Pointless Controversy Resumed

(Achieving Community Division and Increased Newspaper Circulation Through the Rigorous Application of the Thoughts of Chairman Rupert)

I’ve just been taking a look over the recent report of the Victorian Parliament’s Education and Training Committee on Dress Codes and School Uniforms in Schools. The one that recommends that:

… schools work with Sikh students and their communities to negotiate appropriate standards for the kirpan, as part of their general consultation around the wearing of items with religious significance. The Committee also recommends that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development investigate how the needs of Sikh students can best be met within the duty of care that schools owe to their students, and provide schools with further guidelines or advice if necessary.

Before reaching this recommendation, the committee noted that:

… submissions supporting the wearing of the kirpan in Victorian schools sparked resistance from some quarters. Objections to the kirpan were typically based on the threat that it is seen to pose to student safety. Mr Brian Burgess, President, Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, was quoted in the media as saying that it is ‘not appropriate that something that can be used as a weapon is brought into a school’. His view was supported in the same article by Ms Mary Bluett, President, Australian Education Union (Victorian Branch).270 An online forum on the issue obtained a number of further comments from members of the public opposed to the wearing of the kirpan in schools…

A more precise description of events is that on June 10 this year, Mary Papadakis of The Melbourne Hun wrote an article in which she quoted the opinions of Mr Burgess and Ms Bluett – who were no doubt contacted by telephone and that when the editor looked over her work, he decided that it was a well-crafted piece, deftly using two of the Hun’s signature keys – Outrage Major and Panic Minor – and decided to run it. Then the audience gave it plaudits and a standing ovation in the on-line forum.

That precise description might be incorrect in one or two particulars – for example, it’s possible that either Brian Burgess or Mary Bluett contacted The Hun to air their concerns on learning of the submissions to the Education and Training Committee. Or perhaps it was a member of the Committee itself, alarmed that the majority of the committee members couldn’t see the self-evident dangers in such proposals.

The central fact – that the Hun was engaged in panic mongering as usual remains. That panic-mongering is the standard business of the Hun and its staff. Here’s how Andrew Bolt describes the method:

You want to know how they’re tricked up? First, you get a possible problem — preferably with some skerrick of truth.

You then get some expert … to make wild assumptions or faulty extrapolations.

And then you whistle for the carpetbaggers — journalists keen to sell a sensation, business keen to sell a cure, and politicians keen to sell themselves as the solution.

And bang, you have a mass panic, with more people gaining from the scare than are game to expose it.

So, from the fact that Khalsa Sikhs carry a religious symbol that looks a lot like a dagger – your skerrick of truth – you extrapolate the possibility that at some tim this religious artefact might be used in a school situation to harm, even kill another student. And you get the representatives of the school principals and the teachers’ union to back you up.

One thing you scrupulously avoid, of course, is examining any facts that might assuage the panic you want to incite. It helps, in this case, that the students who might be carrying these “dangerous weapons” to school are members of a minority religion that isn’t well understood by the majority – including the Hun’s journalists and editors, teachers, high school principals, bloggers and blog commentators. What strikes us – for example in this Canadian case – is that, OMFG, these people allow 11 year old boys to carry deadly weapons. Are these people crazy?

Of course they are – it’s common knowledge that if you put a sharp, pointy instrument in the hands of children, their first impulse is either to inflict injury on another child or to carelessly cut off one of their own fingertips. So there’s no need to ask any alternative questions – such as do these people know something about instilling a sense of responsibility in children that we don’t?

That question couldn’t, and shouldn’t, be asked, because Western culture is, in Pamela Bone’s words, clearly, objectively better than other cultures. Australian culture is part of Western culture, Khalsa Sikh culture plainly isn’t – we put up with Khalsa Sikhs in our own countries on sufferance – in the long run, we expect them to stop being different and do things – including bringing up their children – our way. No way could their way be better, because of course, it’s not the Australian way and therefore, not the Western way.

Well screw that. In the words of adam, in this comment:

… let’s look to the facts and make a few sensible points. Screw the divisive press. we are a community, and let’s learn each other’s ways.

Dancing to the Hun’s tune is a mug’s game.

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Posted in education, media, religion
67 comments on “Pointless Controversy Resumed
  1. […] Word of the Day: Kirpan Filed under: culture, politics — gummotrotsky @ 3:20 pm (Discussion on this post has been moved to here) […]

  2. silkworm says:

    Since September 11, 2001, most airlines have prohibited the carrying of kirpans on planes. Why should our schools be any less safe than airplanes?

  3. gummotrotsky says:

    Maybe I should retitle this post “Pointless Controversy Resumed, Pointlessly”.

    Your comment, silkworm, conveniently elides the difference between “most” and “all”. Once again, you’ve failed to do even the first of the hard yards and actually investigate which airlines prohibit the carrying of kirpans and which are prepared to permit it, and the conditions under which they do so.

    And you call me lazy.

  4. silkworm says:

    The principle behind the wearing of the kirpan is that the Sikh is the protector of the weak. Isn’t this the role of prefects and teachers in schools? Isn’t the Sikh initiate thus usurping the role of school prefect? And since when do prefects or teachers carry weapons to enforce school rules?

    PS. All Canadian airlines prohibit the kirpan.

  5. silkworm says:

    “January 21: Auckland

    A group of Sikh priests boarded an Air New Zealand plane for Napier wearing ceremonial daggers (kirpans). Other passengers noticed the kirpans protruding from their robes and expressed concern. The priests handed over the kirpans to the crew who kept them in the cockpit for the duration of the flight.”

    http://publishing.yudu.com/A10dd/asifeb07vol13issue1/resources/8.htm

    Are our children any less deserving of security than airline passengers?

  6. gummotrotsky says:

    The priests handed over the kirpans to the crew who kept them in the cockpit for the duration of the flight.

