Hero: Teachers are among the many unsung heroes in our society. Too often the popular press invites us to paint all teachers the same colour as the few who make headlines for some sort of misconduct, while all the thousands and thousands of others go quietly about the business of educating other people’s children, often under conditions that the rest of us would simply not tolerate. My hero for this week is the American teacher, Natalie Munroe, who was suspended from work this week after students complained about her blog wherein she described them as rude, lazy, whining and disengaged. Such comments would once have been reserved for staffroom conversation or written in a personal journal, but with new media technology, her blog is out there for everyone to see – and not everyone likes it. I have many friends who are high school teachers and who I have heard echo the sentiments expressed by Ms Munroe in her blog – and good on her for having the sheer up-front nerve to say what she has in an open and public forum. Sure, some students work diligently, are engaged and respect their teachers and the education system, but many do not and there is no reason why this should not be pointed out. If it encourages some self-examination among students, that’s good. If it encourages some examination by parents of their children, that’s good too. Ms Munroe is fighting her suspension on grounds of free speech. If she loses, then so does an entire profession, the civil liberties of those professionals within it, and the education system as a whole.
Villain: My last blog entry was based on the comments made by Opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, regarding the funeral held for victims of the Christmas Island tragedy. Those comments have earned Morrison my vote for villain of the week. The runner-up is the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, who attempted to bat away the questioning of ABC’s Jon Faine as to why Seena, the 9-year old orphaned by the tragedy, should be sent back to detention when he has relatives in Sydney who have asked to be able to care for him. Bowen came out of that exchange looking like a sucker-fish for an inflexible bureaucratic process rather than a Minister of the Crown with compassion for human beings. But it was Morrison’s racist, hate-mongering and totally inhumane rantings – followed by a qualified and insincere apology only after public outrage hit the airwaves – that took the bikkie. Congratulations, Scott. Pauline Hanson must be grinning from ear to the other.