Note: all of you scumbag males who found this post by searching for child porn, please drop off the face of the planet.
Background information for readers outside of australia: Schoolies is a traditional end of Year 12 holiday that many students participate in after final exams. It is not uncontroversial of course, despite the money that adults make off these young people, because society is scared of young people in large groups. Schoolies is a public reminder that lots of young people have temporarily escaped the shackles of the state – they have left the mechanism of social control we call school, but are not yet engaged in work or further study. Nobody is watching them!
This load of bigoted drivel from Chris Fotinopolous, a teacher, had my blood at boiling point. It’s difficult to say what Fotinopolous is actually getting at in this poorly researched, unsubstantiated little hate piece; is he annoyed at young people having part time jobs and therefore a degree of empowerment and the resources to participate in celebrations he considers the domain of the elites? Probably. Has he not connected the dots regarding the relationship between child abuse and social participation? Definitely. But there is also a subtle undertone of classism in this piece. Have a go at this:
No doubt, encouraging children to stay at school is enormously beneficial for the individual and society, but it also leads to some students continuing with school when they probably would have been better off leaving earlier and doing something else.
The point that’s often missed by social commentators is that the ugly side of schoolies is largely due to the behaviour of students who performed poorly in year 12. It’s the kind of student who repeatedly neglects homework and refuses to attend after-school detentions because they work up to five nights a week.
I suspect these underperforming and disengaged students are behind the interstate schoolies shenanigans that we see on news bulletins.
Right, the poorly-performing students. The young people marginalised by structural inequality, social isolation, and inadequate access to social and other resources. Because the children of the rich and powerful never do anything wrong.
Fotinopoulos forgets that it is the law that keeps young people at school until the age of 17, unless they have an apprenticeship or are going to TAFE, a policy enforced by the witholding of Centrelink payments. It is governments that want to keep young people under their watchful eye until they are of legal majority, whether it be through institutions such as educational, law and welfare systems, or informal social controls such as media-driven rhetoric of youth-gone-wild or family values. It is not the fault of young people that they are forced to remain in a system that has already failed them. Neither do we encourage poorly-performing young people with rich families to leave school before completing the HSC. In fact, the pressure to complete the Higher School Certificate is enormous for all high school students.
So why does Fotinopoulos consider poor and marginalised young people to be somehow immune to the HSC propaganda? What he seems to be saying is, that the wrong types are somehow coming through the school system with a certificate. And this is in conflict with the true purpose of school, which is either to transfer wealth and resources from generation to generation, or to keep the offspring of the masses under control long enough that they can be channelled into safe, social order-maintaining activities, whether that be to support the labour market, as cannon fodder, or to line the prison system. Fotinopoulos’ hand-wringing over safety issues appears to be a bit of concern trolling, often indulged in by the privileged classes in order to push the marginalised back in their place. It must be, because to state that it is poor, under-achieving young people who cause trouble at end of school celebrations, is a fucking dirty lie.
In her book, Right to be hostile: schools, prisons and the making of public enemies (2007), Erica Meiners, teacher and social justice advocate, describes what has come to be known as the “school to prison pipeline” or the “school push out”, a pattern of systemic exclusion of students from certain social groups, mostly black students. This exclusion derives from increasingly harsh behaviour policies directed at poorer, marginalised students, and tends to masquerade under the guise of “safety”.
This is exactly what Fotinopoulos is on about. This is not a safety issue; he’s not calling for a ban on Schoolies. He just wants a ban on certain young people from participating in a school-related activity that he and other teachers have no power to control. He also wants the poorer young people, and young people already most excluded and disadvantaged within the school system, to be squeezed out early. But how early?
Because this month we care about child abuse, we’ll all be aware of the increasing awareness and prevalence of it in society. So many men abuse children – who would have thought? The only people not surprised by this news are radical feminists (and some social workers), because we faced the awful truth long ago. But child abuse features highly in the collective public mind at the moment. As a teacher, Fotinopoulos would have some awareness of the prevalence too – he’s a fucking mandatory reporter. He would be aware that these poorly-performing students as he calls them, the disengaged, the ones labelled with “behavioural problems” are very often young people who as children, were abused, either emotionally, sexually or physically, and/or neglected. They are the young people who, as children, were the subject of child protection reports, were removed from their families, passed around the foster care system and who suffer from ongoing post traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities, impaired social development, mental health issues and all the attendant problems in regulating their own behaviours.
NSW schools are suspending and expelling these children from kindergarten onwards, because they do not have the resources to include them (many of them do not have the compassion or insight either) and so these children quickly get tagged as the naughty ones and become scapegoats for entire school communities. Many of them move from school to school, either because of expulsion (often due to pressure from parents of higher socioeconomic backgrounds), or due to multiple foster care placements.
These are the young people that Fotinopoulos is whining about, and he would be well aware that these young people rarely have the resources to participate in schoolies. This is why I call bullshit. He doesn’t so much care about young people’s safety at schoolies – he just wants these young people out of school. This is a shameful attitude from a person who makes a living off children and young people. Not surprising that he did not enable comments on this piece, nor did he mention the name of the school he works for.