    Once again, Silkworm, you’ve shot yourself in the foot. That report would support your case so much better if that last sentence had read:

    The priests ran amok, and cut the throats of the cabin crew. Several other passengers had to be hospitalised as a result of knife wounds.

    As for your suggestion that a kirpan carrying Sikh schoolkid is usurping the a role properly performed by teachers and prefects, that’s quite revealing – how very authoritarian of you.

  7. silkworm says:

    “Pointless Controversy Resumed” – The very title reflects your cynical and prejudicial attitude to this topic.

  8. silkworm says:

    “The priests ran amok, and cut the throats of the cabin crew. Several other passengers had to be hospitalised as a result of knife wounds.”

    Your irresponsible attitude toward public safety displayed in that comment is astounding.

  9. silkworm says:

    English cricketer Monty Panesar is a devout Sikh. Does he wear his Kirpan under his uniform while he is playing?

  10. philiptravers says:

    I see you are dealing with the Silkworm Gummo!?And how old are you Silkworm!?Does your name imply that you would crawl up the arse of anything that has the right to use the word law!?Because I think Gummo as produced a few fine and good truths that need accepting by those who want to feel powerful in their education settings,Editorials ,and Political matters.We should be asking what has been the incarceration statistics of Sikhs in Australia compared to all the groups that can be compared and Australians generally.I have heard blistering comments about all sorts of religious and racial groups,but I havent heard one yet about Sikhs! That speaks volumes to me.And many people around the Coffs Harbour Woolgoolga area of N.S.W. would dearly love to put you in a place,where you would have to use your real name.I doubt the named in this blog are as gutless as you.Pull your head in Silkworm.Apologies to the blogmasters mistresses here.I think the Sikhs can stand on their record,and have friends in unusual and maybe powerful places in Australia,that the Silkworms would not even imagine,until they are confronted personally with their disregard.The problem with kids is they would want to emulate the Sikhs,and in a way that is worse,if there is a fight in school to carry knives.

  11. gummotrotsky says:

    Worried Panesar might use it to doctor the ball to obtain more spin, Silkworm? Or that he might take to an umpire with it on deciding that the umpire’s decision to dismiss an appeal for out LBW was the act of an oppressor?

  12. silkworm says:

    “And many people around the Coffs Harbour Woolgoolga area of N.S.W. would dearly love to put you in a place, where you would have to use your real name.”

    Is that supposed to be a physical threat?

  13. gummotrotsky says:

    Hmmm – missed that bit.

    But unless you’re planning a visit to that area in the near future, I’d think not.

    And if this thread hasn’t attracted at least one cooler head by midnight, it’s a goner.

  14. Enemy Combatant says:

    When an initiated Sikh child wears a kirpan externally at a State school, the act signals to other children at that school: “I am religious and I am different.” It’s the in-your-face, proselytising, “ask me about my kirpan” aspect that I suggest other children, many of whom are culturally unsophisticated find unsettling.
    In giving a boy the appellation Sue, for example, there are certain sociological “known knowns” that will inevitably ensue in a schoolyard gathering of pubescent homo sapiens. No problem if the kid’s got a hide, but devastating for the child if gentle by nature. Perhaps many Sikh children suffer similarly in Oz State schools when their parents/religious elders insist that they advertise their difference.

    Some devout Catholics wear a scapular, a religious icon to emphasise their devotion but they don’t display it, they wear it under their shirts unseen and no one is the wiser. A similar dress-code compromise by the Sikh community might help defuse potential conflict when enrolling their kids at State schools.

    http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/things/scapular.htm

    And on a “When in Rome” basis, outside a state school’s bounds, let there be open sartorial slather for all.

  15. Anna Winter says:

    Enemy Combatant, I made the point on the last thread, that even if you’re right that parents shouldn’t be forcing their kids to display their religion so overtly (and I have some sympathy for that position, although it is never that simple especially when we are talking about teenagers), how does banning such expressions help in a society where parents have the right to take their kids out of public schools and place them into private, religious ones? If they’re going to insist their child wear it when s/he doesn’t want to, they’re probably going to insist on sending them somewhere where they’re allowed to do so. So the kid gets even less chance of being exposed to alternative ideas.

    As for the point about bullying? Some parents make their kids wear sandals and socks. Are you suggesting we ban that too?

  16. gummotrotsky says:

    EC – a lot of the sources (I hesitate to say “most”) I’ve read on this subject since my last post indicate that the kirpan, like a scapular, is worn under the clothing. Including the Victorian ETC report (linked in the post above):

    The kirpan is carried in a sheath, worn on a strap over the shoulder under the wearer’s garments and out of sight.

    Not exactly easily accessible if you want to go the hack and slash on a fellow student.

  17. murph the surf says:

    “We should be asking what has been the incarceration statistics of Sikhs in Australia compared to all the groups that can be compared and Australians generally.”
    No we shouldn’t .
    Kids rip stuff off from each other all the time and unless the sikh kids are segregated away from their cohort allowing 15-20 cm digger shaped objects onto school premises is taking an avoidable risk.
    Knowledge of their presence will lead to some arsehole kid lording it over a smaller sikh, stealing his kirpan and then any one of many unpleasant outcomes will play themselves out.
    A school isn’t just the students- this point is completely avoided by many commenters – it is the students and the admin and support staff and the teachers .
    All these people should be allowed to work or study without having to defuse avoidable incidents involving weapons- be they compasses , lenths of steel ruler or dagger shaped religious objects.
    “Pointless controversy” is an apt name for this thread – Sikhs deserve respect and inclusion in schools and this goes without debate .Carrying potentially dangerous objects is a different matter and Gummo only brings the sikhism of the carriers into the discussion to allow a fatuos argument to be generated.
    Then again what do I really know – I went to a state school where I saw kids shot with air guns , stabbed with knives , beaten for money , held upside down over before having their heads immersed in pits full of saliva , piss and shit and aerosol sniffing kids beat another to death with a fence paling.
    Nothing bad ever happens in schools right?

