The Victorian Government funded Safe Schools program claiming to help schools combat homophobia and transphobia, is quite the contrary – it will socially engineer young minds with unproven fringe academic ideas writes Dinesh Malhotra.
Especially designed as anti-bullying for young people from the LGBTI communities, the program teaches schools, or so it claims, to create inclusive environments at school.
The program began in Victoria in 2010 funded federally while the Rudd Labor government was breathing its last; announced a week before the September 7 election by then education minister Bill Shorten and finance minister Penny Wong, who is known to be in a same-sex relationship.
At the launch in September 2014, Scott Ryan, the Parliamentary Secretary for Education in Abbott government, went on to say it was impossible to regulate attitudes.
“We can’t legislate thought, we can’t force or regulate true acceptance,” he said.
Although Victoria was pushing along, the program was unevaluated and considered a ‘step backward’ by people even from within the LGBTI community and support groups.
The 2015 Tasmanian Australian of the Year Rodney Croome, a prominent gay rights advocate said that to ensure the funding did what it was intended for, the Victorian model needed “some improvements”.
“First, it needs to be properly evaluated to prove it works,” he said.
“Anecdotal evidence and self-administered school ‘audits’ are not enough to ensure renewed funding when the current funding round ends.”
Rodney Croome was clearly of the view that such educational programs, could not expect continuous funding, if these programs remained unevaluated.
Victorian program, he said, was a step backward.
Despite concerns and criticisms, Victorian Government provided an extra $1.04 million to Safe Schools Coalition Victoria in 2015, to ensure every Victorian Government secondary school is a member by the end of 2018.
Although the program initially received bipartisan support from federal and state governments and political parties, as the program was rolling out, its critics and concerns grew, relating to sexuality and gender concepts being taught in schools.
The LOUDEN REVIEW
A review was announced on 26 February 2016, after forty-three Coalition backbenchers including former leader Tony Abbott signed a petition calling for the program’s closure.
Conducted by University of Western Australia’s Professor Bill Louden, it led to Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham making a number of recommendations, including among others:
- Creating a fact sheet for parents that would facilitate informed decision-making about opting out of the program; and
- Deleting certain resources and activities from the program that were deemed inappropriate for use in the classroom context.
While the Victorian Liberal-Nationals Coalition supported Minister Birmingham’s recommendations, defiant Daniel Andrew’s government decided to continue the program unchanged.
The program, at the very least, creates confusion in little minds by attempting to indoctrinate them with ideas of gender fluidity and the different versions of one’s sexual or gender identity, driven by – genitalia identification, genitalia aspects different or opposite and features of both in one body.
If nothing else, age appropriateness of the program is definitely an issue for majority of parents in the Indian community.
Is it discriminatory calling boys ‘BOYS’ and girls ‘GIRLS’?
There is also the argument for instructions to staff to stop using gender specific words like ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ (which the advocates say is stereotyping) and address them all as ‘students’.
One school in Sydney (Cheltenham Girls High School) reportedly discussed a total self-imposed ban on the use of words ‘girls’, ‘ladies’ or ‘women’, suggesting such usage may be discriminatory against children from the LGBTI community.
In addition to Safe Schools program, the Victorian government is introducing Respectful Relationships – a mandatory program in all state schools next year, aimed at family violence prevention. The resource material of the program however, does little to assuage the confusion and chaos.
A small sample of glossary of terms included in Resilience, Rights & Respectful Relationships: Foundation and Levels 1 & 2 (source material meant for Prep, Grades 1 & 2) will send shudders down many a spine:
Hegemonic masculinity: The dominant (but not the most common) form of masculinity in society is termed ‘hegemonic masculinity’. It requires boys and men to be heterosexual, tough, athletic and emotionless, and encourages the control and dominance of men over women. Men and boys are socially encouraged to express their pain, fear and stress in the form of anger and violence. In Australian society, men are not able to escape the expectations of hegemonic masculinity and men and boys who do not fit the criteria are punished and labelled as ‘not a real man’.
Sex: (as it relates to gender) Sex is the biological traits that societies use to allocate people into the category of either male or female, through a focus on genitalia, chromosomes or some other physical characteristics…
Heteronormativity: is the belief that people can be assigned into two distinct and complementary genders (man and women) with natural roles in life. As a result it asserts that heterosexuality (relations between a man and a woman) is the only sexual orientation and the only normal.
Cisgender: This term applies to the majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a person is assigned female at birth and then grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender. It means a person’s biological sex matches their gender identity and expression.
Gender fluid: Self-identifying with multiple genders, and may move fluidly between them.
Gender identity: How a person identifies as being a man, woman, neither or both, or a combination, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not visible to others.
Other glossary terms include: Gender nonconforming; Gay; Consent (sexual); Intersex; Lesbian; Sexual identity; Sexual orientation; and sexuality among many more in the long list.
Clearly, this is an attempt at social engineering – hitherto MAN or WOMAN, becomes Cisgender in material for children, as young as in primary schools.
Further, advocates of the program believe the early school years is the “critical time” for children to challenge gender definitions and have them do “explicit work” to explore new definitions. – Resilience, Rights & Respectful Relationships: Foundation (p31)
The material also claims that young children begin to enact “sexist values or stereotypical beliefs”. – Resilience, Rights & Respectful Relationships Levels 1 & 2 (Page 48).
