Respectful Relationships now compulsory across Victoria

The Respectful Relationships curriculum is now compulsory across Victorian schools and early childhood learning centres. Children will be first introduced to material in kindergarten.

With all the attention on the now unravelling Safe Schools program, its cousin, Respectful Relationships has received little attention, despite it targeting not only teenagers but also our young children, and it being made mandatory throughout the State. It has however received some attention this morning in The Australian,with reporter Rebecca Urban, revealing that Safe Schools co-author, Joel Radcliffe,  has been appointed to the Victorian Education and Training Department to assist in rolling out the program across the schools.

It is important for parents to have knowledge of Respectful Relationships and to ask questions where they are unsure of its content or have concerns. One may well discover that their school shares similar concerns over the material.

I want to make it clear that there are positive aspects to this new program as well as  significant concerns, and it would be a shame for the program’s aim to be hijacked by the unscientific theories and morally dubious suggestions that currently run throughout. It would be certainly irresponsible to teach some of the content without parental awareness. 

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If you are unfamiliar with the program, here is an overview that I wrote last year:

I agree with Daniel Andrews’ recent comments about the evils of domestic violence in our society, and I laud the Victorian Government for adopting strong measures to support victims and convict perpetrators. Domestic violence is a dreadful, dreadful thing: Sexual, physical, emotional, and material abuse is never justified.

In August 2015, Daniel Andrews announced that the program replacing SRI in schools would be Respectful Relationships, which has been introduced into secondary schools, and will be compulsory from kindergarten to year 10 in 2017.

There are many things to like in the curriculum, but oddly, a significant portion of the material has little to do with domestic violence, but is teaching children how to find partners and have sex.

For example, year 8 students are asked to write an ad, describing what qualities they would like to find in a partner. Is it appropriate to ask 12 and 13 year old children what kind of sexual relationship that would like to have?  Is it healthy for children to be directed to online dating sites, and given examples, such as these found in the curriculum?:

‘hot gay gal 19 yo seeks outgoing fem 18-25 into nature, sport and nightlife for friendship and relationship’

‘lustful, sexually generous funny and (sometimes shy) Tiger1962 seeking sexy freak out with similar intentioned woman.’

Not only are young teenagers taught about what to look for in a partner, they are taught what to seek in sex, and they are taught what to believe about sexuality, even to explore and affirm alternative sexual orientations.

As one of the year 8 sessions explains, it is designed to,

“enable students to explore the concept of gender and the associated notions and expectations that have an impact on sexuality. It also provides them with the opportunity to connect issues of gender to different positions of power central to adolescent sexual behaviour. The activity also aims to extend their understanding of gender by exploring traditional notions of gender in a case study that examines the experience of a young transsexual person.”

Much of the ensuing material explores broadening the horizons of sexual relationships, with the determination of deconstructing the “narrow” view of gender.

It may surprise some people to learn that children can legally have sex in Victoria from the age of 12 (younger in some States), so long as it is consensual and the other person(s) is within the legal age bracket. This may be lawful, but I suspect many parents would be shocked to learn that schools teach our children it is okay for them to engage in sexual intercourse at such a young age.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that exposing children to these ideas will not result in influencing sexual and social behaviour. The fact that Respectful Relationships makes consent unequivocal (a vital point) does not mean the activity is therefore good and okay for the child.

Also astonishing is what is missing. In a curriculum teaching relationships and sex, marriage receives almost no mention. Why is that? Marriage is mentioned on a ‘character card’ where Stephen, a 16 year old Christian attending a Christian college, believes sex should only take place within marriage between a man and woman (got to love the pastiche Christian example!). And there is Maria, a 15 year old girl who doesn’t want to wait for marriage before experiencing sex. Otherwise, marriage is only mentioned as a power structure behind which domestic violence occurs. What a sad and miserable view of marriage. I understand there are marriages where appalling abuse happens, and in my work I have ministered to victims from such circumstances. But marriage is designed to be, and often is, a beautiful thing, and it remains the best model for loving and caring intimate relationships in society.

Is it not a wonderful thing when a couple covenant together for life, ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish’?