  18. Paul Burns says:

    I don’t know if I’m a cooler head, because I don’t exactly have a cool head when it comes to Andrew Bolt. I’m amazed he actually revealed the machinations. Do academics/experts bothrer to talk to him, or does he just give Hendo a call to get his contacts.
    I think you guys have been tricked into falling into right wing soup.
    As my apologetics teacher taught me long ago when I had a fantasy about becoming some kind of Catholic monk, “You can’t debate prejudice.”
    Signing off to watch the Book Show.

  19. gummotrotsky says:

    murph, I’ll just re-quote this section of the Committee’s report:

    The Committee also recommends that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development investigate how the needs of Sikh students can best be met within the duty of care that schools owe to their students…

    If all the events you described happened at your school – and I don’t doubt that they did, my high school days were by no means all wine and roses – then the school and its staff clearly failed in their duty of care. It was their responsibility to prevent such incidents.

    If the Committee’s recommendations are adopted – and my view is that in the long term they will be, either through administrative action or as the result of a long drawn out legal dispute – schools will have a duty of care to prevent such incidents as Sikh kids being stood over by bullies who want their kirpans.

    Finally, another repetition:

    do these people know something about instilling a sense of responsibility in children that we don’t?

    And is their secret, perhaps, that they’re not daft enough to leave it to kids to teach kids social skills in the feral environment of the playground?

  20. Zarquon says:

    Well it’s about time you confessed.

  21. gummotrotsky says:

    Care to expand on that thought, Zarquon?

  22. Zarquon says:

    Sorry, if I hadn’t waited to post it would have followed murph’s post and been a mild jape.

  23. gummotrotsky says:

    Paul,

    Bolt’s description of the method wasn’t intended as a revelation of the machinations – I conveniently elided his specific naming of one of the usual targets to arrive at a remarkably accurate description of The Hun’s stock in trade – the “divide and prosper” approach to newspaper management.

    Zarquon,

    No worries, then. Just couldn’t see what it was I’d just ‘fessed up to.

  24. philiptravers says:

    To answer ,the impertinent question of the Silkworm is to sense it should be answered.I have no problems with murfs experiences at school, because our thoughts are sometimes dominated by how, when the learning process was affronted everyday,and then the goings on in the schoolyard.I went to a technical school,where the bullies had to face a stand in their size and height and fitness in a boxing contest for the kids they bullied.I never saw a bully win.But some did with me,and,I didnt dob them in,and they grew up to be fine and really decent people.Even one having a girlfriend who was becoming a teacher.The reason for that bullying was some of them had been forced into institutional care that is penalty… jail.I will be even braver to murf.I think he is wrong in disagreeing with me,but his reasons although born of experience,and I have seen similar,and also know he is right,there are longer term matters, that need to be considered.But I wouldnt deny that kids could bash and steal things off Sikhs,and the experience of Sikhs in Australia may prove him right.It remains ,however,wether the institutional people mentioned who arent gutless like Silkworm ,are right in their attitudes towards the Sikhs.I consider both Gummo and murf to not be cowards in their non-de-plumes becuase of previous opinions.Silworm could ask me that question and again,I have no sense to answer it.I am not dominated by the need to shut people up,but to at times,see that their insistence,may not only be unfair,but powerful people may want to personally deal with the crap insistence.And some of them could be conservative MPs people who can handle biff.

  25. I can’t wait for the “Santa ban at pre-schools because of PC parents and Muslims” story to be in the Hun this week.
    I think they copy and paste it every year two weeks before Xmas. It’s easy, claim santa’s banned at kindies, call up bruce ruxton for a quote, run a vote line, and then publish letters to the editor from the same redneck windbags who wrote in last year.

  26. gummotrotsky says:

    brokenleftleg,

    That comment is way off-topic. Santa-bothering is dealt with in this post.

  27. silkworm says:

    “Silkworm could ask me that question and again, I have no sense to answer it. I am not dominated by the need to shut people up, but to at times, see that their insistence may not only be unfair, but powerful people may want to personally deal with the crap insistence. And some of them could be conservative MPs people who can handle biff.”

    Another physical threat to moi!!!

  28. Katz says:

    If one concedes the certainty that Khalsa Sikhs are uniquely qualified to wield a kirpan without endangering any persons whatsoever, then indeed further controversy is pointless.

    Because there is no power more powerful than faith.

    And is it not written that faith moves mountains?

  29. Joke didn’t work.

    WordPress got rid of my white space.

  30. gummotrotsky says:

    Katz,

    Conflating the words “wield” and “wear” to construct such an obviously specious argument isn’t really up to your usual standard.

  31. Enemy Combatant says:

    Anna Winter at 15: [If they’re going to insist their child wear it when s/he doesn’t want to, they’re probably going to insist on sending them somewhere where they’re allowed to do so. So the kid gets even less chance of being exposed to alternative ideas.]

    Yes, Anna, being more culturally isolated is a decided disadvantage for a Sikh child who has no say in the matter and who may actually prefer the milieu of a State school. I don’t know what happens to a Sikh child who wants to find his or her own path and refuses to wear a kirpan. Are they “ex-communicated”, “wiped” by their peers, sent to Coventry by their family? What happens to a 15 year old Sikh in contemporary Australia who doesn’t wish to live by the old ways anymore?

    AW: [Some parents make their kids wear sandals and socks. Are you suggesting we ban that too?]

