Sex, religion lessons not for activists ideological interest group
The Australian, June 10, 2016
An architect of the school curriculum has demanded a stop to the “outsourcing’’ of religious instruction and sex education to “ideological interest groups’’.
Ken Wiltshire, who reviewed the national curriculum for the Coalition government last year, said controversial subjects should be taught only with parental consent.
He said the Safe Schools furore showed the danger of letting “ideological groups’’ devise lesson plans without Education Department input.
“Governments should never outsource the development of curriculum content to interest groups, particularly those with an ideological purpose or agenda,’’ he told The Australian.
“There is no quality assurance. No controversial material should be taught in schools without the agreement of parents, acting in concert with the school.’’
Emeritus Professor Wiltshire — a professor of public administration at the University of Queensland — said the furore over Safe Schools showed why education authorities should vet any lessons involving sex, religious, alcohol or drug education.
“We need to learn the lesson of the Safe Schools agenda,’’ he said.
“We don’t want material creeping into the curriculum without it being quality assured. You should never outsource the development of a curriculum to any group with a particular agenda, or blindly accept any curriculum material they have provided to be used in schools.
“Everyone should have the right to say what they think should go into a curriculum — but at the end of the day the education ministers are responsible for the curriculum.’’
Professor Wiltshire said governments often left the teaching of religion and sex education to outside groups because the issues were political “hot potatoes’’.
He warned it was unfair for education departments to expect principals to assess the suitability of religious instruction or sex education materials taught during school time.
The Safe Schools Coalition — an anti-bullying program for gay and intersex children — has been broadly criticised over its ideological agenda, which tells children they are “gender fluid’’ and teaches them it is “heteronormative’’ to refer to boys and girls, or use the pronouns “he” or “she”.
Its classroom materials included links to a gay youth website, Minus 18, which included instructions on penis tucking and chest binding, and promoted online links to sex shops and gay nightclubs.
The federally funded program — which was not developed by education or health experts — was co-written by Marxist activist Roz Ward, who was briefly suspended this month from La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.
The Andrews Labor government in Victoria is defying a federal government directive that schools seek parental permission to teach the Safe Schools program.
Queensland — the only state that refuses to reveal which schools take part in Safe Schools — this week announced a review of Anglican Church teaching materials for religious instruction. The Connect curriculum, published by Christian Education Publications and available nationally, includes a lesson plan that tells children they “will die’’ if they are selfish.
The Queensland review follows a decision by the Anglican Church in NSW last year to remove religious instruction materials that taught Year 9 students they should “die for their faith if necessary”.
Professor Wiltshire’s co-reviewer of the national curriculum, Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin Donnelly, said parents should have to give consent for religious or sex education in schools, but he disagreed with Professor Wiltshire’s call for official vetting of religious or sex education.
“Frankly I would not trust them (the national and state curriculum boards) to design a curriculum for potentially very controversial, sensitive areas,’’ he said. “They are very culturally Left. The difficulty would be getting an objective, impartial and balanced curriculum.’’