Bullied was facile

In Bullied, the ABC broadcast a two-part series on the scourge that has resulted in despair and suicide among schoolchildren around the country. Retired Queensland Teachers Union member Viviana Ramírez has protested to the ABC against its exploration of the issues, notably the suggestion that teachers are backward in stopping bullying. Here is an edited version of her letter to the ABC:

ABC TV’s series on bullying (March 14, 21), privately produced, once again showcases its melodramatic capacity for confusing the symptoms of a key social question with its causes.

As a permanent full-time teacher for 21 years at the first of the two schools featured, I suggest the factual inaccuracies and superficial analysis need to be publicly addressed.

The research sample of two provincial Queensland state high schools in socioeconomically-poor areas is absurdly unrepresentative of national demographics. ABS figures (2011) show that the largest group in the population area of the first school came from the medium-lowest income quartile. Our grossly-unequal economic system creates fertile conditions for perverted social behaviour but the two episodes simply ignore that cruel reality.

It is most unfair to suggest that teachers at the schools did little to prevent bullying. Since the 1980s, state education bureaucracies have dramatically increased teachers’ workloads, taking time away from core pedagogical tasks and classroom care.

Despite this, in general teachers are committed to a better world and contribute far more than wealthy, publicly-funded professional athletes to creating it. The first school, for instance, has an out-of-hours breakfast program and voluntary tutoring by teachers, two orchestras, an international cultural program and a special education program.

What was on display in the student group session shown in the program was not only the students’ humanity and pain but the teachers’ as well. Schools in such areas need far more resources, including staff with appropriate training, to cope with the many social challenges they confront.

The program sets up a simple Trump model of victims and heroes, offers no long-term solutions and attempts to disempower teachers and students.

By wasting public resources on superficial doco-dramas which ignore the paedophile-prone private system whilst focusing only on the public education system, the ABC does a disservice to investigative journalism. In enlightened hands, this should have been an important contribution to a long-term resolution.

The full text of this letter can be found here.