    Like love, Anna, there ain’t no cure for terminal dorkishness. But if I were a shifty kid of parents who were over-authoritarian re school footwear, and I wanted to get with the program of modern Oz youth, I’d dutifully leave home each morning in sandals and change them when around the corner to the sweatshop clobber so favoured by today’s youth. Then the old reverse switcheroo before home in the pm.

    I recall seeing yups do something similar in New York in 1987. Dressed otherwise to the “9’s” they’d pound the sidewalks frenziedly in morning “Rush Hour” resplendent in their flashy Nikes and Reeboks, charging like legions of lemmings into the hungry skyscrapers that housed their work stations. In the elevators they’d change their runners for standard business shoes.

    Only a matter of time, I guess, before pragmatic young Sikhs get the same idea about their kirpans. But living a lie is always fraught with difficulties.

    Gummo, glad to note from your sources that most kirpans are worn under outer garments. Perhaps out of sight,out of mind in such situations is indeed a godsend.

  32. silkworm says:

    I noticed that all four links in the second quote lead to the same article. Is this supposed to be a joke, or is it just symptomatic of Gummo’s laziness?

  33. Katz says:

    Conflating the words “wield” and “wear” to construct such an obviously specious argument isn’t really up to your usual standard.

    Nice get, Gummo.

    Would you accept “sport”?

    (AAMOF, ITTBK, I expected you to bridle at the word “certainty”).

  34. j_p_z says:

    This whole argument remains to me very confusing. People continue debating things almost entirely from a frame of reference w/r/t the POV of the Sikhs, almost as if normative Australian society had been fashioned from the beginning to cater (or not cater) to Sikhs, which I’m guessing isn’t really the case.

    I see it like this: a bunch of foreign people have come into your country, and they’re telling you they don’t want to respect your mores nor obey your laws, but yet they still want to keep living in your country. They want to stay, but also obey their own mores and laws instead of yours, as if you didn’t exist and weren’t governing the place. But some of you don’t seem to mind that at all, and don’t seem interested in discussing that aspect of the question, but are instead concerned with “working with” these foreign people to ensure that your own laws can be circumvented in the most “effective” way possible. (I’ll repeat that I have no particular problem at all with Sikhs or Sikhism in any context, I’m merely taking this as a test case, since it’s the one that has come to the fore at present.)

    See, I thought that the original mantra of multiculturalism was, “Hey, anybody at all can come settle in our country, so long as they obey our laws and respect our society.” But now, upon the first and slightest provocation imaginable, when people come to settle in your country but DON’T want to respect even the mildest of your rules (no knives at school for volatile adolescents), but would prefer to obey their own rules, the fall-back position becomes, “Well, so what if they don’t want to obey our laws and respect our society? After all, they’re already here, and really, what is a ‘society,’ anyway? Maybe it never really existed. Maybe we aren’t really a people or a culture, and have never been. But (mysteriously) they clearly are.”

    Anna Winter writes: “how does banning such [religious] expressions help in a society where parents have the right to take their kids out of public schools and place them into private, religious ones? If they’re going to insist their child wear it when s/he doesn’t want to, they’re probably going to insist on sending them somewhere where they’re allowed to do so. So the kid gets even less chance of being exposed to alternative ideas.”

    That’s a coherent point of view, but, I suspect, a wrong one. First of all, this isn’t (I think) primarily about “banning religious expressions,” it’s about jurisdiction. Secondly, if the writ of Australian law extends throughout all Australia, then there’s no question of “sending them somewhere where they’re allowed to do so,” unless that “somewhere” is actually in India. Either it’s OK for everyone to bring a weapon to school, or else it isn’t. Do you allow human sacrifice in “private” schools or contexts? If not, why not?

    Look, I don’t care at all about the safety issue, I think it’s overblown. There’s a quite reasonable social set-up in which the kirpan is not, or at least shouldn’t be, a problem. And if you can manage to comfortably square the law with that rational environment, then good on you; but I can’t see how making weird particularist exceptions for exotic cases is going to be good for society on a forward basis. Personally, I’ve carried a knife ever since I was about twelve years old (I was a Boy Scout), and I’ve always carried either pen-knives or larger scarier implements at middle school, high school and college, just like a lot of other kids did, and no one was ever worried about it at all because a) it was legal to carry knives, but illegal to stab someone with same, and b) my school principals and teachers knew perfectly well that no one was going to stab anybody else, because they knew who we all were; and of course we never did. A small knife is a totally practical thing for a teenage boy to have. So I sympathize with the Sikhs in that regard.

    But if, for reasons beyond one’s personal control, the law requires that knives not be brought to school, that is a separate question. And it’s not really about religious expression at that point, I don’t think, it’s about the perception of fairness as the law is perceived. If X can have a knife, then why can’t Y? That’s tricky, and not necessarily decisive. It’s perfectly possible that a sane society could work out a compromise on the issue pleasing to all sides, I don’t see why that shouldn’t be so. But it would have to be couched in a framework of systemic fairness and equality, not in a vocabulary of exceptions and irrational deference to odd-ball extra-legal notions of ‘diversity.’

    Somebody said, on the earlier madcap but very entertaining thread, a thing like “we are a community, therefore we should learn each others’ ways.” It’s a nice sentiment, but an utter perversion of meaningful language. If “we” are already a “community,” then I am hard pressed to understand how it is that “we” do not already understand “each others’ ways” prima facie. If “we” cannot understand something that incredibly simple, I think it follows that “we” must not actually be a bona-fide “community” in any meaningful sense. No definitive conclusion follows from this, just an obligation to think the whole thing through a bit more clearly, and with a bit more respect for actual meaning. But that, I think, is what is so often missing from debates like this.

