Victorian schools adopt ‘anti-privilege’ feminist clubs
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 28 April 2017
Schoolyard “feminist collectives” are springing up across the country as young women are presented with a grim picture of gender equality by a new wave of education programs that place “white, male privilege” and “hegemonic masculinity” at the root of family violence.
Northcote High School, Brunswick Secondary College, Suzanne Cory High, St Helena Secondary College and the independent Korowa Anglican Girls School in Melbourne have followed Fitzroy High School in establishing feminist collectives or clubs in recent times. South Australia’s Glenunga International High School also runs a feminism club that is offered to students as a co-curricular activity.
Meanwhile, schools throughout Victoria and the ACT and internationally in Argentina, Brazil and Berlin have taken up the Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective’s teaching resource, Fightback, despite concerns it simplifies the issue of violence in the community and potentially alienates boys and men.
As The Australian reported on Wednesday, teachers are being encouraged to develop feminist collectives as part of the Victorian Labor government’s $21 million Respectful Relationships program to tackle family violence, which promotes Fightback as a classroom resource for students from Year 9 upwards.
While heavily criticised by Victoria’s opposition, as well as several education experts, the program has attracted the support of Greens MP Adam Bandt and federal Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, who said yesterday that “getting students talking about respectful relationships, including from a feminist perspective, is a great thing”.
Mr Bandt said he was proud that young women in his electorate were behind the program. “Instead of trying to restart old battles, culture war conservatives would do well to remember that even Malcolm Turnbull calls himself a feminist now,” he said.
Designed to educate students about “negative attitudes … that contribute to high rates of sexism and discrimination, and ultimately, violence against women”, Fightback paints a worrying picture of inequality in Australia.
In one activity, students are told there are “common perceptions” about equality, including that women are already equal, that we are in a post-feminist era or that men suffer inequality too.
Students are shown statistics on the pay gap between the sexes and women’s representation in politics, business, sport and film and are asked: “So, are we equal?”
A recurring theme throughout the program, as with Respectful Relationships, is the notion of “privilege”: that some groups have advantages over others because of their birth identity.
“Being born white in Australia, you have advantages,” the guide says. “By being born male, you have advantages … that you may not approve of or think you are entitled to, but that you gain anyway because of your status as male.”
The Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective started in 2013 as a lunchtime book club that, according to its website, “revealed a sense of anger and frustration about gender inequality”.
Education Minister James Merlino praised the program. “I always encourage students to pursue interests they are passionate about and to lead student projects and organisations,” he said.
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said he had reservations about such programs and they would be scrapped by a Coalition state government.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said “the No 1 focus of our classrooms” should be on core skills, starting with literacy and numeracy.
No place for 1970s collectives
The Australian, 26 April 2017
It would be tempting to respond to the news that Victoria’s teachers are being encouraged to develop “feminist collectives” at schools to counter white male “privilege” with a flippant call for “masculinist” collectives to ensure equality. The well-documented shortcomings of our education system, however, warrant a more nuanced, mature response, with the emphasis on academic performance and teaching quality. Good manners and respectful behaviour have always been important in education; indeed, effective discipline is essential to ensure classrooms are conducive to learning. But the serious shortcomings in Australian education, evidenced in the freefall in our results in basic subjects alongside other nations, leave no room for teachers and students to be distracted by social engineering experiments such as the Victorian government’s Respectful Relationships program. It is already in place in 120 schools across the state with hundreds more to follow.
As Stefanie Balogh reported recently, a survey of school principals showed that teachers who failed to meet the needs of their students, resisted change or were unprepared for lessons were doing more to hinder learning in Australian classrooms than teenagers who were disrespectful or skipped school. Regardless of any student’s gender or socioeconomic background, the most important benefit education authorities and schools can provide is quality teaching to enable all students to achieve their potential academically or in vocational education. Doing so gives young people their best chances of accessing the higher education courses of their choice or achieving prosperity through employment. Basic literacy and numeracy skills — in which many Australian students have major room for improvement — are vital.
Contrary to ideologically driven notions of “white, male privilege”, Program for International Student Assessment data shows Australia’s 15-year-old boys have fallen behind girls in reading by as much as a full year of schooling. Boys, however, outperform girls in numeracy. Apart from engineering courses where males dominate, female university students outnumber males by 3-2. The imperative for school systems, principals and teachers is to give all students the best possible start across the curriculum, then encourage them to specialise in their areas of strength.
