HomeCall to change use of ‘discriminatory’ phrases in Australian schools

Call to change use of ‘discriminatory’ phrases in Australian schools

Two experts have called for teachers to stop using two sporting terms when teaching children because it is discriminatory language.

Australian teachers have been urged to consider the “discriminatory” language often used in schools, particularly during health and physical education classes.

Two Australian academics have said replacing words like “sportsmanship” and incorporating an Acknowledgement of Country in to lessons are some ways teachers can be more inclusive.

Dr Laura Alfrey and Dr Ruth Jeanes, both from Monash University’s education faculty, made the suggestions in an article published in Australian Council for Educational Research’s Teacher magazine.

The article focuses on inclusivity in the context of Health and Physical Education (HPE) classes, and shares eight strategies teachers can use to promote inclusion in these lessons.

Dr Alfrey and Dr Jeanes pointed out some phrases traditionally used in these settings, such as “sportsmanship” and “man-on”, are discriminatory in nature.

“HPE is an ideal context to learn about, examine and problematise discrimination and exclusion,” the article states.

“For example, some terminology used in HPE has traditionally been discriminatory (e.g. ‘man-on’ and ‘sportsmanship’) and the continued use of such terms provides an excellent opportunity to talk about discrimination and its impacts.”

Alternative phrases could be “sportspersonship” and “player-on”.

The article states that having a broad and balanced HPE program goes “beyond sport”, with the true aim being to provide students with opportunities to participate and succeed in “meaningful learning experiences”.

Another important aspect of inclusivity is for teachers to create opportunities to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Dr Alfrey and Dr Jeanes suggest teachers could do this by sharing an Acknowledgment to Country at the beginning of lessons, teach students about Indigenous games and use local Indigenous language for frequent terms like “welcome” and “children”.

“Be mindful to take a strengths-based approach and to celebrate Indigenous perspectives as a regular and embedded part of HPE,” the article states.

Teachers are also encouraged to use three levels of challenges when setting tasks or activities.

“This allows students to work at their optimal level of challenge,” Dr Alfrey and Dr Jeanes write, and supports all level of abilities.

Many schools all over the world are now working towards changing commonly used language and phrased that could be seen as discriminatory.

Earlier this year, a UK primary school banned a string of phrases, including “man up” and “good morning boys and girls” over concerns of sexism.

Sarah Hewitt Clarkson, Head Teacher at Anderton Park Primary, in Sparkhill, Birmingham, declared the phrase “good morning everyone” should be used instead of “boys and girls” because it does not create a gender divide and includes those people who might not identify as either sex

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in April, the head teacher said: “We’ve seen in the last year the biggest ever rise in child abuse, in grooming, and if our boys and girls grow up, and in school we don’t challenge this sexist language and boys are told, ‘man up’, ‘grow a pair’, ‘don’t cry’, ‘boys don’t cry’ – it’s very damaging for them and abusers later on potentially, or bullies, people they walk past on the way home from school – will also use this fear.

“Fear is the biggest weapon that abusers have and if boys are told ‘boys aren’t afraid, boys don’t get scared, boys don’t talk about their feelings’, then where are we going to go when they are afraid and they are frightened?”

Ms Clarkson said using addressing a class as ‘boys and girls’ was a “strange way of dividing a room full of people.

“There may be a couple of children in schools who don’t really identify as a boy or a girl so ‘good morning everyone’ is a far more inclusive way of saying everyone instead of choosing a division that is one particular characteristic of your person,” she said.


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