Sunday, 22 February 2015

Melinda Tankard-Reist (2015 Term 1 Week 5)

On Wednesday last week, in a number of different sessions, author and advocate Melinda Tankard-Reist spoke to our female students from Years 5-12 and our male students from Years 9-12, as well as to our staff and to approximately 100 parents and friends on the previous evening. Her message was tailored to the contexts in which she spoke, being both age-appropriate and gender-sensitive, but the feedback that I have received from the range of audience members was that her presentations were informative, provocative and disturbing. If your children were in one of the student groups addressed by Melinda, I encourage you to raise her presentations with them and listen to their reflections (although these will doubtless vary, depending on how forthcoming and articulate your child tends to be).

While there were a number of issues raised by Melinda, one of the more important had to do with the challenges of raising young women with a healthy body image. Later in the week, Melinda provided us with this link to a helpful tip-sheet for parents of girls. I commend it to you as a helpful resource. For those who wish to add their voice to the Collective Shout grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture, you can find more information here. For those parents who may have missed Melinda's presentation, or who may be interested in finding out more, her blog can be found here.

At the Senior Theology and Philosophy Forum last week, I spoke to the Year 11 and 12 students about the Christian understanding of humanity as being created in the image of God and therefore inherently valuable and intrinsically worthy of respect and dignity. This worldview is counter-cultural in many ways; our society tends to value people based on other factors, such as their achievements, wealth, popularity and appearance. It is profoundly liberating to have one's self-worth grounded in this way. I suspect it is also a helpful guard for our children against the societal pressures about which Melinda warned us.

On another note, as part of our Learner Profile goal of shaping engaged and aware global citizens, we have been running our Year 10 Global Education program for about seven years. The program has evolved over time, but its twin foci continue to be service-learning and horizon-broadening. In recent years the program has consisted of students choosing one of three options during the final weeks of Year 10: a trip to Vietnam/Cambodia; a trip to Broken Hill; and a variety of activities and excursions centred around Sydney. This year we are planning to broaden the range of options; Year 10 students and parents will be informed about the proposed experiences at an information evening on Monday.

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