The feminist movement, as a major social trend, is a legitimate topic for social studies and history. “Feminist collectives”, however, have no place in the 21st-century school system.
‘Feminist collective’ strategy in schools
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 26 April 2017
Teachers are being encouraged to develop “feminist collectives” at schools to counter “everyday sexism”, as part of a Victorian government-backed bid to tackle domestic violence through the schoolyard.
Fightback, a feminist-based teaching guide that paints a grim “white, male privilege” picture of gender inequality in Australia, is promoted within the Victorian government’s $21 million Respectful Relationships project that has been rolled out to more than 120 schools across the state, with hundreds more to follow.
The resource’s lead author, Fitzroy High School teacher Briony O’Keeffe, has recently conducted professional development workshops, including one last month at Victoria University, advising teachers on building feminist collectives within their schools.
Published in 2014, Fightback is aimed at educating secondary school students about “negative attitudes towards gender equality that contribute to high rates of sexism and discrimination and ultimately … violence against women”.
Similar to the contentious Respectful Relationships curriculum, the guide introduces students to the concept of “privilege” as some groups having advantages over others that are not earned but assigned at birth.
“Being born white in Australia, you have advantages — privileges — that are not necessary assigned to those who are seen to be non-white,” it says.
“By being born male you have advantages … that you may not approve of or think you are entitled to, but that you gain anyway because of your status as male.”
To demonstrate the notion of privilege, a suggested classroom activity asks students to assume a range of different identities, such as a male CEO, stay-at-home mother, Muslim woman and indigenous transgender male. Students are then asked to consider how various statements might apply to them, such as: “I feel safe walking alone at night”; “It is unlikely I will lose my career by having children”; and “I feel confident ordinary language will always include my sex — example ‘mankind’, ‘all men are created equal’, ‘chairman’, ‘postman’.”
Education critics have taken issue with the guide — developed with input from the Fitzroy High School Feminist Collective, which started in 2013 as an elective class at the school — arguing that it simplifies the causes of domestic violence and depicts men as violent misogynists.
Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly, a critic of the Respectful Relationships curriculum, said the material presented students with information from a feminist perspective only.
“There’s been no real attempt to inject any sort of nuance into the material or to consider how boys might receive it,” Dr Donnelly said.
“As the royal commission told us, 25 per cent of domestic violence victims are men, men die earlier than women and young men have greater rates of youth suicide and self-harm.
“We shouldn’t be reinforcing these tired old stereotypes and simplifying the issue. It’s potentially very damaging.”
The guide acknowledges that the focus on violence perpetrated by men against women had the potential to make men feel targeted, acknowledging that “not all men” commit violent acts, but it dismisses the concept of “reverse sexism” and proposes an exercise to debunk it.
Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jeremy Sammut said it was worrying schools were becoming places of “political re-education in post- structural identity politics”, ultimately undermining the Australian egalitarian tradition.
“To not treat people as individuals, but to treat them as numbers of a victim group is quite socially destructive,” he said.
Fitzroy High principal Pauline Rice, however, defended Fightback, which she was “all about encouraging students to think about the expectations and limitations placed on people because of their gender and what that can mean for people in their life.”
Liberal education spokesman Nick Wakeling attacked the Labor government for deploying “insidious political ideologies” in schools at the cost of education basics: “What young boys need are the skills for lifelong learning that leads to meaningful employment, not … judgment and social stigmatisation.”
State Education Minister James Merlino said the program was designed to help young people deal with a range of challenges. “Every school is free to use whichever additional resources like this one they deem appropriate,” he said.
Kindergarten program to stop sexism in four-year-olds comes under fire
Herald Sun, 29 March 2017
A CONTROVERSIAL program to stop sexism and gender stereotyping in four-year-olds has come under fire from education experts.
Thousands of early childhood educators will be taught to eliminate “gender norms” and inequality in Victorian kindergartens.
The program aims to reduce domestic violence by promoting “Respectful Relationships”.
A tender to train 4000 early childhood educators during the next year has warned that children as young as four can show signs of sexist behaviour.
“Research shows that children become aware of gender expectations and make efforts to fit within these gendered norms by the time they are in kindergarten,” the tender said.
“As young children learn about gender, they may also begin to enact sexist values, beliefs and attitudes that may contribute to disrespect and gender inequality.”
Dr Kevin Donnelly, senior research fellow at Australian Catholic University, said preschool children didn’t have the maturity to understand the Respectful Relationships teaching on gender and sexuality.
