Mark and I are busy discussing the complexities of our son's secondary education. He'll enter 7th grade next year, and in Australia, that marks the beginning of high school. (For us Americans, that means no middle school or junior high...it's straight to high school.) There are a number of options. We could continue sending him to the private school he is currently attending, but I am growing increasingly wary of this institution and its curriculum design. There are some good state schools out there, and yesterday he sat the selective schools exam to determine whether he would get placed in one of the top-tier public schools. As with any parent, we just want him to have the best education available to him, all things considered. It's a difficult decision.
While Mark and I were discussing the various options, some of which are pipe-dreams and some worst-case scenarios, the topic of St. Andrew's Anglican School came up. I had glommed onto this idea of sending our son to an Anglican school when we first moved to Sydney and were exploring school options three years ago. Having been involved with a number of Episcopal Churches in the U.S. during my 18 years as a church musician, I was excited about the prospect of sending our boy to a school that I felt was aligned with principles I could understand and relate to. I had wonderful experiences with the Episcopal Church (the U.S. counterpart of the Anglican Church). It was so different from the stifling, rule-driven, homophobic Roman Catholic environment in which I had grown up. The Episcopal churches I worked in were open, affirming and welcoming to all. I felt loved, needed and wanted, both as a person and as a human.
Then I heard about the Anglican climate in Sydney, and was that ever a rude awakening. The Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church is one of the most homophobic and bigoted environments with which I have ever come into contact. But one need look no farther than its leader, the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Jensen, to see why. Here's a quote of his from an ABC interview in 2003:
PETER JENSEN: Oh, doubtless over the years, there has been.
ABC: But, I mean, in relation to this issue of same-sex unions and gay bishops within the Church?
PETER JENSEN: In that regard, no, I don't think so. I think folk have been put in a situation which they should never have been put in. Christian religion's a very awkward religion. It calls upon all of us to do things which are sort of against our own natural instincts and drives.
There are many folk I know, for example, who are heterosexual, who are, who would rather be married but who are not able to be married and, uh, who have to live without sexual expression in their lives. Others of us who are married, for one reason or another, can't have sex.
But the Christian religion calls upon us to live chastely. It's not a matter of homosexuality as such being condemned, it's the practice of sexual relations by homosexual people or heterosexual people, outside the rules that God's laid down.
Pardon my français, but WT ever-living F? Is it really possible that a highly educated leader of such a large and powerful cultural institution could have been...and is still...so sociologically deficient?
Those of you who know me well, know that my chief complaint against those who fear or decry homosexuals is the way these people cleave to the prurient, misguided notion that all it boils down to is what happens in the bedroom. The quicker these ignorant people realize that it's about living one's life with the freedom to love, the better off we'll all be. The choice is which person, not which sex. Why is that such a difficult concept?
Anyway, to return to the original discussion, Mark mentioned to me at dinner this evening that he'd just received word that St. Andrew's was now accepting Aboriginal students into its mainstream classes at the high-school level. I gave him that blank stare, indicating that I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he explained to me that a couple of years ago, St. Andrew's had begun taking Aboriginal children into the school, but isolated them to three floors of the same school building. In other words, they were segregated from the rest of the students. This new school was called "Gawura". I don't care if it does have a different, "culturally sensitive" curriculum or bears an Aboriginal name. They say it is part of the "closing the gap" scheme, but it's fancy segregation. "Yeah, I know," says the corpulent, aging white man, "let's focus on their education, but we'll make them social pariahs at the same time!" Oh yeah, that's socially enlightened and responsible.
I'm surprised Mark didn't throw a glass of cold water in my face to snap me out of my wide-eyed stare of disbelief. Disgusted, I had pretty much closed the lid and shut out the troubling, socially retarded entity that was the Sydney Anglican diocese a few years ago. It was no wonder I hadn't heard of Gawura, the fancy name (and spin) they put on this institution of ethnic segregation. But then Gawura's head of school came up with the idea for the school after spending some time in South Africa. Hmm. Fancy a game of tidy apartheid anyone?
So apparently students of high-school age are integrated into the main school at St. Andrew's. No matter. I think we'll be looking elsewhere for potential high schools.
No way. No how.