  35. Paul Burns says:

    j-p-z,
    I suspect multiculturalism in Australia may have a different meaning in Australia to its meaning in the US.
    Here, it was/is based on the premise, despite JWH’s efforts to destroy it, that immigrant communities maintained all the attributes of their home culture in their communities, and at the same time fitted into the wider Australian community.
    If I’ve got this wrong, I’m sure other LP-ers will clarify it or expand on it.(It was, interestingly, formulated by a previous coalition goverrnment which was genuinely liberal in its sentiments.I mean liberalism in the English tradition, not as I understand it to be used in the US.JWH. was an abberation in Australian conservatism.)

  36. Su says:

    “I see it like this: a bunch of foreign people have come into your country, and they’re telling you they don’t want to respect your mores nor obey your laws, but yet they still want to keep living in your country.”

    Sikh’s arrived here at the beginning of the twentieth century as itinerant farm workers. As such they were among the many varied ethnic groups that built what we call Australia. They are not telling us they don’t want to respect the law they are asking for the law to accomodate their religious expression; something which they are not only entitled to do but are encouraged to do under the terms of a whole series of reports issued by the law reform commission. So you have misframed the issue from the beginning.

  37. Tony D says:

    Anna W: been pondering; how do we balance inclusion/exclusion factors in the school-yard? Encourage diversity but limit fear of the other prejudices?

  38. adam says:

    hi all

    gummo’s final point @ 19 hits the nail on the head. kids are compulsorily expected to learn socialization from the age of 5 onwards through being crammed into environments that do not resemble mainstream society. they are institutionalised. the levels of funding certainly keep the staff-student ratios wide – my daughter has one teacher for her prep class of 25.

    i would never pay out on the teachers here – how can you keep an eye on 25 little bundles of nuclear powered woohoo all at once? – but there is a clear systemic problem. it is obvious that socialization can in some part – approximately 1.5 hours a day, namely recesses – be outside their control almost totally. all the kids out racing about, with a few teachers watching madness unfold around them (while the rest buckle down to planning etc in the staff room).

    it sure helps teachers’ efforts if parents have instilled some kind of ethics in the child already. maybe when schools first grew to absorb the children of the industrialised worker, they did. but my own primary school experience suggests otherwise for recent history, and i sure hope to god it’s different today.

    for me, the schoolyard itself might not be the whole problem, but it’s part of it. the other part is values. i know that sikhs teach theirs.

    now i too bail for pastures greener…

  39. philiptravers says:

    And kids use to wear brylcream in their hair! I went to a number of schools with more than twenty-five kids in the class.Numbers do not stop socialization,values are things being learned everywhere by kids,and as remorseless as I appear to be… the Sikh experience in Australia up to this point in time is being overlooked by the Victorians who are just plainly wrong. Strong healthy kids are usually that because of some parental background ignoring that Sikhs as kids may already be able to influence others for the better makes, the erroneous assumptions of the static nature of socialization and values erroneous…the Sikhs as a community regularly socialise and in doing so enlarge their expressions of values.The school education sets of such are more a process of familiarising kids with concepts ,not functional human relationships already built into them by being a Sikh.Just as I as a kid learned from going to aussie rules football matches as a team member to other towns and back on Saturdays. Or tennis and even going to school and getting to know kids from farms and other backgrounds and talking playing and learning with them in the classroom.Being a son of a railway fettler was often not really that socially graced..I have survived.The Sikh families are well and truly versed in socially and friendly discourse of values their own and others they may take on like tug-of-war. A serious competitive sport.There is certainly an element of unreal description of Sikhs at this site.Sorry for dominating some minds here arent doing to well.perhaps they need to try tug-of-war as a serious competition.

  40. j_p_z says:

    su: “So you have misframed the issue from the beginning.”

    Well it’s certainly possible, and plus if that’s the case, it wouldn’t be the first time, either. Was that the length and breadth of your thought?

    Insofar as the issue is interesting, it’s not for its center but for its peripheries, which can potentially be explored to see where they might lead in a legal and cultural context. Of course if you’re more interested in being righteous than in thinking out loud, well, I leave you to your predilections. The actual controversy can be (and it seems like it in fact was) easily solved by some simple diplomacy and common sense, and from what I can tell, the Sikh community has been exemplary in its willingness to reach common ground. Cool. But not the true point of the exercise, otherwise why discuss it at length in public? (Other than for nut-ball entertainment value.)

    The philosophical controversy remains fascinating (to me at least). Here’s what reality says: “The Sikhs are an established and very trust-worthy community; if they say their kids aren’t going to run amok at school with their ritual daggers, well, history and their reputation backs them up 100%, so they ought to be trusted, end of story.” But here’s what the law winds up saying, when the case is translated from reality into abstract principle: “Some people can be taken at their word more than others.” Therein lies a tale. If you think it’s a boring tale, fine, there’s plenty of other things to do.

    “Sikh’s arrived here at the beginning of the twentieth century as itinerant farm workers…”

    Well, Japanese people arrived in Hawai’i in the 19th and early 20th centuries, also as farm workers. They helped to build the modern state of Hawai’i. On the whole, they have been earnest, productive, peaceful citizens, in fact often extraordinary in terms of achievement, and they have contributed substantially to the well-being of the United States. Nevertheless, our laws don’t permit them to commit ritual seppuku, a significant part of their native culture, in our public schools. By this time in our mutual history, in fact, none of them seem to really want to, or to even quite remember how that works, exactly.

    Discuss.

  41. adrian says:

    Nobody has bothered to answer a question relating to the most interesting aspect of this topic, as asked by Katz. If I may paraphrase, why should religious self expression be privileged over other forms of self expression?
    This surely goes to the core of the issue, and a suplementary question might be: If the answer to the above question is in the affirmative, should that privilege be granted where it has the potential to do harm to others?

  42. gummotrotsky says:

    j_p-z:

    Great example. Let’s puncture its inflated absurdity with a little fact.