There is much sensible and good advice offered in Respectful Relationships, which could be easily taught without the intrusion of particular views on sexuality and without exposing young children to ideas that blemish their innocence. It is a travesty that the issue of domestic violence has been taken captive by sexual libertarian ideology.

Is it the role of Government to absolutise onto children a theory about gender that is disputable and widely contentious? James Merlino has made it clear that this curriculum is to be compulsory in Victorian schools; I wonder, is forcing explicit sexual language and ideas onto children, moral or even legal?

Far from solving the unspeakable horrors of domestic violence, it is ultimately presenting a different version of the me-centric vision of the world. Author, Tim Keller writes, ‘It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give.’

Instead of leaning on a failed sexual revolution in order to find a way forward on domestic violence, would we not serve our children better  if we considered a paradigm of sacrifice and service, and where living for the good of others is esteemed more highly than our own gratification?

Banned Sex Book to be taught in Victorian Schools

A book that has been banned in parts of the UK, USA, and by the Singapore Government is being introduced into Victorian schools, to teach radical sex theory to our children, children as young as 5 years old.

And Tango makes Three, is an example of material that our young children will be exposed to in order to re-shape their thinking about sexuality. Who would dare complain about children’s story book, with beautifully drawn pictures? Surely that is taking things too far. The book was written to deconstruct believes among children about sexual relationships, by normalising same-sex parenting.

tangopenguin

It is important to note that the book has been deemed inappropriate by Government and school boards across the world, and yet the Victorian Government is ensuring primary aged children will be taught from it.  Does that not at least raise questions?

Today in the Herald Sun, Victorian school teacher, Moira Deeming, has shown courage to speak publicly about her concerns over the program. She says,

“I feel that this program is bullying male students and stigmatising and stereotyping them — the absolute opposite to what it is supposed to do,”

“It really does build up stereotypes. It doesn’t tear them down.

“If I was asked to teach it, I couldn’t let it out of my mouth. I’d have to be fired.”

There are growing concerns over the Respectful Relationships curriculum, but in a series of recent rebuffs, Education Minister, James Merlino, has not offered any response to the actual concerns, he brushes them aside, accusing concerned parents and professionals for playing politics with domestic violence.  I’m sure there is a political dimension for some people, but what of many people who are not associated with any political party? And even for those who have a political interest, are their concerns automatically erroneous?

Prof Patrick Parkinson (University of Sydney) recently published a paper, which examines the Safe Schools curriculum. His findings state that Safe Schools is “dubious, ‘misleading’, and ‘containing exaggerated claims’. We know that the Victorian Government has chosen to ignore this report, amongst others submitted concerns. Respectful Relationships depends on similar research, including that of La Trobe university who have been at the centre of the Safe Schools debacle. Victorians have lost faith in the Government to write fair and accurate curriculum for our children.

Were parents consulted by the Government whether we want our children taught that they have may sex as young as 12 years of age? Were community consultations organised to see whether families were happy for their 11 year olds to write advertisements, anticipating what they would want out of a sexual partner? Was a broad section of the medical and academic community properly consulted about the particular gender theory which will be taught, while others ignored?

What is happening in Victoria right now is a Government actively taking responsibility away from parents to raise their children, and they are filling these students with theoretical views which will confuse their identity and introduce them to sexual ideologies and practices that is not age appropriate. This book is only one many examples that have been found in recent months from both the Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships material.

Parents, are you okay for the Government to insist your children be taught erroneous sex education under the guise of domestic violence? What a gross mishandling of one our nation’s most horrendous social evils. As a community leader I am aware of this issue and I have seen the damage caused by unsafe relationships. Domestic abuse is appalling and never acceptable. The Government is right to say enough is enough, but trying to fix one problem by introducing another, doesn’t help anyone. Imagine if the Government introduced curriculum encouraging sexual abstinence amongst school aged children; there would be an public outcry from some quarters, and yet we are content to allow our children to be taught Respectful Relationships?

From the top of his sandcastle, James Merlino may hold that his political ideologies are beyond reproach, but the tide always returns. My concern is for the 10,000s of children who will made susceptible as they are forced to learn material that is at times unfit and untrue.

I would urge all parents and school communities to read the material for themselves. I strongly encourage the Government to listen to these valid concerns from the community.