“It is far too early,” Dr Donnelly said.
“It is quite outrageous and quite offensive to think that young children of that age will be indoctrinated with this very cultural, left gender and sexuality theory.
“It really is destroying the innocence of childhood.”
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling slammed the government for forcing its values on “other people’s children”.
“Frankly, parents have had an absolute gutful of (Premier) Daniel Andrews’ social engineering programs in schools and kinders,” Mr Wakeling said.
“The best thing we can do for our children is to give them 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 fulfilled and happy.”
The government will spend $3.4 million on introducing the Respectful Relationships program in funded kindergartens and preschools.
It’s part of a broader $21.8 million push to roll out the controversial initiative in government and catholic schools.
Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said the preschool teaching would be specifically designed for young children.
“The early years are an important time to start helping children develop a secure sense of self and healthy, respectful relationships — this will help prevent family violence in the long-term,” she said.
Early Learning Association Australia boss Shane Lucas supported the program “in principle”.
He said parents often had a “knee jerk” reaction when they felt they were being told how to raise their children.
Daniel Andrews’ sexist toddlers as real as tooth fairy
Herald Sun, 29 March 2017
FORGET about tackling the crime wave, crippled justice system, looming energy crisis or falling academic standards in our schools — the Victorian government is focusing its energies on a real existential crisis: sexist preschoolers.
Showing the same arrogance it displays in promoting the deeply flawed Safe Schools program, Dan Andrews’ government has found another vehicle to push radical gender theory — The Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program.
It’s indoctrination by stealth.
These programs may have innocuous names, but take a close look at some of the material being taught to children and it’s clear that both deviate wildly from their original briefs. They are not teaching tolerance or tackling destructive attitudes that could lead to violence; instead they accept highly contentious feminist dogma as fact. Children as young as four are the target of ideologically driven material built on junk research that paints every boy as a potential predator and every girl as a perpetual victim.
The respectful relationships program was introduced this year and will ultimately be taught to children from preschool to VCE; that’s a lot of social engineering for any child to bear. Early childhood educators will be taught to stamp out heinous hate speech such as “boys will be boys” and to eradicate gendered norms and sexual stereotypes by implementing “reflective practice to critically evaluate their work with children using anti-bias approaches specifically regarding gender bias”.
The Victorian Education and Training Department’s tender document also states: “Research shows that children become aware of gender expectations and make efforts to fit within these gendered norms by the time they are in kindergarten.
“As young children learn about gender, they may also begin to enact sexist values, beliefs and attitudes that may contribute to disrespect and gender inequality.
“Therefore, the early years are a critical time to challenge gender stereotypes and to help children develop a secure sense of self and healthy, respectful relationships.
“Educators who understand the development of executive functioning, social and emotional skills, the drivers of gender-based violence, and who are able to critically reflect on these aspects of learning and the subtle ways that gendered roles and stereotypes are reinforced are in a better position to provide learning experiences that support respectful relationships.” We are talking about preschoolers here. Misogynist toddlers are about as real as the tooth fairy.
Four-year-olds aren’t sexist and there’s nothing dangerous about boys laughing about girl germs or girls poking fun at boys. We are spending millions of taxpayer dollars tackling a problem that does not exist and schools are spending valuable time on fringe topics that have no place in the classroom. We must allow kids to be kids and not become hysterical because most children naturally gravitate to “gendered toys”.
Children should be given the freedom to choose without educators fretting about the prevalence of girls playing with dolls and boys opting for trucks.
In their efforts to combat the scourge of domestic violence, the government has embraced toxic identity politics. The respectful relationships program pushes the theory that a lack of gender equality is at the heart of violence against women, ignoring the non-activist research and statistical data that shows the problem is far more complex. Poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction are all contributing factors and the rate of violence against women is significantly higher in certain communities, including among indigenous Australians where it’s at endemic levels.
This preoccupation with social engineering distracts from what schools should be focused on: reading, writing and arithmetic.
Perhaps if there was less time spent on trying to force teachers to indoctrinate children there would be more time for academic pursuits and Australian students wouldn’t trail those in Kazakhstan in maths and science.
Gender-theory targets set on sexist preschoolers
Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 28 March 2017
Four-year-olds who exhibit sexist behaviour at preschool are the latest targets of the Victorian government’s crusade against family violence, with early childhood educators to be taught how to eradicate gendered norms and stereotypes from the classrooms.
