To Be Fair

 In Educational Leadership

Sharing a point of view is easy. All that’s required is an opinion, a voice and a platform. It’s a cheap way of talking.

Robust debate, on the other hand, requires making a genuine investment in what you stand for. Delivering a compelling and discerning argument, and countering any compelling views expressed by your opponent, require more than engaging in a talk fest or relying on the tabloids.

In a debate about an idea or a cause, the hallmarks of brilliant argument are careful research, pointed questions, a preparedness to dig deep, a willingness to fail, and a good dose of common sense. Brilliant argument can change lives; mere talk cannot deliver that brilliance.

In 1835, a small settlement was made on the banks of a river in southern Australia. A compelling case was made for the introduction and provision of equal education for all children.

The following year, in 1836, the settlement’s first school was founded. It was situated not far from what is now known as the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Victoria. It was a school for aboriginal children. A school for white children was established later, in 1837.

Historical records provide accurate accounts of the intent and purpose of this vision. It was not segregation; it was fairness.

It’s now 183 years since European settlers sought and won, for all our children, the right to an education. Today, though, there is nothing but talk about inequality. Debates are few and far between.

There is little reference, if any, to the part played by Sir Richard Bourke in the establishment of Victorian schools. Neither is there celebration of Victoria’s first schoolteachers, George Langhorne and John Thomas Smith. Equally disheartening is the lack of knowledge of Joseph Gellibrand and John Batman’s involvement in our first schools. Surely the Australian Curriculum isn’t engaged in censorship.

Schools are intended to be places of learning, where the best and brightest can further their studies or learn a trade. They are places where the fundamentals of participation in civil society are taught to everyone who attends.

Schools are worthy of government investment. They are worthy of parental investment. More importantly, they are worthy of respectful investment in the facts. Schools should require us all to be fair.

Teachers, parents and children may well have the right to talk about the need for more. However, in fairness, this must be matched with an investment in fact finding. Talk is cheap. Robust debate is inestimable.

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