In an episode that can only be described as offensive as it is bizarre, an ACCESS Ministries cartoon depicting a cruel, uncaring teacher dismissing a bullying victim has drawn outrage. The cartoon, available for download from ACCESS Ministries as a volunteer teaching “resource” – for $2:00 – was pulled when it’s nature was made public.

Writing in The Age today – Teacher fury over God comic – Jewel Topsfield reports that the comic, “… tells children who are bullied to pray, because teachers are too lazy and callous to help them unless God intervenes, was advertised as a ”resource” by the group that teaches Christian education classes in primary schools.” On approaching a teacher for help after being “beaten up at playtime” the bullied child is told, “You look fine to me, sort it out with him OK?”. “But he’ll just beat me up again” replies the young boy. “Well that’s just bad luck isn’t it” is the teacher’s answer. Later, “Life’s tough kid, better get used to it”. You may comment on the article.

Talking to Fairfax media, teacher Michael Stuchbery (below) discusses his dismay upon logging on to the ACCESS web site to find the blatant connotation that abuse in the playground is not just tolerated, but ignored out of sheer callousness. He also refers to the frames indicating what happens after the student prays. “Punish Gary” (the bully) appears on a blackboard. The teacher’s wife calls demanding he “punish Gary”. As Mr. Stuchbery notes despite corporal punishment being illegal in schools the teacher is depicted forcing the bully to do chin ups under great strain. This fictitious brute is also thinking “I need a coffee” and yelling, “You know, I would love this job if it wasn’t for all the kids”.

The connotations are clear. The effect of this misrepresentation is to drive a wedge between student trust in teachers and the proselytising of ACCESS volunteers. Essentially: Pray to Jesus for he will listen and intervene whilst teachers don’t care. God will then orchestrate demands on the teacher, who only then deals with the bully. But of course, not the problem of bullying. This is not only a perverse mode of proselytising and a deliberate attempt to alienate students from teachers. It serves to usurp the student-teacher relationship in favour of the notion that a vengeful Jesus will intercede directly in the child’s reality. “And Jesus said, “So won’t God more quickly and eagerly get justice for his own people?”, reads one frame.

As far as “values” education goes it seems that this leans heavily toward cult-like, retributive In Group thinking in which outside or Out Group identities are falsely cast as a threat. Why? Are secular public schools assumed bereft of compassion or moral integrity? Is it a reflection of attitudes that led to the Baillieu government’s changes to Equal Opportunity laws? Changes that allow Christian schools to discriminate against and ban single parent, alternate faith or non-theistic teachers.

The Age also reported:

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive officer Joe Tucci said the comic strip was irresponsible and undermined children’s confidence in teachers. ”It’s unbelievable,” Dr Tucci said. ”It places responsibility on the child for their own protection, and it doesn’t reflect the commitments schools make to try to deal positively with bullying.”

If this is indicative of the Christian values education that Evonne Paddison insists public school student’s only get through ACCESS, we have a severe problem. One may confidently conclude student’s are better off without the meddling and deception of ACCESS Ministries and their volunteer’s. It’s a little hard to blame humanists for this appalling episode. Indeed it evokes comments from Humanist of the year Dr. Leslie Cannold who recently said, violently intolerant ideologies in Australia, ”emanate primarily from evangelical Christian fundamentalists, not jihadist Muslims”.

Evonne Paddison would not return calls to Fairfax yesterday.