The Victorian Education and Training Department will train 4000 early childhood educators during the next year to implement respectful relationships programs in preschools. It is seeking a supplier to develop and deliver a course that will increase educators’ knowledge of the role of “gender equality in preventing family violence”.
According to a tender document released last week, research has shown that children become aware of “gender expectations” and try to “fit within these gendered norms” by the time they are in preschool. “As young children learn about gender, they may also begin to enact sexist values, beliefs and attitudes that may contribute to disrespect and gender inequality,” the document says.
“Professional learning will increase the capacity of early childhood educators to understand and implement respectful relationships and gender equality into their program delivery.
“It will build the capacity of educators to use reflective practice to critically evaluate their work with children using anti-bias approaches specifically regarding gender bias.”
The push into preschools is the latest element of the Andrews Labor government’s $21.8 million Respectful Relationships package for schools, inspired by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Unveiled late last year, the package attracted widespread criticism for pushing the concept of “male privilege” and “hegemonic masculinity” into classrooms, and for failing to consider the multiple, complex drivers of family violence, which also has an impact on men and boys.
Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly has been critical of the Victorian government’s interpretation of Respectful Relationships, which he believes is laden in gender and sexuality theory similar to the Safe Schools program. Dr Donnelly pointed out that the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, which guides early childhood professionals in the state, already stressed the importance of encouraging respectful relationships in the preschool setting as well as avoiding practices that directly or indirectly contribute to gender inequality, prejudice and discrimination. “Why are we indoctrinating kids to believe that being a boy, or being a girl, is abnormal? It’s actually quite dangerous,” he said. “This is simply extending that gender and sexuality theory to preschool and kindergarten.”
The new program will cost taxpayers $3.4m. Existing materials aimed at the foundation level cautions teachers against phrases such as “boys will be boys’’and reinforcing stereotypical labelling “boys are strong, girls are gentle”.
Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos defended the early childhood program, saying it would be appropriately designed. “The early years are an important time to start helping children develop a secure sense of self and healthy, respectful relationships — this will help prevent family violence in the long-term,” Ms Mikakos said.
Liberal families spokesman Georgie Crozier said the government should “let kids be kids”.
Melbourne high school teacher says she would refuse to teach ‘lewd’ safe schools and respectful relationships program
Herald-Sun, 30 October 2016
A MELBOURNE high school teacher says she would refuse to teach “lewd” material in the Victorian government’s mandatory respectful relationships program to be introduced in all state schools next year.
Moira Deeming, a teacher and mother-of-three, said she was shocked by the content and would rather be fired from her job than teach such “sleazy, unnecessary drivel” to her students.
Ms Deeming, 33, said educating children as young as 12 about porn and getting them to have classroom discussions about masturbation and sex was not appropriate and would not help to stop gender-based violence and discrimination as the program intended.
Under the program, children as young as prep are also being introduced to same-sex relationships through children’s books, including Tango Makes Three, a tale about two male penguins who adopt a baby penguin.
The book has been banned in Singapore and after parent outrage was scrapped from some school libraries in the UK and the US. It also featured in the most complained about books in America over five consecutive years for “promoting a homosexual agenda”.
“I feel that this program is bullying male students and stigmatising and stereotyping them — the absolute opposite to what it is supposed to do,” she told the Sunday Herald Sun.
“It really does build up stereotypes. It doesn’t tear them down.
“If I was asked to teach it, I couldn’t let it out of my mouth. I’d have to be fired.”
Debate has raged about the content, particularly how students are taught about “male privilege” and that masculinity is associated with higher rates of violence against women, since the government made public the classroom resources of its Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program earlier this month.
The $21.8 million program, a recommendation from the royal commission into family violence, also offers explicit videos to students entering secondary school giving sexual advice in an upbeat way, including that “you don’t have to have an ‘inney’ and an ‘outey’. You can have two inneys or two outeys” to have sex.
Also in the teaching tools for prep students, teachers are recommended to get further information and activities from the learning resource All of Us from the controversial Safe Schools program, which is aimed at much older students in secondary school to teach and increase students’ understanding and awareness of gender diversity, sexual diversity and intersex topics.
In this, one classroom activity suggests dividing the students in half and asking one side to imagine they are 16 and in a same-sex relationship; and the other half in a heterosexual relationship, before asking a series of questions, including would they feel comfortable telling their parents about their relationship.
Ms Deeming, who is a member of the Liberal party, has joined concerned parents and politicians to call on the Andrews Government to review the age appropriateness of the program’s content.
