The purpose of school is often debated, sometimes poorly, without any clear or convincing Big Picture view being sketched for the community. Literacy and numeracy, technical and social skills are honorably mentioned, along with the needs of our economy. However much these skills serve the needs of the individual, it is how we belong effectively, as a member of a larger group, that is truly important. Preparing students to participate, as engaged citizens in our democratic civil society, has rocketed to the top of my ‘reasons why we have schools’ list in recent years. It seems obvious that we need to do more to be authentic in our efforts educate our youth in more than just platitudes about civics and citizenship.
It needs to be real.
Stephen Jones, Member for Throsby, worked with the Student Representative Councils of Dapto and Kanahooka High Schools today to support our commitment to authentic opportunities for students to understand how their democracy works. It is important that they meet politicians and grow to understand what motivates them to do the jobs they do. They need to delve behind the headlines and have the chance to think more deeply about what is truly important.
The students responded intelligently and passionately to Mr Jones’ workshop. He outlined his personal journey and talked about what he believed. He was balanced and honest. The kids responded to his good sense of humour and unassuming manner. I liked how Stephen impressed upon the students that he wanted them to participate in our democracy, regardless of whether they agreed with his politics or not, to make it stronger. It was a fine conversation that ensued and I felt very proud of the articulate questions and comments our student leaders contributed.
We asked the students what they felt passionately about and discussed with friends and family. Topics ranged widely from abortion and the war in Afghanistan, to school uniforms and school funding. Often, in response to Stephen’s prompts, the students displayed very sound critical literacy skills in discussing a range of perspectives and interpretations of issues.
Stephen has been an MP for two years and is clearly committed to assisting our school, often visiting to meet with the principal or attend assemblies. He offered the students his ear on any issues they wished to raise in the coming years.
They believed him. So did I.