St Kevin's College Toorak has come under fire for the actions of its student on a tram. Picture: Supplied
St Kevin's College Toorak has come under fire for the actions of its student on a tram. Picture: Supplied

Private schoolboys’ sexist chant a stark warning for us all

Taxpayers, $13 million of your money each year is being spent educating boys who think it's acceptable to abuse women. How else can we view the willingness of a group of St Kevin's College students to get onto public transport in the middle of Melbourne and chant the following lines at the top of their lungs:

I wish that all the ladies

Were holes in the road

And if I was a dump truck

I'd fill them with my load?

I feel sorry for taxpayers, and I also feel sorry for the St Kevin's parents who spend almost $20,000 a year on their sons' education.

Some of them are my friends and I know they'd hope for better than this in return for their hard-earned money.

Elite boys' schools like St Kevin's have spent years teaching their pupils about the importance of respect for others. Respect for family. Respect for teachers. Respect for elders.

These are not young boys - they're nearly men and they should know this includes respect for women.

But there is a point where all the teaching in the world can't fight a raucous, sexist, adolescent herd mentality.

St Kevin's students filmed on tram chanting. Picture: ABC
St Kevin's students filmed on tram chanting. Picture: ABC

You can change the way people behave, but you can't change the way they think, and at times the arrogance that's endemic in elite private schools comes to the fore.

The boys, who were in full school uniform, were on the way to watching an inter-school athletics carnival at Lakeside Stadium in Albert Park last Saturday.

Such events bring out the best and the worst in teenage boys, but this is no excuse.

A few years ago, St Kevin's kids made headlines when they set off blinding orange flares in the bleachers after winning the carnival.

St Kevin's headmaster Stephen Russell today said the school had been "following through in both a disciplinary and pastoral manner today".

"We have always and will continue to challenge such poor behaviour and misogynistic attitudes through programs at school and with the co-operation of parents."

Was his mention of parents a sign that the school is trying to share the blame? It's fair to say that schools are powerless if derogatory attitudes are taught or modelled at home.

St Kevin's must take strong action on the boys, to ensure this disgusting attitude towards women is addressed. Picture: ABC
St Kevin's must take strong action on the boys, to ensure this disgusting attitude towards women is addressed. Picture: ABC

I don't blame female passengers for saying they didn't feel they could speak up, but it's a pity no man challenged them on the spot. Boys like this are more likely to listen to males than females.

It's shocking that a group of boys from Melbourne's 12th richest school behaved in this way.

But money has never been a guarantee of enlightenment, has it?

In fact, I know first-hand that Melbourne's most expensive boys' schools have been fighting entrenched, privileged, arrogant attitudes for some years.

There's a certain self-satisfaction that comes with being a part of such an elite group that moves en masse from the playing fields of Kew and Toorak to the boardrooms of Australia's leading companies.

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Let's hope St Kevin's students learn a lesson from this sordid episode, and that others take heed.

It's an issue that affects us all because these disgraceful misogynist attitudes are the precursor to violence against women.

I want to know what's going to happen to the boys involved. Will they be suspended? Or maybe punished in some other way?

The school has a responsibility to send a strong message that such behaviour will not be tolerated and will attract punishment, not just counselling.

The school says it's committed to "zero tolerance of child abuse". Let's see it take a stronger stand against the abuse of women.



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