is to prepare our children as critical thinkers who are active global citizens in a future completely different to what we know today.

The thing you may not have realised yet is that this isn’t even about fairy tales or issues with new programs wanting to build awareness of respectful relationships (because respect is definitely one thing we say kids need less of).

The issue we are facing is that people are having to adjust to a new perspective: that many of the assumptions, norms and beliefs you hold are moving away from being mainstream.

And that cultural shift is understandably scary for you.

But it’s happening.

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Between Women’s AFL, Steve Biddulph’s seminal work Manhood, Our National Apology, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner changing gender in front of us and the 2017 Women’s Marches, the world has changed.

Allowing students the privilege and opportunity to see and consider different perspectives and bias before making an informed decision can only be a win-win. It not only sets them up to adapt and thrive in the future, but also sets us all up for some unimaginable progress.

Preventing them from seeing different perspectives and thinking critically will only hold them back from a successful future life.

That’s the thing.

This issue isn’t about fairy tales or your experiences of them as a child.

It isn’t about being a lefty, righty or centery.

It isn’t about you.

It’s about that Year 6 girl I taught who spent most days having to prove that she was perfect the way she was, even if she wanted to play football. It’s about that Year 6 girl who was pushed out of the football team due to pressure from 10 and 11 year old boys telling her she wasn’t “a normal girl”.

I let that girl down back then by not speaking up more. I won’t make the same mistake this time around. Now is the time to speak up.

In the end, it is simple. It is about creating smart, reflective and adaptable kids who are going to be the adults in a new and different culture in the future. It’s about shaping future adults who will have the ability to consider and weigh up different perspectives before making a decision. It’s about future adults having the chance to think differently to me and you.

If we’re serious about the missions and purposes of global citizenship and critical thinking in schools, we need programs like Respectful Relationships to give kids opportunities to actually think critically about a wide range of issues that could unite us all as global citizens in the future.

Idealistic? Yes. Already happening? Indeed.


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