Respectful Relationships?

I agree with Daniel Andrews’ recent comments about the evils of domestic violence in our society, and I laud the Victorian Government for adopting strong measures to support victims and convict perpetrators. Domestic violence is a dreadful, dreadful thing: Sexual, physical, emotional, and material abuse is never justified.

In August 2015, Daniel Andrews announced that the program replacing SRI in schools would be Respectful Relationships, which has been introduced into secondary schools, and will be compulsory from kindergarten to year 10 in 2017.

IMG_0214

There are many things to like in the curriculum, but oddly, a significant portion of the material has little to do with domestic violence, but is teaching children how to find partners and have sex.

For example, year 8 students are asked to write an ad, describing what qualities they would like to find in a partner. Is it appropriate to ask 12 and 13 year old children what kind of sexual relationship that would like to have?  Is it healthy for children to be directed to online dating sites, and given examples, such as these found in the curriculum?:

‘hot gay gal 19 yo seeks outgoing fem 18-25 into nature, sport and nightlife for friendship and relationship’

‘lustful, sexually generous funny and (sometimes shy) Tiger1962 seeking sexy freak out with similar intentioned woman.’

Not only are young teenagers taught about what to look for in a partner, they are taught what to seek in sex, and they are taught what to believe about sexuality, even to explore and affirm alternative sexual orientations.

As one of the year 8 sessions explains, it is designed to,

“enable students to explore the concept of gender and the associated notions and expectations that have an impact on sexuality. It also provides them with the opportunity to connect issues of gender to different positions of power central to adolescent sexual behaviour. The activity also aims to extend their understanding of gender by exploring traditional notions of gender in a case study that examines the experience of a young transsexual person.”

Much of the ensuing material explores broadening the horizons of sexual relationships, with the determination of deconstructing the “narrow” view of gender.

It may surprise some people to learn that children can legally have sex in Victoria from the age of 12 (younger in some States), so long as it is consensual and the other person(s) is within the legal age bracket. This may be lawful, but I suspect many parents would be shocked to learn that schools teach our children it is okay for them to engage in sexual intercourse at such a young age.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that exposing children to these ideas will not result in influencing sexual and social behaviour. The fact that Respectful Relationships makes consent unequivocal (a vital point) does not mean the activity is therefore good and okay for the child.

Also astonishing is what is missing. In a curriculum teaching relationships and sex, marriage receives almost no mention. Why is that? Marriage is mentioned on a ‘character card’ where Stephen, a 16 year old Christian attending a Christian college, believes sex should only take place within marriage between a man and woman (got to love the pastiche Christian example!). And there is Maria, a 15 year old girl who doesn’t want to wait for marriage before experiencing sex. Otherwise, marriage is only mentioned as a power structure behind which domestic violence occurs. What a sad and miserable view of marriage. I understand there are marriages where appalling abuse happens, and in my work I have ministered to victims from such circumstances. But marriage is designed to be, and often is, a beautiful thing, and it remains the best model for loving and caring intimate relationships in society.

Is it not a wonderful thing when a couple covenant together for life, ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish’?

There is much sensible and good advice offered in Respectful Relationships, which could be easily taught without the intrusion of particular views on sexuality and without exposing young children to ideas that blemish their innocence. It is a travesty that the issue of domestic violence has been taken captive by sexual libertarian ideology.

Is it the role of Government to absolutise onto children a theory about gender that is disputable and widely contentious? James Merlino has made it clear that this curriculum is to be compulsory in Victorian schools; I wonder, is forcing explicit sexual language and ideas onto children, moral or even legal?

Far from solving the unspeakable horrors of domestic violence, it is ultimately presenting a different version of the me-centric vision of the world. Author, Tim Keller writes, ‘It is possible to feel you are “madly in love” with someone, when it is really just an attraction to someone who can meet your needs and address the insecurities and doubts you have about yourself. In that kind of relationship, you will demand and control rather than serve and give.’ 

Instead of leaning on a failed sexual revolution in order to find a way forward on domestic violence, would we not serve our children better  if we considered a paradigm of sacrifice and service, and where living for the good of others is esteemed more highly than our own gratification?

