The fiasco of Safe Schools
The Australian, September 20, 2016
The 32-page paper by legal academic Patrick Parkinson, reported in this newspaper yesterday, is a devastating critique of the misnamed Safe Schools program. He exposes its use of dodgy statistics to talk up the incidence of the much-vaunted “gender fluidity”. Yet this fluidity is tellingly selective: the program assumes same-sex attraction is fixed, such that an adolescent episode necessarily goes on to a confirmed adult preference. But an opposite-sex episode? Hardly permanent, they’d say.
Professor Parkinson does not dispute that some schoolchildren — albeit far fewer than the activists wish — may experience doubt or confusion about gender or attraction. But he faults Safe Schools as a partisan intervention, one that lacks any expert medical or psychiatric involvement, and as potentially confusing or harmful for the students it supposedly champions.
He describes gender fluidity as an “odd and unscientific belief” emanating from the humanities, not the sciences. A key influence has been the US-based Judith Butler, a high priestess of gender theory whose impenetrable prose once won her an academic bad writing award. La Trobe University’s very public association with this tradition must make its serious scholars cringe.
For Professor Parkinson, there is a quasi-religious faith at the core of Safe Schools, not the kind of thing any government should endorse. The program also can be held up as an example of the regressive Left tendency anatomised in Saturday’s Inquirer section by former Labor minister Peter Baldwin. Progressives once looked to the universal values of reason and the scientific method to serve a common humanity. Now, Mr Baldwin says, the regressive Left busies itself with the cultural relativism of identity-victim politics. It doesn’t engage opponents in debate but seeks to vilify and silence them.
Last week, for example, threats by same-sex marriage activists forced Christian groups to abandon a meeting at a Sydney hotel to plan the defence of traditional marriage. In similar fashion, the Parkinson paper notes that advocates for Safe Schools in effect bully schoolchildren and parents who do not subscribe to the fluidity faith, branding them as homophobic or transphobic. Safe Schools never was an innocuous anti-bullying program.