    Seppuku was part of the samurai honor code of feudal japan (pre Meiji era). Question: how many of those 19th and 20th century Japanese immigrants were samurai warriors, bound by that code of honour? Speculative answer: none.

    There are some famous examples of Japanese committing seppuku in the twentieth century – Yukio Mishima is the most noted – but the practice seems to have largely fallen into desuetude. Seppuku a significant part of the Japanese immigrants’ culture – I don’t think so.

    … here’s what the law winds up saying, when the case is translated from reality into abstract principle: “Some people can be taken at their word more than others.”

    As it does in so many other areas – try hanging a sign outside your front door some time with “j_p_z, Medical Practitioner” printed on it, then see how the law deals with you after you’ve seen a few patients and filled out a few prescriptions.

    This point is more salient to the current discussion:

    … from what I can tell, the Sikh community has been exemplary in its willingness to reach common ground.

    Nonetheless, there are still commenters on this thread who insist that common ground can’t, and shouldn’t, be found. The can’t part falls apart when we examine all the evidence and precedents overseas. The shouldn’t part I find pretty damn weird.

    Let’s review:

    * The Victorian ETC recommends that a way be found to accommodate a particular religious practice within State schools;

    * The religious community concerned indicates a willingness to modify its practices to allow that accommodation;

    * A lot of people get on their high horses and announce that nothing’s ever going to be good enough.

    That last part starts to sound a lot like advocating religious repression to me. I’d put that at the centre of the debate – it’s not a peripheral issue at all.

  43. gummotrotsky says:

    adrian,

    That question was hammered out on the previous thread, starting here.

    Your rephrasing and repetition of the question seems to me to be based on the assumption that there are people arguing for such privilege. That assumption is erroneous, and takes you nowhere near the core of the issue.

  44. Jack Robertson says:

    “But it would have to be couched in a framework of systemic fairness and equality, not in a vocabulary of exceptions and irrational deference to odd-ball extra-legal notions of ‘diversity.’”

    Why does it have to couched in ‘anything’, Japzter? Why can’t ‘ishoos’ like this not be ‘ishoos’ at all, rather just administrative banalities to be assessed and resolved on a case-by-case case by the sub-communities it affects (ie individual schools)? Which, by the way, is what someone – Liam Hogan, I think – suggested very early in the original thread was how to deal with this ‘non-ishoo’ ishoo. And which, judging by the initial response at least at the grassroots, is what said schools tried to do before the ‘ismists’ of all camps Sikhed their tiresome hyperbolic motormouths onto the case.

    It’s also how ‘our laws’ work, isn’t it? ‘Our law’ is not immutable. It’s not set in stone. It’s not even infested with a surfeit of secular ‘principles’ (spits), as such. It’s basically a reactive frame constantly evolving precisely to reflect this practical world truth: that ‘society’ is people, that like it or not people are (the same but in) different (ways), that different-wayed people need to feel reasonably included under ‘our laws’ if they’re going to (be able to, even) agree to abide by them, and so make the very idea of ‘our law’ tenable, not to mention (to complete the pragmatic circle) practicable and useful. That’s why ‘our law’ changes all the time on cultural grounds. Lucky it does, too. Most modern Australians would have a lot of ‘cultural’ difficulties living under ‘our laws’, c. 1901. Perhaps being American you’re unfamiliar with concepts like social stability through constant cultural churn and flux…

    *ducks*

    And…Oh. My. God…yes, these hyperbolic secularismic identity politik stoushes are a f–cken bore, ain’t they. Look, unbelievers all – God’s not some fragile little petal Who’s going to shrivel up and disappear in a neglected huff because some vapid provincial official banned some sprog from carting his pointy stick about (or wearing a frisbee, a tea-towel, a mask or whatever on his head). By far the most heat generated in these matters tends to come from distinctly un-Goddy types, whether outright athiest/agnostic types who think they’re doing somee wierd favour by ‘safeguarding’ a self-evidently impregnable human ‘right’ like freedom to believe whatever we want, or those whose manifestly zealous cherry-picking of their professed ‘faith’s’ tenets and ‘laws’ (sic) and their refusal to give ground on trivial peripherals (like Kirpans) ought to be a dead give-away as to its inauthenticity. It’s all starting to give us Believers the shits. Stop arguing these stupid ‘ishoos’ on our name, militant secularists, ‘freedom of religion’ pedantics, religious cult-fetishists alike!

    God’s advice is….Dudes! (Yep, bit sad, isn’t it…) Dudes! – leave these banal admin matters to school principals, not ‘principles’ (spits). It’s not a big deal, either way. Except if you – not God, but us humans – make it thus.

  45. adrian says:

    Thanks Gummo, I did for some reason miss that part of the thread.
    But I would respectfully disagree that people are not arguing for such privilege. Surely allowing an object into schools that would otherwise be banned, on the basis of its religous significance is a form of privilege.

    And I for one have no problem with the object in question being allowed into schools if it is reduced to the size of a trinket, so I’ll get off my high horse that I was never on and reiterate that with a bit of goodwill on both sides, a workable compromise could be reached.

  46. Alex says:

    Just out of curiosity, is there a body of evidence to suggest Kirpans are regularly used as weapons?

  47. David Rubie says:

    Jack Robertson wrote:

    and their refusal to give ground on trivial peripherals (like Kirpans) ought to be a dead give-away as to its inauthenticity. It’s all starting to give us Believers the shits.

    Well, suck it up. The “inauthentic” voice of secular society is such a massive improvement over the “authentic” voice of religious superstition, it won.

    If the “Believers” could ever get their sh*t together and come up with a reasonable and consistent way of interpreting their books/scrolls/oral traditions/brain tumours (Danny Nalliah, I salute you) then you might be making some kind of argument. Otherwise, it’s just a big whinge Jack.

