4 min read


in allowing outrage to be our default, we've lost any ability to understand, to empathise and so are unable to do better work together.

Recently media narratives have placed the spotlight firmly on education, and in considering these stories, I was struck by this from Stuff, Cute Toy or Racist Relic?

If you watch the video, you can almost sense the reporter wanting someone, anyone from the public to throw up their hands in horror, demand action and storm off to complain to the shop owner.

Because you know, "Outrage".

Because we should care about these things right?

Or at the very least we should care enough to click the headline on the website.

Before we get too cynical though, let's check in with this story, School tells young netballer, 10, not to bring ball to school

If we cared enough to click, we'd find buried below the indignation this quote from the principal:

"We do prefer they don't bring their own balls to school. We don't stop it, but we do certainly suggest they leave them at home." Vohra said bringing toys to school creates tension for the children, and the school has more than enough sports equipment for their students.
"You name it we have it," she said, adding there are three sports sheds for the decile 8 school with a roll of 740 students.

So it appears there's a valid reason that a school might have a policy/expectation to help address an identified issue amongst students. Granted, this school may not have communicated that expectation properly, but that doesn't deny their right to implement it.

But what leads the media narrative? What is it that enables this story to be leading the national headlines?

That's right. "Outrage".

And even a little bit of entitlement:

As for Kyla, her mum says if she practises and has access to the correct equipment, "there's no reason she can't be a Silver Fern".

Of course, if she doesn't become a Silver Fern one day, we'll blame the school.

Which brings us to the Miramar Central School seclusion room story. Led by the NZ Herald, picked up by John Campbell on Checkpoint, with extended reporting from Radio NZ, Stuff and other news outlets.

All predicated on the premise that we care.
As a society, and as individuals.

And we must care, because we're outraged.
Of course, it's possible we only cared after we read about this issue in the media.

Unless we were the parents of the complainant or on the BOT or were working at the school.

Because if you examine the timeline of events, all of those people had been working on it, and caring about it for quite some time before the collective "we" were outraged enough to care.

And yes, just like the 'no balls in school' story - Miramar didn't do the best, most transparent job of keeping people who needed to know in the loop about this issue.

Miramar Central School did make mistakes and what happened to this individual student was not a thing that any student should go through.

So this isn't to defend the choices that the school made throughout this process. I'm also not denying or wishing to diminish the stress placed on that child and those parents.

I'm just reflecting on what's the win in the conversation driven by this media narrative? This narrative that's based on outrage.

For those directly involved.
For the local Miramar community.
For us as a society.

Because outrage can only get us so far.

And it seems to me that we as a society, seem to indulge our outrage, but only insofar as it allows us to care.

Mostly from afar.

In the time since those strident stories from the media, the narrative of outrage has dominated. On the schools Facebook page, in homes across the country, and even in the words of the Minister, who declared it "intolerable".

One result of this firestorm of outrage is the child in the original story is now at another school.

Another result is that every Board of Trustees across the country should be checking in to see if their school has a seclusion room.

But a more long lasting, and a more damaging result is that we're not able to discuss this issue of inclusion and behaviour in our schools in anyway useful or safe way.

The only acceptable response to this story is of course to state: "I'm outraged".

There is no other opinion or position that's acceptable. Or at least if you do have a differing opinion, you're not going to voice it.

Because you know... outrage.

And that's telling - because it seems to me, that in allowing "outraged" to be our default position,  we've lost any ability to understand, and to empathise, and to be able to find ways to do better work together.

The issues of student behaviour,
of inclusion as a philosophy in school,
of teacher training in schools,
of funding for special needs education

All of these issues, which underpin the Miramar Central story, all of these still exist.

For every school in the country. But because of "outrage", we've lost any ability to engage in those issues.

Will we see any media coverage on those stories?

More importantly we will see anyone care about those stories?

Those stories are really really hard, because they're the daily existence of teacher aides, of students, of parents, of teachers, of school leaders each trying to pay attention to the aspect that's right in front of them, while being unaware of the whole.

Giovanni’s piece in the Spinoff is nuanced and considered, and written with care and discipline. He and others have been fighting for inclusion in schools for a long time.

And cared enough, been outraged enough, in coherent and specific ways.

How many of us, other than via the mediums of social media and comments on websites, have cared in such a way?

I think we are damaging ourselves if the entire societal narrative being based on "outrage" is the only way in which we can converse as a society.

Make no mistake, as we shout at each other over social media; and "like/share" Facebook posts to support our uncontextualised opinions - we're only avoiding having to actually care about actual people.

Which means that these are not conversations that matter.

If we can't have conversations that we can actually care about, with people whom we care about; how can we expect to be a society that cares about those individuals the conversations are actually about.

Because the story isn't about us and our outrage is it?

Is it?

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Continue by Tim Kong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.