17 November 2010

Australian Kids Banned From Hugging At School...

The beauty of blogging, and perhaps its danger as well, is that I do not have to be fair and balanced. I can, if I so desire, spout off on any old thing I want and argue my point of view. Well, almost. As a teacher, I am told in no uncertain terms that I am a teacher 24/7 and this means that anything I do or say outside of school will also be counted against me, either positively or negatively.

Such is the teacher's lot.

Now, on with the show!

Students at William Duncan State School in Nerang (on the Gold Coast) have returned to Term 4 to find that the school has adopted a "no hugging" policy. Nope, this is not some anti-green movement to stop kids from hugging trees in these times of climate change. It is a policy to stop the students from hugging each other.

The policy does not start with hugging. The policy, in essence, outlaws all touching; male-male, female-female, and male-female. Any student caught in breach of the policy will find themselves on detention.

This begs the obvious question, "Why?"

Well, it seems that the school in conjunction with the Parents & Citizens Council has decided that there is a need for this. I am all into protecting out children from bullying, including cyber-bullying. I am also in favour of adopting a policy that prevents students from touching each other in violent ways; they need to keep their hands and feet to themselves. Yet, the William Duncan policy is for a primary school. It appears that the need to ban hugging is to protect the innocence of the students and to not allow them to be sexualised at too young an age.

I have to admit, if that is the reason and rationale to this policy, then I am a little confused. Since when has hugging been solely a sexual act? And, doesn't the policy run the risk of alerting kids to the idea and concept of sexualisation by teaching them that there is something inherently wrong about hugging in that it is in some way dirty or wrong and needs to be avoided?

The policy seems at odds with how we conduct ourselves in the real world. People hug all the time. Let's face it, I was watching the tennis the other night on the idiot box and at the conclusion of the game the players hugged at the net. Nothing wrong with that is there? Or even more recently, I was watching the English Premier League (EPL), also on the idiot box, and when a goal was scored, the goal scorer was mobbed and hugged by his team mates. Nothing wrong with that is there?

Perhaps, there needs to be a little bit of a rethink. Perhaps the school needs to think about when and where hugging is appropriate and teach their students the difference. If two students are involved in a lingering embrace that includes some passionate kissing (not that this is likely to happen in primary school) then that becomes a teaching moment for inappropriate hugging (and additional activity).

If the overall idea is to teach our children responsible behaviours and how to behave responsibly, then we as teachers, parents, and adults need to be responsible in how we go about teaching those behaviours. Banning hugging in a universal and uniform manner like it has seemingly been done here, is not about teaching responsible behaviours and behaving responsibly, it is about avoiding teaching what is appropriate touching and when it is appropriate to touch another.

To successfully teach our children, and students, the difference between right and wrong we have to teach them what is right and wrong, and not just ban anything and everything we can think of.

Hopefully, no one is offended by the hugging kittens.


Rianti Bieler said...

Well said! This reminds me of the many "fatwas" declared by MUI in Indonesia. "If we can't properly teach them rights from wrongs just ban the whole thing" - sheesh..

I have two little girls and sexual abuse along with schoolyard bully are on the top of my worry list. But I definetely wouldn't forbid her to hug her friends! Hug (and touch) is a wonderful thing, it's an intimate gesture that says "I love you" when words fail. And a quiet hand squeeze can give the much needed reassurance and support. And so on. I love being hugged by my loved ones and I hope my kids wouldn't have to hesitate and worry about political correctness the next time they have the urge to hug a friend they love. I hope I'll be able to teach them the difference between a good hug and a bad hug :) And I'll start with telling my 3 yo that hugging her baby sister while lying on top of her is not a good idea!!

Anonymous said...

From SMH: Special ethics education should not be allowed for children not attending scripture classes. Nor should ethics education be "special". Rather, it should be available to all children, not only those withdrawn from scripture classes.

We have a serious problem. Even though special religious education (SRE) accounts for only 3 per cent of teaching time, it is outrageous that some students not doing SRE are left doing nothing educationally worthwhile. I have witnessed such myself in the inner-west this year. This is an intolerable injustice that ought to be deplored by all concerned parents and educators

A job for you??

Rob Baiton said...

@ Ranti...

Hmmm, the MUI...let's not go there :)

Bullying an violence is a problem in schools. However, it is questionable as to whether hugging is a problem.

For me, hugging does not have to be sexual or even symbolic of love. It could be a simple gesture designed to provide comfort to someone in need.

The idea of banning hugging sends mixed messages to our children, particularly that there is something inherently dirty and wrong with hugging. So, herein lies the problem: we teach our children to hug at home, and that it is OK to hug others in ways that are respectful; and then, they go to school and are taught that hugging is 'bad'.

Ho hum...

Rob Baiton said...

@ Anonymous...

I always prefer to write to a name (a pseudonym even). Not to worry though ;)

I agree that children could benefit from ethics classes. I would agree there is no need to label them special classes. Just Ethics classes will do.

It is interesting that there is the equating of ethics and religion, seems a little loaded to me.

Scripture must be available to those who want it. But, yes, there needs to be something of educational worth for those students opting out of scripture.

I was not really paying enough attention during my last practicum, but I was paying attention. Scripture was factored in during certain periods of the day and students wishing to attend scripture did so and the remainder attended normal classes.

This is not optimal either as some might argue that those who opt in to scripture are punished because their normal timetable continues without them.

However, I found it was only a small number of students opting in for scripture and that I was able to get the scripture students caught up without any difficulty.

A job for me? What, solving the ills of schools? :)

David said...

RAB said, "As a teacher, I am told in no uncertain terms that I am a teacher 24/7 and this means that anything I do or say outside of school will also be counted against me, either positively or negatively."

I say, "As a fellow teacher, take my advice and erase every single post on your blog that has even the mildest reference to pornography. Students are out there to cut you down.

Rob Baiton said...

@ David...

And some teachers as well, so I have heard.

There is nothing on my blog that I would not be prepared to stand by as legitimate argument with respect to post on pornography or the sexualisation of children.

I have not breached or violated any laws (as they currently stand). And, if my future employer wishes for me at some future stage for me to restrict access to my blog, then this can be done without the need to delete posts en masse.

As an aside, what are you up to now?

David said...

Rob, from a legal point of view, that is true. Unfortunately, when a teacher is on the receiving end of the point of view of parents, or twisted-around accusations, the law can clear us of any worng doing, but it cannot help remove the proverbial mud. It is so easy to be brought undone, even when, according to the law, we have done nothing wrong.

At the moment I am on secondment to the QLD Department of Education and Training, working on a project for Indonesian teachers in QLD.

Rob Baiton said...

@ David...

Point taken. I am fully aware of the mud slinging and the fact that I am not all that teflon-y.

Sounds like it is an interesting gig you have going on as a secondment.

David said...

Hi Rob, yes, the current gig was at first, welcome relief from an otherwise very stressful highschool gig. However, I realise now, the public service office job is not for me, and so I long to be back in front of the classroom. My secondment ends (theoretically) in Jan 2012, so another year to go, and then we'll see what happens. The best and most rewarding gig was my teaching job in a Jakarta high school. I'd love to go back to it, but alas, family matters mean I need to stay here for the time being.

Glad to see you've ventured into the 'noble art' yourself. I wish you all the best.

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