Quite a lot, it seems. I was just idly reading the archives I referred to yesterday, and decided to rerun a sequence from February 2001 here. Why? Well, some odd things did happen… I was teaching English as well as ESL then at you know where, and one of those little teaching dilemmas came up. The site I mention in the following entries morphed and moved, though a stub is still there… It eventually became the English and ESL Blog here on WordPress! Oh, and you’ll have noticed a bit of template fiddling here lately; there has been even more over there where a brand new template that appeared on WP only yesterday has solved some problems a few users of the ESL site had reported. Looks good too.
February 14 2001: Ninglun’s great leap forward in education
I have set up a web site for my Year 10 English class, with a separate email for them to submit assignments on. [It is still there, but now serves broader purposes.]
February 18 2001 Not so cute attack…
Well you may have predicted it: the guest book on the Year 10 site (see previous diary) has had an attack of homophobia–two in fact, but from the same person who calls himself “Magic Mushroom”–interesting in itself. Given the cultural mix of the class, I have been able to establish that at least 90% of the students could not have written the comments, so the person is, yes, a WASP, and probably from a beachside suburb in the Eastern suburbs. And yes, only one person is involved. Homophobia rules, OK, in some quarters, but fortunately seems a minority activity at my old school these days. (Some more experienced on the ground than I may care to comment.) The comments, in case you wondered, expressed a great desire to have my body (yum!) and to suck my —-; I doubt the sincerity of these offers.
Meanwhile Surry Hills Shopping Centre–sorry–Village (formerly known as Redfern Mall) has entered into the spirit of things with Mardi Gras decorations all over it!
ACCEPTANCE: my word for the day. The ultimate goal of gay liberation, in my view. On a personal level the best thing, perhaps, my mother ever said was when I came out to her at the absurdly late age of 43: “I accept, but I do not understand.” Acceptance of gay and lesbian people means, should it ever be achieved, that for all practical purposes being gay or lesbian becomes a non-issue–as it should be. Much more sensible simply to concern oneself with whether someone is a worthwhile human being or not…
So we go from OPPRESSION ===>DEMONISATION====>MEDICALISATION (“Homosexuality” as something to be “cured”.)====>DISCRIMINATION====>MARGINALISATION=====>TOLERANCE (a weak compromise)====>ACCEPTANCE (not yet achieved).
You like all those “S” words? Yes, I am an old-fashioned English speller.
News on another site where the preferences have been changed at last, after a bitter little campaign by someone which may after all have been well-meant. It is nice to see a common interest in coffee. (Cryptic, eh?)
Meanwhile, I was sitting out the front here after a coffee at The Coffee Roaster 🙂 when I noticed special government buses headed “Mardi Gras Fair” Route 069 😉 Great to see State Transit has a sense of humour, and that at least that degree of acceptance rules… Didn’t go to the Fair myself as someone I would have taken couldn’t go, and anyway I socialised too vigorously last night and have work to do.
February 19 2001: Ninglun gets aggressive
I went to school today wearing my pinkest shirt.
First off I visited the Principal, the Deputy Principal and the Year Adviser for Year 10, Mr S. I told them about the incidents on the Year 10 Web Page (see yesterday’s entry). The Principal said, “Oh well, there’s always a fool; don’t worry about it.” The Deputy and Year Adviser were interested in who it might be. All deplored the homophobia it showed.
When I went to Year 10 in Period 3 I began the lesson as normal. About five minutes in I asked if anyone had visited the class web page over the weekend. Most had. I asked who had visited it several times. A smaller number had. I asked who had noticed the battle on the guest book. Few had, as my counter-measures were fairly swift. Then I said, “Well, someone apparently finds my sexuality an absolutely fascinating topic. Personally I find it rather boring.”
“Yes, someone who calls himself Magic Mushroom–an interesting thing in itself, don’t you think? Well, if you want to think I have something in common with a High Court judge and quite a few of our troops who went to East Timor, that’s fine by me.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, he said it four times–but two of them never made it as I have put a filter on the book–but basically they all meant ‘Ninglun is a fag’. I don’t mind if you think I’m a fag–I would however be very upset if you thought I was a rotten English teacher. I should also remind Mr Mushroom that as an expert in linguistics I was able to eliminate about 80-90% of the class. Mr S and I had very interesting discussions about that.” I also reminded them of the old saying that mushrooms were things that were kept in the dark and fed on bullsh*t, and suggested this may be appropriate.
More stunned silence.
I then reminded them that homophobic remarks were just not on, both as far as I was concerned and in NSW law. I returned to the substance of the lesson. One boy became ill and had to leave the room–which was a coincidence. I informed the Deputy and Mr S about what I had done and what happened, and we all agreed it was a valuable opportunity for social education.
Right on! My final words in the lesson were–apropos of nothing–“Well, I am looking forward to seeing what is on the guest book tonight, though you may not see it! So, Mr Mushroom, if you are in the room, it has been fun–but it’s over.”
[NOTES added later: By June 2001 the whole incident had blown over. Addendum 5 December 2002: In fact, in the past two weeks a member of that very class who has visited this site and read my gay pages told me he admired me and said how hard it must have been to have spent all those years unable to be myself! Even Mr Mushroom greets me in a civil manner at least. 11 December 2003: One of Mr Mushroom’s co-conspirators actually apologised yesterday and gave me a big smile. He plans to become a teacher!]
February 22 2001: Glittering prizes
The Year 10 were as good as gold today, and very curious to learn if I had more messages on the Guest Book. Indeed Mr Mushroomz (correcting his nick) had visited with a much less objectionable comment which I almost allowed through, but it didn’t add much–except to prove he was in the room yesterday! I told them today I wasn’t really interested in who Mushie might be–and hoped he soon added something I could put up. A student in the class did add something tonight…
And tonight was the school Speech Night, a kind of graduation ceremony*. The guest speaker was the Australian of the Year, Lt-General Peter Cosgrove, who so ably led the Australian forces in East Timor. He is deservedly much admired and spoke well and unpretentiously. He was one reason I went–I normally don’t. Another was to give my academic dress a run; I won’t be wearing it many more times after all. I have arranged for it to go to a very deserving home, which could lead to the main reason I went… 🙂
I had my program autographed, hoping for something profound. Well it could be said I am still working on it…so perhaps it was.
* Ironically, the first person to greet me at the main door was “Magic Mushrooms” himself, as I now know. — June 2001
Last year I had lunch a couple of times with J, who had been a member of that class. He remembered the whole Magic Mushroomz (that was the actual spelling) saga well, and confirmed I had been correct in my conclusions about who MM was. MM was never punished, by the way, and I am actually happy about that. It wasn’t the point. He is now a very reputable member of his university, very active in fact…
If you’re curious, visit