When a school social studies presentation is misrepresented by Spin…

Fact-checkI recently went to an Auckland girls high school to do a presentation on our Protect Marriage campaign during the 2013 gay marriage debate, to help the Year 13 social studies students who were focusing on providing opposing viewpoints as part of an internal assignment.

This was the 3rd time I had been asked, and is not the only school where I have presented this and other issues (including the anti-smacking debate) to senior students.

If you read the latest ‘spin’ from the left-leaning blog The Spinoff “I had a social studies lesson from Bob McCoskrie“, you would be excused for thinking that most of the students needed counselling after my ‘highly offensive’ presentation.

But here’s the truth (something missing in large quantities in The Spinoff’s coverage):

• I didn’t mention the word “bestiality”
• I only referred to ‘incest’ when I talked about the current legal prohibitions in the Marriage Act – and certainly didn’t compare it to someone’s sexuality
• “Please don’t attack me” wasn’t about me – it was about other students at the school who may still hold to a belief in traditional marriage, and that it was ok because not too long ago, Barak Obama and John Key thought the same thing (the reason I referenced their earlier views!). I was wanting to emphasis the importance of civil discourse – even when one disagrees strongly with the opposing viewpoint.

(As an important aside, we had also been contact by a student, saying:

Today, the Diversity Club at our school showed us Mr McCoskrie’s interview about transgender bathrooms as a way of mockery. However, I along with a few others agree with him and see this blatant dismissal of opposing arguments a threat to both free speech and education. I don’t wish to voice my opinion nor let it be known as I prefer to avoid the attention of the regressive left. I’m sure there are more people who agree but are also too afraid to speak up.

It’s very disturbing – but not surprising in the current climate – to hear that young students don’t feel they have the freedom to express their views.)

• I didn’t say I was a “feminist” – in my introduction I was explaining who Family First was and talked about the porn petition we had just presented to Parliament about sexual violence and consent, and the article I had written for the Sunday Star Times – “A letter to my teen daughters about consent, rape culture and mongrel guys”
• a teacher didn’t have to ‘step in’ regarding an interaction with a student about polygamy
• with the question on gender, I recall trying to understand the scenario the student was setting up and asking for clarification of her question, but then said that the whole topic was probably another session. I knew the staff member who invited me wanted me to focus specifically on the methods of campaigning on the marriage debate (not the transgender debate), but I did briefly say that I believed that marriage was based on the biological sex of the couple. There was no ‘rant’.

After the presentation, I emailed the PowerPoint slides to the school so that they could refer to them and utilise them if required.

The way I have been portrayed in The Spinoff blog is totally different to who I am and how I communicate.

There were a number of teachers there including a senior teacher who I spoke to afterwards. Were they concerned with the tenor of my talk or any aspect? I am happy to receive constructive criticism – but this article seems to be something else.

So I contacted the staff who were present for their opinion – something that The Spinoff didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

The response of the staff members?

Many of my students this year said you spoke really well and it helped them understand the issue more. I thought all you said was appropriate and no other teacher has said anything negative….. We do really appreciate you coming to speak. It really helps students with their assessment to hear directly from people they will be writing about.

and from a senior teacher who attended the whole presentation..

I was there for the whole talk and certainly did not hear what this student seems to be saying. I took notes and you are correct – no mention of ‘bestiality’ and I know, from previous talks, that you would not say this due to your sensitivity about them being high-school students.

I agree totally with (my colleague), it’s about people’s perspectives and in no way did you say anything that could be deemed unacceptable.

We have had you speak for three years now and you have always given well-founded and presented views on this issue which are pitched in a very respectful and thoughtful manner towards the student audience.

The article does not take into consideration any of the context or the fact that people can have a variety of opinions on this issue and express them appropriately – which is what you did.

The article, dare I say it seems to be loaded with ‘alternative facts’ and misrepresentations of what was actually said.

Thank you for your time and the courteous way in which you answer questions and speak about this controversial issue Bob.

(our emphasis added)

and finally, from a student who attended the presentation and spoke to us:

The recent Spinoff article titled, “I had a social studies lesson from Bob McCoskrie” was rather biased and portrayed Mr. McCoskrie through agenda-driven glasses. It detailed one girl’s perception of Bob’s talk and should not be representative of any other group or school.

Bob had come to our school to give us a better understanding of his position on gay marriage. He would not force his opinions on us, we would not force our opinions on him; we were there to learn.

It is therefore odd to see in the article the constant use of ‘we’ and ‘us’. One person getting offended by the opinions of another should not represent anyone but themselves.

Most people who went to his talk were actually respectful, grateful in fact, that Mr. McCoskrie took time out of his day to share his perspectives.

“Please don’t attack me” had been said about other students who held similar views to him. He even gave an example of a young girl getting booed for giving a speech against gay marriage.

It was pretty clear he wasn’t talking about himself but the bullying of young conservatives and/or traditionalists. Whether or not you agree with what he says, to turn a sincere comment like that into one of bigotry is completely uncalled for.

I can guarantee that not many got upset, despite what the article made it seem. I am proud of my school for not only being open to different people but to differing opinions too. Many people at my school are rational and keen on exploring ideas no matter how controversial; only a handful cannot stomach dissenting opinions. Perhaps we need a safe space with bully-proof windows, troll-safe doors, rainbows and puppies, and echos of agreement!

You know, it actually took me a while to realise this student and I went to the same school and attended the same talk. It could be my memory but I doubt I’d forget a comparison of homosexuality to bestiality! And, as being gay seemed to be oh-so-important that it was mentioned over four times, I should also say that I myself am bisexual.

It seems like The Spinoff should focus on less ‘spin’ and on more verification and balance.spin

Oh – one other thing…

It is highly ironic that The Spinoff blog is sponsored by AUT. Yes, the same AUT that changed their toilets to all-gender toilets without considering – let alone communicating with – females who deserved to have their voice heard.

But we gave these young women a voice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wDTqrtZBAQ

Perhaps its time The Spinoff and AUT sorted out their own listening skills first.