In the upper house this week, Democratic Labor Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins said the program focused on a “misguided feminist and gender ideology”, alienating and shaming boys by portraying masculinity as bad and women as always being victims.
Metropolitan Region Upper House MP Inga Peulich told parliament it was a “light version” of Safe Schools that targeted younger children.
Safe Schools is only mandatory in high school, while respectful relationships will be rolled out to all year levels from prep to Year 12.
“Victorian parents are concerned about the age appropriateness of the content being presented,” Ms Peulich said.
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling called the program “radical” and said the biggest concern is that parents had not been consulted or given consent.
“Parents want their kids to fundamentally learn how to read, write and count. Parents wouldn’t have expected content on transgender as part of a family violence program,” he said.
But Education Minister James Merlino stood by the program in its entirety and called on those opposing it to “stop playing politics” so violence against women could be stopped.
What kids will learn and when
Diversity programs are indoctrination, not education
Herald Sun, 27 October 2016
WHEN Joan Kirner was premier, Victoria was known as the Albania of the south. She was a member of the ALP’s Socialist-Left faction and implemented radical policies like abolishing technical schools and the competitive, academically based year 12 Higher School Certificate.
Premier Daniel Andrews is also of the Socialist-Left and Marxist-inspired programs like the Safe Schools LGBTI and Respectful Relationships programs addressing domestic violence prove that Victoria, once again, is embracing radical, cultural-Left policies.
Costing $21.8 million and launched by Education Minister James Merlino, the Respectful Relationships program, as of next year, will be compulsory for all government schools from kindergarten to year 12.
The program involves “all school students and all school staff members, teaching and non-teaching” and “parents, community educators, school council representatives and others”. Respectful Relationships must be taught in every subject, including “gender equality statistics in maths classes, or analysing changing gender relationships in history or literature studies”.
So much for reducing the crowded curriculum and freeing teachers to focus on the essential knowledge, understanding and skills in subjects such as English, mathematics, history, science, music and art.
After watching my alcoholic father beat my mother when I was a child, there’s no doubt that domestic violence is a significant issue — but the reality, like with the Safe Schools program, is that Respectful Relationships is more about indoctrination than education. Children as young as seven and eight are taught that women are the only victims of domestic violence and the reason is because boys and men are violent and misogynist.
Australian society, so the program argues, suffers from “masculine organisational cultures and masculine sense of entitlement” and that leads to “social norms and practices that are violence supportive”.
The program also teaches that girls and women are weak and defenceless because of gender inequality under which they are forced to be submissive.
Even though women have all the same rights as men and they outperform boys at year 12 and completing university studies, the Respectful Relationships material argues that “women and girls continue to experience inequality and discrimination in many important parts of their lives”.
The program says females suffer because males are guilty of “hegemonic masculinity” and, as a result, are “heterosexual, tough, athletic and emotionless”. Prevailing views about gender also lead to “the control and dominance of men over women”.
As argued by psychologist Bettina Arndt, ignored is the research evidence that concludes “domestic violence is not a gender issue (as) both men and women are actively involved in most violence in the home, women often initiate violence and it isn’t simply self-defence”.
Also ignored, according to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, is that 25 per cent of domestic violence victims are men. There are many other factors, apart from gender, contributing to domestic violence, including poverty, alcoholism, anxiety and depression.
Similar to the radical Marxist-inspired Safe Schools program that the Andrews Government is also making compulsory for all schools, Respectful Relationships adopts a radical view of sexuality and gender. According to both programs, being male or female is a social construct and primary-age children are told that because gender is fluid and limitless, they can be whatever gender they want.
Schools are also told that if boys self-identify as girls, they should be allowed to use the girls’ toilets and girls’ changing room.
EVEN though 98 per cent of Australian men and women identify as male or female, children are warned against believing it’s normal for males and females to like one another (described as “heteronormativity”).
Even worse, Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships give the impression that significant numbers of children suffer gender uncertainty and confusion. Ignored is the research that shows that with very few exceptions, gender is binary and one’s birth sex is the dominant factor.
As noted by Sydney University’s Professor Patrick Parkinson, to argue otherwise is “odd and unscientific” as it is wrong to argue individuals can decide their gender “without reference to your physical and reproductive attributes”.
Professor Parkinson, as does research associated with the US-based John Hopkins Hospital, also concludes that while children and adolescents might experience gender uncertainty after they reach adulthood, the vast majority accept the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and co-chaired the Review of the Australian National Curriculum