Flat White

Safe school days

16 June 2017

7:29 AM

16 June 2017

7:29 AM

Once upon a time, schools were for teaching things like reading, and writing, and arithmetic.

Today, schools teach reading, writing, arithmetic, social justice and sexuality education, and have natty programs about “anti-bullying” which are just as effective as the de-radicalisation programs for budding terrorists here and overseas.

There are various sites and groups devoted to shining a light on these programs, but they are usually covered in the media as a bunch of hysterics or bigots. As a result, the practical applications of them are rarely exposed. What are our children being taught?

Well in Year Five, at a Catholic school, at a family presentation on puberty by a group called Family Life Victoria, I learned that sperm is produced inside tubules in the testicles. Why on earth this is considered necessary for the enlightenment of  ten and eleven-year olds with their parents (or legal guardians if you prefer to be more inclusive) is never explained.

I had previously opted to keep my daughter out of sexuality education lessons because everything I had heard about them did nothing to inspire confidence. I mistakenly thought that the information sessions at a Catholic primary school wouldn’t be so bad.

Typically in those long ago days of five years ago, sexuality education began in Year Three. Some schools have in-house programs and others use approved providers like the above-mentioned Family Life Victoria.

These days, the lessons start younger, in Preps and Grade One,

At a State High School two years later, and my daughter’s homework was to provide information about three sexually-transmitted diseases. This is for Year Seven children, twelve and thirteen-year olds. The students were required to list the disease, its symptoms, any long-term effects and its treatment. The level of detail expected was excruciating, and that’s just my feeling as an adult.

Mind you, that’s not as bad as one class project from another school. That one had the students constructing models of female reproductive organs. I guess it pays to be aware of what you’re talking about in school in a more practical, hands on manner.

One interesting side note about all of this education is that people don’t really like to discuss it too much. The responses I receive when I do bring it up amongst other parents range from telling me that I worry too much, to declaring that since there are parents who don’t teach their kids about the birds and the bees then obviously the schools need to do so. Occasionally there are parents who are as horrified as I am, but they rarely agree out loud straight away.

When you delve into the matter with them, when you provide them with a safe space to discuss it, so to speak, then small concerns creep into the open.

Not every parent has as thick a hide as I do, and many are intimidated by the weight of authority carried by the government as represented by teachers and principals.

What they don’t realise is that there are a lot of teachers out there who are likewise discomforted by the subject matter that they teach. Especially as promulgated by the Safe Schools Program and the Building Respectful Relationships Program.

Last year, in Year Eight, for example, my child explained to me how she’d learned at school a month prior that it was okay to experiment sexually and she’d not get into trouble. There was no discussion of the legal age of consent nor of abstinence; not that she could recall. The message was that you could feel free to try anything you like. It’s all good. Please note that I wasn’t present, nor was this the exact wording from the teacher. This was the interpretation that my daughter took away from the lesson.

After classroom  exercises dealing with the sexual behaviour of minors and the stereotyping of heterosexual fathers as being homophobic, I sent an email to her teacher explaining that I found the material offensive and derogatory towards fathers and I wanted to remove my child from the lesson.

I had a telephone conversation with the teacher where I explained my view of the material, and how I understood it was merely hypothetical, but the language used was unacceptable to me and an inappropriate proxy for heterosexual fathers.

The teacher replied that as a heterosexual male he had no objection to the language used. I don’t think that my response was what he expected. I just told him that it wasn’t about him and his view. My beef was with the lessons themselves and I wanted my daughter removed from them.

This particular lesson was a part of the Building Respectful Relationships program, which was only held once a fortnight for two periods, so her removal was not seen as too disruptive. Instead of attending that particular class for the rest of the year she went to the library for private study.

My email was escalated to my daughter’s home room teacher, and another phone conversation ensued. This bore the interesting fruit when the teacher expressed concerns about the Safe Schools and Building Respectful Relationships lessons of her own. She felt that some of the materials were too risqué for her Year Nine students and so modified them, and also admitted that she knew of other teachers who did not use the provided exercises at all but substituted their own.

What does it say about our own government-approved and supplied classroom materials when even teachers are uncomfortable with them?

Note that information on sexuality education is rarely provided in detail. It is marketed to parents and the general public as a Necessary Good, and we are supposed to feel grateful that it’s there to take the burden of uncomfortable conversations with our offspring off our weary shoulders.

The problem with this view is that it promotes the abrogation of the parent’s role to the educational provider, and this can lead to disruption and confusion in the family.

I had no desire to be discussing the how and why of chlamydia with a twelve-year old girl, nor did I wish to cover the difference between a person’s sex, gender and sexual preferences with a thirteen-year old girl. We have discussed the different methods of contraception, abortion, how to gender a person (or not), and how to treat with those who question. She is incredibly knowledgeable about gender fluidity and transsexuality and how they work, and is well aware that in the scheme of controversial topics to discuss at school gun control is more acceptable than a negative stance on abortion.

And she’s not even fifteen.

If a stranger were to approach a child or a young teenager in a park or a shopping centre and discuss such matter we would rightly call them out for inappropriate behaviour and in more extreme cases call it grooming.

If it’s a teacher, parents and concerned guardians are expected to just accept the ideas and language used on the captive market of institution inmates known as Modern Education.

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