Is this not symptomatic of social engineering to suit a hypothetical ‘new found world’ discovered in a research lab?
It is axiomatic the advocates of the program want to dissuade young toddlers from making efforts to understand the world in natural terms – as a composite of boys and girls (or male and female); which they term as “gendered” view.
It is clear from the material that they want young children to NOT see themselves and others as boys or girls.
Such material where gender is no longer defined as male or female – will only aide confusion in very impressionable minds.
It is unimaginably radical to teach children that gender is fluid and can change multiple times; that one may be born with assigned genitalia, but that may or may not be your sex or gender identity later in life and so on… And this may be starting at foundation level – kindergarten and goes on to Level 1.
Why should young school children be subjected to such material without parents’ consent?
And sadly, until Daniel Andrews changes his mind, the program is compulsory and remains unchanged despite the LOUDEN REVIEW; and parents will have no say in opting their children, in or out of the program.
Opposition’s shadow education minister Nick Wakeling says his party will scrap the safe school program upon winning government in November 2018.
“We need to start all over again but this time without a fringe ideological agenda and a focus on a broader anti-bullying program that teaches kids to respect everyone and where parents are engaged”.
Talking to Bharat Times, upon being asked if he could outline the time frame, he says, “We will scrap it and replace it with new anti-bullying program within the first term of Matthew Guy government”.
Indian community OPPOSES Safe Schools program in its current form
The community it seems is quietly boiling over – which may have some electoral consequences for Daniel Andrews in 2018.
With the exception of Yogen Lakshman, Trustee of AIII, who believes the Opposition is opposing the program for the sake of opposition, many community leaders contacted Bharat Times to express their shock and dismay with the state government’s decision to make it compulsory for all government secondary schools in Victoria.
“I am sure no politician would want their own children attending kindergarten to have to listen to this kind of rubbish. Why would I not have a say in this?” asked Mr Singh, who once very active in local politics, did not want BT to reveal his full name.
“There is no shortage of homosexual, gay or lesbian sex material in ancient Indian cultural history”, says Dr TK Kapoor who has special interest in Indian history and Kamasutra.
“Indians are or have been quite adventurous in this area but the problem with the program is its age appropriateness.
“There is pure harm in my view in exposing such fragile minds to such graphical detail and certainly no benefit.
“It should never be introduced at primary school level; it should be only voluntary for secondary schools where they may have sizeable student population from LGBTI background. There too, parents of non-LGBTI children should be guaranteed the right to opt-in or opt-out of it.”
Although Mr Lakshman supports Safe Schools program by Andrews government saying “the Safe Schools Program which deals with Anti-Bullying and Anti-Social aspects in schools and introduced by the Andrews Govt is a legitimate concept and should be widely accepted”, he too believes parents should be kept in the loop.
“One thing has to be implemented in my view – the parents should have the final say and be the ultimate decision maker for all children – primary or secondary school age”, Mr Lakshman emphasised.
Vasan Srinivasan Chair of (Confederation of Indian Associ. of Australia) and member of the Liberal party is completely opposed to the program.
“Schools should never be used to teach our children about male privilege, how “masculinity” encourages “control and dominance” over women, or how men are “socially engineered” to express their pain and stress in anger and violence.
He says young children should not be taught such material.
He further says teaching such material may harm young children by confusing them about their own identity and respect.
Talking about the parents’ point of view of their children’s education, Mr Srinivasan adds,
“We give our children the best education possible so they leave school understanding the importance and benefits of diversity and individualism and have the skills and knowledge to get good jobs that will keep them happy”,
BT believes most community leaders – and various groups/associations receiving government grants, will only express themselves through their membership base in the secret ballot in November 2018.
For once, I completely agree with the Libs – it is ‘social engineering’ – targeting young children with unevaluated and unproven fringe academic ideas which – if not halted, may prove to be detrimental, the results of which will be irreversible.
DOCTORS IN SCHOOL
The latest program in this context announced by the Andrew’s Labor government is ‘Doctors in Schools’.
The Opposition claims while it is unclear if parents’ consent will be a pre-requisite or not, children as young as 12 will be able to access prescriptions, including contraceptives under Daniel Andrews’ Doctors in Schools program.
Although Premier Andrews brushed aside parents’ consent questions in the media, little does he realize that the issue can become a legal minefield for – schools, doctors and the government.
If a girl at 12 is being provided with the contraceptive pill as and when required, may it not be construed as vicarious encouragement by schools, doctors and government, if not consenting on her behalf to have sex?
And then producing a whole class of ‘rapists’ – boys, their partners in crime, should they be 14 plus age.
How will it be controlled? Will then the age of consent be lowered to 12 from 16, to have sex in Victoria?
Potentially, we may be looking at a state-wide class action by parents and girls, against government, doctors and schools.
Only parents should have handle on children’s lives; state instruments can assist, not take charge.
Daniel Andrews, with such programs is going in the opposite direction and needs to pause and recalibrate his agenda.
It is not long before November 2018.
(Dinesh Malhotra is the founding editor of Bharat Times. He is also a qualified lawyer, admitted to practice.)