    Quit feeling sorry for yourselves.

  48. gummotrotsky says:

    Alex,

    In a word, no. See this comment from silkworm for example.

  49. Jack Robertson says:

    “The “inauthentic” voice of secular society is such a massive improvement over the “authentic” voice of religious superstition, it won.”

    Except that the not-inauthentic voice of secular society hasn’t quite mastered clausal parsing, apparently. Or God’s a shittily verbose writer, more likely.

    *Grins sheepishly*

    Have another go at that bit you quoted at me, Dave. I’m on your side, methinks. And indeed, doing my modest (if a bit oddball) bit to try to rectify just that lack you pinged…

  50. David Rubie says:

    Have another go at that bit you quoted at me, Dave.

    Well guilty I am Jack of teeing off on your paragraph incorrectly.

    I honestly don’t think Gummo is doing his argument much good by being so absolutist. If all he was after was a stoush, he got it. If he wanted to be persuasive, he failed. At the core of his problem is the assertion that the Kirpan is both “not symbolic”, but also (by implication) harmless as it’s not a dagger or a sword. If it isn’t symbolic, it must be useful and therefore sharpened and able to be withdrawn. If it is symbolic (blunt, hard to draw), what’s the harm in sending the kiddies to school with a representation of it (since it’s already a representation itself).

    The Kirpan could be both symbolic and useful, but it can’t be non-symbolic and useless. It just doesn’t make sense.

  51. j_p_z says:

    Jack Robertson — as always, mi amigo, your writing is withal very interesting and full of strange (well to me, anyways) matter to digest. To me, though, one of the prime reasons to hang around on blogs at all, is to talk to a bunch of smart people with different life experiences with whom one maybe disagrees, just to see how much that line moves back and forth over time. Needless to say, your stuff gives me reason to continue along that line.

    “Why does [it] have to be couched in ‘anything’, Japzter?”

    Well in primal terms, you’re quite right: of course it doesn’t. But we make of the world what we make of it, and as we can. Some make better things than others; the reason for that remains hidden from us. I’d suggest that you’re unconsciously taking metaphysical advantage of the fact that your society has already been fully built up, into a formidably stable entity, through the tremendous efforts of your ancestors: a feat so astonishing, time-consuming, and skillfully executed, that you can barely even see it any more (“Ars est celare artem,” as some Irish wag or another once said in Latin.) I cordially invite you to go and live in, say, Mogadishu for a year and a half; afterwards, you’d be (passport restrictions notwithstanding) quite free to come back and live the rest of your life in Melbourne, Manchester, or Minneapolis, as you see fit. I look forward to your, um, report.

    Gummo Trotsky — well, it’s certainly re-assuring to see that you’ve remained more or less a poor debating partner over all this time. Forget about the most crude and obvious objections to your rather crude and obvious objections (e.g., what on earth would YOU know about the lineage patterns of Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i in the 19th cent.? Not bloody much, I’d reckon.) And if by the grace of the Lord Yama, King of the Dead, some of these folks were in fact actually descended from honest-to-Buddha samurai, would you then defend them in Honolulu courts, with a sportingly English wig on your head, for beheading their less-well-born brethren on a whim, as was their proto-ancestral (and highly non-American) right?

    “try hanging a sign outside your front door some time with “j_p_z, Medical Practitioner” printed on it, then see how the law deals with you after you’ve seen a few patients and filled out a few prescriptions.”

    Here’s an idea. Try looking into how the law deals with the not insubstantial difference between “j_p_z, American Citizen Saying Nutty Things Online from the Hip” and “j_p_z, Allegedly Licensed Anaesthesiologist” before you make any more such snide and shallow false analogies.

    Hey, how about this. You try thinking about a metaphor for more than about 30 seconds (I’m guessing), and then we’ll see if you can still put the same phrase forward with a straight face. It’ll be a fascinating experiment.

    And now that I’ve ejected all the (probably mostly unwarranted, sorry) bile from my system, it’s back to that old stand-by, silly jokes. What did the elephant say in the unemployment line?

    –Hey! Where the hell is my check??!! (i.e., just like everybody else, elephant or not.)

  52. Katz says:

    Why does it have to couched in ‘anything’, Japzter? Why can’t ‘ishoos’ like this not be ‘ishoos’ at all, rather just administrative banalities to be assessed and resolved on a case-by-case case by the sub-communities it affects (ie individual schools)? Which, by the way, is what someone – Liam Hogan, I think – suggested very early in the original thread was how to deal with this ‘non-ishoo’ ishoo. And which, judging by the initial response at least at the grassroots, is what said schools tried to do before the ‘ismists’ of all camps Sikhed their tiresome hyperbolic motormouths onto the case.

    I agree Jack that removing the heavy hand of government would be the ideal approach to the problem. As Adrian has noted a couple of times, that was my argument in the terminated thread.

    But that’s not what we’ve got. Instead in Victoria we have a centralised Commission replete with an enabling act, a set of criteria that privileges religion, a set of procedures, a permanent staff of bureaucrats and functionaries, a media unit, and a website.

    If multiculturalism (which I support wholeheartedly) requires this level of life support, then the project would appear to be in ill-health.

  53. silkworm says:

    Jack said: “It’s all starting to give us Believers the shits. Stop arguing these stupid ‘ishoos’ on our name, militant secularists…”

    Do you agree with this sentiment, Gummo, that we militant secularists should just shut up? Do you see any problem in that?

  54. Paulus says:

    Katz’ comments at #53 are absolutely right.

    It reminds me of a snappy recent quote by David Cameron, the leader of the British Tories. He rejected Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum that there is no such thing as society. But he went on to say:

    “There is such a thing as society. It’s just not the same thing as the state.”

