Behind Australia’s safe schools campaign

Do parents really know what their children will be taught about the LGBT universe?
Michael Cook | Dec 2 2015 | comment  



FROM Safe Schools Coalition Australia 

How will same-sex marriage affect your marriage? Probably not at all. But that’s the wrong question. Ask: how will it affect your kids?

If they want to take a stroll through the future, Australian parents should read “All Of Us”, a teaching resource for children in Years 7 and 8. It was launched a few days ago by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) and Minus 18, “Australia’s largest network for LGBT youth”.

This features an abundance of slick classroom materials and videos to reduce bullying of LGBTQI students and “heteronormativity” – the “belief system” that male-female attraction is normal.

The SSCA promotes “safe and inclusive school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families”. It is funded by the Australian Government and, in Victoria, by the Victorian Government, where Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to roll out the SSCA’s curriculum in every government school.

At the moment, the SSCA has enrolled 478 schools with 329,874 students and has trained 13,516 staff. These are nearly all government schools – only two systemic Catholic schools and a handful of independent schools are represented. This represents fewer than 10 percent of Australian students and the “All Of Us” program is voluntary.

However, if same-sex marriage become legal, it is easy to imagine that all schools will be required or come under intense pressure to accept these teaching materials. 

Parental involvement   

Perhaps the most disturbing feature of this program is the presumption that parents are irrelevant. In the SSCA’s materials parents are only mentioned as possible obstacles to a teenager’s choice of sexuality. In the words of a Labor member of the NSW Upper House, Greg Donnelly, this is “unforgivable”. He wrote recently:

What I would like to know is of the over 460 principals who have signed their schools up to the program on the membership form downloadable on the website, how many fully informed parents about what their children would now be exposed to and taught?

Parents are the primary educators of their children. They have an absolute right to know what their children are being taught in schools. It is about time they were told why their children are being placed in harms way by their principals, teachers and those appointed on contracts to introduce and propagate this material.

Since most parents are unaware of what lies ahead, here are a few nuggets of wisdom for boys and girls in Years 7 and 8.

  • Seven videos produced by Minus 18 for “All Of Us” feature attractive young people between 17 and 22 who are lesbian, transgender male, transgender female, bisexual and intersex. The explanation of their lifestyles is, to put it mildly, naïve. The 17-year-old bisexual Vivian, a student at a Catholic high school, says that this means “meeting a person and being able to say, you’re really nice to me and I like you. That’s what being bisexual means to me.” 
  • Kids can be lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, queer or pansexual (attracted to everyone). The mantra of the program is: “Gender isn’t quite as simple as whether you’re male or female.”
  • If children object in class that young people may not be sure about their sexuality, they should be told that is the wrong answer. “It is less about a person being sure than it is about them being able to accept that is how they feel,” says the document. “Many young people may be reluctant to talk about their same-sex attraction due to social pressures and homophobia.”
  • One of the characters in the videos, Nevo, is a a transgender boy (ie, born as a girl) who wants to have children. That’s not impossible, says the program. “There are lots of different ways of having a child which Nevo could choose from depending on his body, his partner’s body, and what he wants. These include things like fostering and adoption.”
  • Children are encouraged to make a pledge:  “I pledge to be an ally because I believe it is important to make lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people feel safe and included.”

In New South Wales the SSCA curriculum is being rolled out by Family Planning NSW, which caters for reproductive health services, especially abortions. Its own fact sheets and FAQs are even more explicit than the “All Of Us” material.

The gist of the SSCA curriculum is this: sex is about having fun with your friends. Experiment until you find the kind of sex that feels right for you. Safety is the only boundary. Babies are an inconvenient accident. Marriage is irrelevant. Parents have no business interfering. Commitment is meaningless. Have a nice day!

This view of sex is intellectually and morally bankrupt. It treats it as another playground activity rather than as a deep, passionate, and dangerous mystery of human existence. What right do teachers have to force this ideology upon 13 and 14-year-old impressionable children? How can they justify excluding parents? 

Bullying 

By treating bullying as a public health emergency. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable, but the word is being used as a smokescreen to smuggle in the SSCA's views on sexuality. According to the SSCA, statistics show that a significant proportion of children are being damaged by homophobia, transphobia and biphobia -- and other yet-to-be-discovered phobias. A cornerstone of SSCA’s argument is that “Australian and international research shows that around 10% of people are same-sex attracted, around 4% are gender-diverse or transgender, and around 1.7% are intersex.”

However, these figures are spurious. The original source for the discredited 10% figure is a 1948 book written by the American sexologist Alfred E. Kinsey. Even the Williams Institute, an LGBT thinktank in the United States, says that the figure is no more than 3.5%. The SSCA figure is three times too big. As for transgenders, the Williams Institute estimated that the figure was between 0.1% and 0.5% . The SSCA figure is as much as 17 times too big.

The SSCA may be plucking numbers out of the air to create a panic about homophobic bullying in schools. It estimates that 75% of same-sex attracted students experienced bullying; 75% of 10% is 7.5% of all students – a significant number. But 75% of 3.5% is 2.6% -- hardly a crisis. The anti-bullying campaign may be a distraction for a non-existent emergency. It’s like mobilising the Army to deal with a rash of car thefts in western Sydney.

In any case, how much hard data exists to support claims of an epidemic of homophobia? It may be based largely on anecdotes and extrapolation from rubbery figures. The "All Of Us" program cites statistics about the sexual behaviour of Australian teenagers in The 5th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health (2014). However, the authors of that report complained about "the increasing difficulty obtaining cooperation from schools around Australia". Participation was so low that they had to resort to unreliable on-line surveys. This "may have affected the generalisability of the results", they acknowledge. 

In May the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, was asked in Parliament to list the three leading reasons for bullying. He responded: “The NSW Department of Education and Communities does not collect data at a systemic level on incidents of alleged bullying in schools.” If there is a crisis, where are the reliable statistics?  

Supportive teachers 

It is extremely worrying that teachers are backing the SSCA curriculum to the hilt. The head of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association, Rob Nairn, has praised it as a powerful addition to schools’ resources “to celebrate diversity and promote respectful relationships”.

The Australian Education Union, of which most government school teachers are members, is a strong supporter of the SSCA program. Its own “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Policy” demands radical change in school curricula.

Educational Institutions must develop and implement strategies to counter discrimination based on diverse sex, sexuality and gender including homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heterosexism and monosexism [sic]…

Sexuality should be included in all curriculum relating to health and personal development. Diverse sex, sexuality and genders need to be normalised and all states and territories need to develop material which will help to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

What should be done about intransigent educational institutions, ie, Christian schools? A 2005 report from La Trobe University, Writing Themselves In Again, which underpins the SSCA research, pulled no punches: “Christianity remains a last bastion of resistance to what is regarded in legal and health arenas as a normal part of human sexuality”.  The AEU’s policy statement paints a bulls-eye on schools which refuse to change: they must be “condemned for their discriminatory attitudes and approaches”.

Supporters of same-sex marriage have hauled the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart before Tasmania’s anti-discrimination tribunal for distributing a booklet to Catholic schools defending marriage between a man and a woman. The head of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome, said that Catholic school students were being damaged and that that the Church had no right to “enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice”. In other words, he believes that they are being brainwashed.

Actually, brainwashing is already happening in hundreds of schools around Australia – children are being taught the lie that all expressions of sexuality are of equal value and will lead them to happy and fulfilled lives. If same-sex marriage is legalised, can anyone doubt that all schools will be forced to teach the same message, no matter how loudly parents object?

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

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