New NSW education boss told to review controversial sex-ed course
The Australian, September 12, 2016
NSW’s newly appointed education chief, Mark Scott, will oversee a review of the state’s flagship sex education resource, following revelations many of its lessons are based on highly contested theories around gender and sexuality.
The state’s Education Department has been ordered to investigate if there is any scientific basis for repeated claims made about gender throughout the Crossroads program, a compulsory 25-hour course for all public school students in Years 11 and 12.
The program presents gender as “a social construct” that is neither fixed nor binary and that sexuality is “dynamic” and “constantly changing”, according to one lesson. To stress the point, students are given a handout titled The Genderbread Person, an infographic developed by US comedian and social justice advocate Sam Kellerman that says gender is “not either/or. In many cases it’s both/and “ or “a bit of this, a dash of that”.
Students are told they can identify as a “woman, man, two-spirit, genderqueer or genderless” among the “infinite possibilities” of gender identity.
Crossroads material cites several scientific studies on which the program is based, but none of the references appear to relate to its teachings on gender.
Education Minister Adrian Piccoli told The Australian he had referred the program to Mr Scott, the former ABC boss who recently took over as Education Department secretary, for further investigation.
A department spokeswoman said Crossroads, which was last reviewed last year, was designed to help students in Years 11 and 12 address issues of health, safety and wellbeing “at a time when they face significant changes and challenges in their lives”.
“The department is reviewing the research base and scientific underpinning of the gender diversity material.”
Mr Piccoli was blindsided last week by the revelation his department had released another sex education resource that promoted the controversial Safe Schools program, potentially in contravention of federal government guidelines.
Mr Piccoli ordered the withdrawal of the resource, which offered teachers tools to help deliver “content relating to diversity of sex, sexuality and gender”, and called for his department to review its content.
The Crossroads program has much in common with Safe Schools, which is laden with gender ideology. The concept of deconstructing gender is understood to derive from 1990s queer theory, which is highly contested within the social sciences.
Psychologist Laura McNally, who has previously raised concerns about the lack of scientific rigour behind the claims of Safe Schools’ supporters, believes gender stereotyping can be challenged in a classroom setting without resorting to queer theory.
“These programs call themselves ‘evidence-based’ but research in this area is fraught with obscurity,” she said. “Much of it comes from sociology, so the studies are qualitative and not particularly representative in terms of population health.”
Greg Donnelly, Labor MLC for Hornsby, in Sydney’s north, said gender ideology was being imposed on public-school students unbeknown to many parents. “Education Minister Piccoli … is treating mums and dads of kids in public schools with utter contempt. There are growing numbers of MPs in Macquarie Street openly calling on him to go,” Mr Donnelly said.