‘Respectful Relationships’ & ‘Safe Schools’

“Respectful Relationships”

It has been positive seeing media report this week on the Safe Schools program. No matter what one thinks of the program, it is important for parents to be informed about what their children are learning in school. We want to know what direction our children are being led as they grow and learn in our schools. Indeed, where is the train going?

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Last week I wrote a piece about the Victorian Government’s plan to introduce compulsory General Religious Studies into our schools from 2017 (prep-10). While this content coincides with the removal of SRI from normal school hours, the program replacing SRI is in fact Respectful Relationships (as Premier Daniel Andrews announced in August 2015). The program was piloted in some schools last year, and is this year being implemented across Victoria.

Here is a useful and succinct summary of the program, supplied by a Government source,

“Respectful relationships education is located within the health and physical education and personal and social areas of the Victorian curriculum.

Students will develop knowledge, understanding and skills to enable them respectfully relate to, and interact with, others, as well as learn strategies for dealing with relationships when there is an imbalance of power caused by bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence (including discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality). This includes a focus on students protecting their own safety and the safety of others.”

At face value it sounds promising, until one reads the curriculum.

It is unclear what the connection is between Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships (I’m sure someone can clarify this for us). Apart from having different names, and one being a Federally funded program while the latter has been introduced by the Victorian Government, there appears to be significant overlap in the general ethos of the programs and in the material being taught. The most notable difference is this, Safe Schools is optional, whereas ‘Respectful Relationships is now compulsory (from prep-10).

I imagine (and trust) that parents would strongly support our schools teaching students about the harms of bullying and violence. Through the work of Rosie Batty and many others, the dreadful realities of domestic abuse have been exposed and spoken too, including the staggering statistics that reveal how commonplace violence against women and children is in our communities. We rightly want our homes, and our schools, to be safe places for our children.

It is somewhat ironic and disappointing to learn of parents who’ve been subjected to verbal abuse and bullying because they have publicly raised concerns about these programs. Sadly, it has become an all to common, but effective method to keep dissenting voices quiet.

It needs pointing out that our schools already have in place effective and well designed programs to teach our children common values, including respect, care and resilience. Anti-bullying programs have existed and worked in our schools prior to Respectful Relationships.

The issue with Respectful Relationships, as with Safe Schools, is that it extends well beyond anti-bullying education, to teach and encourage children to doubt their sexuality and to explore alternatives.

Here is a contents page for the first part of the course:

contents page

Here is a sample activity for students:

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In Unit One there is a session designed to:

“This session enables young people to explore the impact of particular understandings of gender on expectations about being male or female. It provides a background for the other activities in this resource. The session has been designed to enable students to explore the concept of gender and the associated notions and expectations that have an impact on sexuality. It also provides them with the opportunity to connect issues of gender to different positions of power central to adolescent sexual behaviour. The activity also aims to extend their understanding of gender by exploring traditional notions of gender in a case study that examines the experience of a young transsexual person.”

One of two learning goals for this session is to ‘identify implications of narrow understandings of gender’. In other words, it is encouraging children to explore and perhaps even identify with a view of sexuality that is not just boy and girl, or that biology and gender and necessarily connected.

The Principal of Scots school Adelaide, said of Safe Schools, ‘It feels like a ham-fisted attempt to change a culture.’ The same can be said of Respectful Relationships, only that in Victoria it is compulsory.

If parents are concerned about these programs, you may wish to your local member of Parliament. It may be helpful to talk to your school principal, and to learn what your school is doing.

I would also encourage parents to read the program materials for themselves. Finally, it is important to read this piece in todays, The Australian (Feb 10):

Eleven-year-old children are being taught about sexual orientation and transgender issues at school in a taxpayer-funded program written by gay activists.

The Safe Schools Coalition teaching manual says that asking parents if their baby is a boy or a girl reinforces a “heteronormative world view’’.

Religious groups yesterday criticised the “age-inappropriate’’ manual, which suggests that sexuality be raised in every subject area. “Whatever the subject, try to work out ways to integrate gender diversity and sexual diversity across your curriculum,’’ the manual says.

The All of Us teaching manual, designed for Years 7 and 8, says that children often realise they are lesbian, gay or bisexual between the ages of 11 and 14, while the ­average age for “coming out’’ is 16.

