Rita Panahi on Safe Schools and gender diversity programs in schools
Herald-Sun, 23 October 2016
REMEMBER when schools focused on the traditional foundations of education: reading, writing and arithmetic?
Parents can look forward to a few additional Rs being added to the curriculum when the Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program is rolled out at Victorian schools next year.
Instead of worrying about literacy and numeracy, the State Government appears preoccupied with filling young minds with ideological drivel based on activist research that paints boys as predators and girls as perpetual victims.
The Safe Schools program has understandably received greater attention and criticism than the respectful relationships program.
But rest assured, both are sides of the same irrational coin, using highly contentious theories and easily discredited studies on gender and sexuality to indoctrinate young minds.
Much of the program is unfit for any educational institution, particularly primary and secondary schools where students are expected to uncritically accept what they are told.
It does not stand up to any level of scrutiny. Cherry-picked “facts”, flawed reasoning and the deliberate omission of pertinent details combine to create conclusions that are neither correct nor helpful.
The program is supposed to combat the scourge of domestic violence and smash sexist stereotypes, but ignores a wealth of non-activist, international peer-reviewed research, and instead relies on radical feminist dogma.
It’s the type of ideologically driven sloppy thinking that belongs in a socialist alliance get-together, not in schools.
At best, it’s simplistic; at worst, it’s sinister social engineering that could do significant damage.
Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling has been a strong critic of the program, which will cost at least $20 million.
“The respectful relationships curriculum has moved so far from its original purpose, it may as well be a radical gender studies course more at home in university halls rather than Victorian classrooms,” he said. “Schools should never be used to brainwash our children with propaganda about white 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. (Premier) Daniel Andrews should stop implementing ideological programs and forcing his values on other people’s children.”
Humorously, the course material refers repeatedly to students engaging in “critical thinking exercises” that do nothing more than reinforce the program’s questionable suppositions.
Children are taught about “male privilege” and that “gender norms” are purely a social construct that can lead to discrimination and “acceptance of gender-based violence”.
The program pushes the notion that Australian males are conditioned to be “heterosexual” and “emotionless” and encouraged to exert dominance over women.
Though the program demonises boys, it is girls who stand to lose the most by being groomed to believe that they are victims.
And yet Education Minister James Merlino is astounded anyone would dare question the program’s objectivity, claiming it’s written by experts and will be integral to reducing the incidence of violence against women. But many behavioural and education experts don’t subscribe to this.’
Dr Kevin Donnelly, former co-chair of the National Curriculum Review, is among those aghast.
“Much of the program reads like Feminism 101 where a cultural-Left ideology, otherwise known as gender theory, prevails. Beginning in primary schools and continuing to year 12, children are taught the principal cause of domestic violence is ‘lack of gender equality’,” he wrote. “Ignored is that poverty, alcohol and depression also contribute … and that rates of domestic violence are a significant problem for particular groups … such as indigenous Australians and the LGBTI community.”
Professor of clinical psychology Kim Halford, from the University of Queensland, casts doubt on the wisdom of adopting simplistic “boys are bad, girls are good” gender theories: “Programs that only focus upon alleged male power and misogyny as the sources of violence grossly oversimplify a complex problem.”
Sadly, the State Government has allowed itself to be captured by the most toxic elements of the grievance industry. Rather than instilling in children the notion that we are all equal, regardless of gender, sexuality, colour or creed, we will introduce them to the unhealthy culture of identity politics before they can write their own names.
Schools can teach children to be decent and respectful without brainwashing them with activist research that pits the sexes against each other and paints every boy as a potential rapist and every girl as a downtrodden victim.