  55. Su says:

    Why for that matter have a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commission or an Office of the Status of Women? Perhaps because in matters involving minority groups or groups who face entrenched disadvantage or discrimination, allowing decisions to be made piecemeal almost inevitably results in the maintenance of disadvantage and discrimination. If the Principal’s Association is up in arms about a centralized decision then it is unlikely that there would be a Principal willing to take responsibility for such a decision within his own school.

  56. […] has been stoushing over whether schools are in the right to exclude devout students wearing a kirpan (Sikh short […]

  57. Anna Winter says:

    Do you agree with this sentiment, Gummo, that we militant secularists should just shut up? Do you see any problem in that?

    Militant? Hardly. Incessantly whiney? Uh huh. Jeebus.

    I think you’ll find he’s arguing that you are in fact hurting your own cause. It’s very nice of you to go on proving him right.

  58. mbahnisch says:

    Indeed, Anna!

    Gummo’s been doing a valiant job in responding to commenters who want to seize on anything to justify bigotry against religion or opposition to multiculturalism (not all the commenters, but you know who I’m talking about…) but what’s disappointing about this debate is the almost complete lack of a well articulated case on the principle as opposed to seizing upon any shred of (often wrong and irrelevant) information to support preconceived prejudices.

    A pointless controversy for sure.

    Can anyone make a cogent case for public schools refusing to admit any religious symbolism taking into account the social consequences?

  59. adrian says:

    Yes Mark. Read comment 51 for example. What annoys me about this thread is the way you and others have seen fit to comment disparagingly on the motives of others on the basis of sweet FA. Other than a snide ‘you know who I am talking about’.
    Adopt the high moral ground as much as you like, but maybe the lofty view that position provides, prohibits you from engaging genuinely with the views of others

    Really the lack of good faith, if you’ll excuse the pun, displayed by many on your ‘side’ (your word not mine) makes me consider the point of commenting on this blog at all.

    And far from doing a ‘valiant job’, Gummo as David Rubie notes, has been antagonistic rather than persuasive.

  60. philiptravers says:

    How did Gummo cop all this stuff!?They the critics here of Gummo are talking about real people in Australia,living real lives and have done so for a long time in Australia!They are not natives of India hiding behind ceremonial matters,they have been engaging with the rest of our society for a long time. Somehow that has no value whatsoever.And it seems only the critics of Gummo see complexity.Gummo or Mark could contact a Sikh to add their comments here.They have the same accent as me in the younger generations,I have seen them walking down the streets of Coffs in casual type clothes…how can they go on like this!?

  61. clarencegirl says:

    oh, quit fighting the lot of you and debate. If I’d wanted to read school yard nonsense, I’d go to iserve!

  62. mbahnisch says:

    Adrian, maybe I shouldn’t have gone meta and if I’ve offended anyone I apologise – I’ve found these threads very frustrating from a personal point of view, I must say, and maybe I haven’t dealt with that as I should have. Sorry.

  63. silkworm says:

    ‘A militant in the Sikh secessionist movement of recent years tells an interesting story of the consequences he had to suffer upon being inadvertently parted from his sword. One hot summer day, while he was sleeping in his underwear, the sword that slung from a swordband on his left arm slipped off without his being stirred from his deep sleep. Soon thereafter some of his comrades arrived at his home, and were guided by his mother to where he lay asleep; they went back to her, and said: “Look at this boy, he has been baptized and he has taken a vow to keep the five articles of faith and now he has parted himself from his sword.” Thereupon she replied, “OK, I’ll bring a stick. You beat him with this and teach him that he should be loyal to his faith.” For “this unconscious conduct” the militant was produced before “five Sikhs, a sort of court in [the Sikh] tradition”, and given “religious punishment.” ‘

    http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Religions/paths/Kirpan.html

    The writer does not elaborate on what the “religious punishment” was, but it is interesting that there should be such a thing as “religious punishment”, whatever that is, and that it should even be necessary considering it comes on top of physical punishment, to wit, beating with a stick. Or is beating with a stick a part of “religious punishment”?

  64. Su says:

    “If it is symbolic (blunt, hard to draw), what’s the harm in sending the kiddies to school with a representation of it (since it’s already a representation itself).”

    That seems like a specious argument; you might as well ask why not replace the Christian cross with the iron cross or an upside down cross. Just because the two symbols seem alike to an outsider’s eye does not mean that those for whom the symbols have significance will view them as interchangeable.

    I am not sure what you mean by “not symbolic”. The Kirpan is clearly symbolic, but that does not mean that the form of the symbol is not important or that the form can be changed by outsiders and still retain its significance.

  65. silkworm says:

    Frank Sinatra sings “Strangers on My Flight” –

    http://www.animatronics.org/strangers/strangers.htm

    Strangers on my flight,
    turbans they’re packin’.
    Wonderin’ if they might,
    plan a hijacking.
    They could pull a stunt,
    before this flight is through.

    Something’s on their minds.
    I saw them mutter.
    What that in their hands?
    Looks like box cutters,
    I’m gonna kick some ass,
    if they make a move.

    Strangers on my flight.
    Two smelly people,
    and they’re not talking right;
    and in a moment,
    I will grab a baseball bat;
    and that will be that.
    Swing like Joe DiMaggio,
    and rip them both a new a-hole.

    And if they pick a fight,
    and try to screw us,
    I’ll punch out their lights,
    just like Joe Louis.
    It would feel so right,
    for strangers on my flight.

    Ratta Tat Tat Tat,
    Budda Bing Bang Boom,
    Zooma Zooma Zoom.

    Send those bastards to the moon….

  66. gummotrotsky says:

    I think now’s as good a time as any to close this thread, sour as that last note from silkworm might be.

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