Teaching Children to Identify Extremists Is An Exercise In Futility

Words by: Zac Duggan

In another week of politics imitating satire, where the Liberal Party have made headlines around the world for both insulting the aesthetics of renewable energy, and allegedly violating international law – and all moral codes – by bribing people smugglers to turn back to Indonesia.

Amongst this new political chaos and headlines that make even the most bourgeois liberal voter cringe in embarrassment, everybody almost forgot the new proposed “jihadi watch” program to be introduced into the Australian curriculum to combat Islamic extremism in schools.

As the Islamic State threat grows, officials have focused on the schooling system to help train teachers and create lessons for students to identify what Attorney General George Brandis called “ideologies of hate”. The move comes alongside plans to cancel the citizenships of those with dual nationality who have been found to be communicating with terrorist groups in the middle east.

A move which Al Jazeera reporter Peter Grester, having recently spent 400 days in an Egyptian prison said on Wednesday at the Lowy instiute that he would be a “prime candidate” and warned that ‘to take away judicial oversight and hand it to a political figure is a very, very dangerous thing to do’.

The changes would mean that schools would be trained to monitor and combat emerging radicalism in Australia’s youth.

Given the recent revelations of bribery being a tool in the Tony Abbott’s “Stop the boats” campaign, I can only imagine that the Orwellian Big Brother in the classroom watching out for “un-Australian values” could be distrastous for at-risk kids already marginalised by racism.

Earlier this year Perth 23 year old teen Muhammed Sheglabo left his studies at Murdoch University and is believed to have joined the Islamic State fighting around the Syria-Iraq border.

George Brandis summarised the situation: “Just as parents and families have gained greater understanding of the dangers posed by online sexual predators, there needs to be increased awareness of the threat from online terrorist propaganda.”

Now while the issues that these policies are aiming to prevent are obviously real and not to be trivialised, the Abbott government has set a dangerous precedent of trying to solve every problem with a hammer.

Murdoch University Professor Barry Down specialising in youth policy said “I’m not sure the proposed approach will be very productive. We need a far more educative approach, engaging young people and providing them with ways to connect and belong especially around education and employment.”

Tony Abbott raised the security level threat to high last September and this year announced a $630 million government package to “fight terrorism”, all the while youth unemployment has reached its highest rate since 1998 (ABS).

The “jihadi watch” program is symptomatic of a much bigger issue in Australia, as the government continues its trend of announcing almost fascist policies: Generally slashing social spending, job creation and affordable housing, meanwhile cutting taxes for the wealthy and increasing defence spending.

Namely as a country we should be worried WHY people would choose to join a terrorist group, rather than live in a supposedly lucky country that is being led blindly down a path of shallow “who’s-who” politics. A path where so much of the population has little to no faith in their leaders, and beginning to swell with a mixture of apathy and anger about who is really steering the ship.

At least, that’s my opinion.

Certainly Tony Abbott lacks leadership and intelligence so it should be a great concern that he and George Brandis can decide in the same year that they are going to send military personnel to Iraq and then propose a program to teach Australia’s children about all the dangers of Middle Eastern Terrorism.

We are not on the verge of propaganda in the workplace yet (NB: unless there are any Murdoch newspapers floating around) but a government obsessed with outlawing, bribing and educating away anything they do not like is scary prospect for us as a relatively free country. There is no evidence to suggest that forceful policies have any effect in preventing anything, rather, progressive policies give people more freedom of expression and desire to improve their life and their country.

Maybe the best part about a government with such backwards concerns and policies is that it is awakening a whole generation of young people who previously thought politics was a drab game for old men but are now using new technology to do our best to keep Australia moving forward.