A lesson plan on “bisexual ­experiences’’ requires students to imagine they live in a world “where having teeth is considered really unpleasant’’. Students take turns telling a classmate about their weekend, without showing their teeth.

“How did it feel to have to hide part of yourself?’’ the students are asked. “Do you think that some lesbian, gay or bisexual young people feel that they need to hide part of themselves? How might this make them feel?’’

Children are shown short films about the personal stories of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

In a lesson on same-sex attraction, students as young as 11 are told to imagine they are 16-year-olds who are “going out with someone they are really into’’. The class is divided into students pretending to be going out with someone of the same sex, and classmates pretending to like someone of the opposite sex.

The children have to answer 10 questions, including whether they could “easily talk to your parents about your sexuality”, and to name four famous Australians of the same sexuality.

The teacher then instructs the children to stand, and slowly counts backwards from 10. Each child can sit down when the number called out by the teacher corresponds with the number of times they answered “yes’’ in the quiz — meaning that a student who answers “no’’ could be left standing in front of the class.

The Safe Schools manual ­appears to reach beyond promoting tolerance, to advocating activism by students. It tells students to defy teachers who refuse to let them put up LGBTI posters.

“If you can, it’s a good idea to get permission to put your posters up, so you avoid getting in ­trouble,’’ the manual says. “If your school or teachers say no, ask for reasons and see if they make sense. If they don’t seem reasonable, you may have to be creative about where you place them.’’

Safe Schools also advises ­students to “use your assignments to start conversations’’.

“For example, some students have chosen to do their English oral presentations on equal marriage rights or their music or art assignments on how artists express their sexuality, gender or intersex status through their work,’’ it says.

The Safe Schools Coalition suggests that schools paint a rainbow crossing, provide unisex toilets and hand out stickers to supportive teachers.

The federal government has provided $8 million in funding for the program, which has won support from the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union. The Victorian government will require all state schools to join the Safe Schools network by 2018, but the program is voluntary in other states and territories.

So far 490 primary and high schools nationally have signed up, although the list of 24 schools in Queensland is secret.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Safe Schools program was an “opt-in’’ for schools and run at arm’s length from government.

“Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment,’’ Senator Birmingham said. “The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’

A La Trobe University study of more than 3000 same-sex-attracted young people in 2010 found that 75 per cent had experienced some form of homophobic bullying or abuse — with 80 per cent of those occurring at school.

Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman Wendy Francis said the Safe Schools material pressured kids into accepting LGBTI concepts and “confuses them about their own identity’’.

She said forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Ms Francis said the material was not age-appropriate, as 11-year-old children were too young to be taught about sexual orientation and transgender issues. “A lot of children are still pretty innocent about this stuff — these are adult concepts,’’ she said.

Ms Francis agreed that bullying against LGBTI students “absolutely has to be stopped’’.

“Every child should be safe at school,’’ she said.

Safe Schools Coalition national director Sally Richardson said students at safe and supportive schools did better academically and were less likely to suffer poor mental health. “Our resources are designed to provide teachers with tools to help them have conversations with students around inclusion and diversity in the community,’’ Ms Richardson said. “We provide schools with practical ways to foster a positive school culture where students, staff and families of all sexualities and gender identities feel safe, included and valued.’’

Ms Richardson said all the Safe Schools materials — including the All of Us teaching guide — were used at the discretion of individual schools.

The principal of Scotch College in Adelaide, John Newton, said his students had “embraced’’ the Safe Schools message of support and tolerance.

But he did not approve of the lesson plan that required children to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship.

“That wouldn’t be a method we’d use,’’ Dr Newton said.

“It feels like a ham-fisted attempt to change a culture.

“Our children are well ahead of the issue and happy to talk about it — they seem to have a very mature approach.’’

Safe Schools is also used in Shenton College, an independent public school in Perth. “We strive to be a welcoming, progressive and inclusive public school,’’ said principal Christopher Hill.

“We can’t turn away from the fact that schools need to deal with these sorts of issues.’’

The Safe Schools guide cites statistics that 10 per cent of people are same-sex attracted, 1.7 per cent are intersex — born with both male and female features — and 4 per cent are transgender.