GENDER THEORY A MATTER OF FAITH SAYS FAMILY LAW EXPERT
A leading family law and child-protection expert has criticised the teaching of radical gender theory in classrooms across the country, likening the “odd and unscientific” beliefs promoted by groups such as the Safe Schools Coalition to those espoused by Scientology. Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson has called for an extensive overhaul of the Safe Schools program, having taken issue with its promotion of “exaggerated statistics” on the prevalence of transgender and intersex conditions in the community to support its creators’ “belief that gender is fluid and can even be chosen”. In a research paper, Professor Parkinson notes that gender ideology, which lies at the heart of Safe Schools, has become a widespread belief system, particularly in Western countries.
With its origins in university philosophy departments rather than science, it has no place in the primary or secondary school curriculum, which is required to be evidence-based, he argues. “There would be an uproar if the beliefs of Scientologists were taught in state schools through state-funded programs,” he says, referring to the controversial religion. “Yet the belief system that what gender you are is a matter for you to determine without reference to your physical and reproductive attributes might not be dissimilar.” Professor Parkinson’s damning review comes as the NSW Education Department investigates the inclusion of gender theory in its own official curriculum, including its mandatory sex education program for Years 11 and 12.
Last week state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli asked his departmental secretary, former ABC boss Mark Scott, to look into whether there was a scientific basis for claims made throughout the Crossroads program that gender was “a social construct”, neither fixed nor binary. A spokesman for the Education Department said Mr Scott would report back to the minister’s office “as soon as possible”. Professor Parkinson’s report, The Controversy over the Safe Schools Program – Finding the Sensible Centre, which is available via the Social Science Research Network, has added further weight to concerns about the program. While originally touted as a program designed to stamp out homophobia in the schoolyard, it has divided parents, politicians, religious groups and even the LGBTI community.
Prominent transgender advocate Catherine McGregor faced a backlash when she recently spoke out against Safe Schools, claiming that it would not have helped her as a young person grappling with gender issues. Professor Parkinson is also concerned that its teachings may harm some young people. The former member of the NSW Child Protection Council, who has advised government and other organisations on matters related to child safety, says a school-wide program that normalises transitioning from one gender to another creates a risk that some children will become confused unnecessarily. “Gender dysphoria in childhood and adolescence is far too complex to be addressed by pop psychology or internet-based self-help materials,” he says.
“While a program of this kind may offer benefits for some young people, there is reason to be concerned that it may cause harm to other young people who experience same-sex attraction or gender confusion. “This is not good enough for an educational resource.” Professor Parkinson believes it is unlikely that concerns raised by the community will go away. He says politicians who have supported it based on its origins as an anti-bullying program would likely face a backlash from their constituencies unless the program was reviewed and significantly reformed. More than 500 schools across the country have signed up to be Safe Schools members, and the program has attracted federal and state funds.
HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING ADDED TO UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE EXCUSES LIST
The Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre (VTAC) has updated the eligibility criteria for its special entry access scheme for disadvantaged students to recognise the experiences of same-sex attracted and transgender students. Students in Victoria will be the first in the nation to be able to blame bullying or discrimination as a result of homophobia or transphobia for poor secondary school results, qualifying them for special consideration when applying for university. The Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre, which processes applications on behalf of universities, trade schools and private colleges, has updated the eligibility criteria for its special entry access scheme for disadvantaged students to recognise the experiences of same-sex attracted and transgender students.
It has released an expanded list of “difficult circumstances” that might prevent a student reaching their academic potential, which includes “discrimination on the basis of one’s own sexualities, sexual orientations, gender identities, sex characteristics, and/or romantic identities” as well as “bullying, harassment or negative treatment” due to “race, religion, sexual characteristics, gender identity or sexual orientation”. Special entry access schemes, known as educational access schemes in NSW and Queensland, and special provisions applications in South Australia, allow students disadvantaged by circumstances outside their control to request special consideration when applying for university.
Circumstances typically include illness, injury, natural disaster, family disruption and abuse and bereavement, and students are required to submit an application in October, two months before they receive their Year 12 results. According to the VTAC website, applications must be accompanied by a personal impact statement, a supporting statement from an unrelated third party and, in some cases, a medical certificate. While an application will not alter a student’s Year 12 results, it enables course selectors to take circumstances into account when considering a tertiary application. Victoria is the first state to single out sexuality as part of the process. More than a dozen institutions recognise the difficult circumstances category under the scheme, including Monash, La Trobe and Deakin Universities.
While the move has been welcomed by LGBTI advocacy groups, critics have voiced concerns about the unintended consequences of identity politics encroaching on the system. Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said while well intentioned, singling out people for special treatment or assistance, encouraged a “labelling and victimhood” culture. “Nobody wants to criticise anyone who’s been subjected to discrimination but people are far more that their race, religion or sexual characteristics,” Dr Sammut said. “When people don’t fit these categories and then see other people using them to their advantage, it can ultimately create division and problems. We should be worried by moves in this direction.”
Well-known transgender figure Catherine McGregor said the program risked encouraging “more victim behaviour”, which would further “marginalise the community”. She called for strict controls over the application process to ensure only those students who were substantially disadvantaged benefited. While LGBTI students who felt they had been victims of discrimination or bullying had previously been able to apply for special consideration citing “physical, psychological or emotional abuse”, a VCAT spokeswoman said the decision to spell out sexuality and gender identity was driven by school career counsellors. She declined to comment on whether any special interest groups or politicians had lobbied for the change.
EUTHANASIA LAWS IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA DELAYED AS MPs UNWILLING TO BACK WORDING
A private member’s bill to legalise euthanasia in South Australia will be delayed by up to a month because five MPs remain unhappy with its wording. Debate on the proposed law, co-sponsored by Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge and Labor MP Steph Key, was due to start last week. It was introduced to parliament in February and since then a number of amendments had been proposed to allay concerns that MPs had. However Dr McFetridge said five MPs were still unwilling to support the bill. “These were people that had initially indicated that they would progress the bill to the committee stage but then had second thoughts and then withdrew their support for that next step,” he said. “So the way around that is to introduce a new bill with all the amendments in it so it’s a clean piece of legislation”.
Duncan McFetridge said that concerns remained about the use of the term “unbearable suffering”. “Members wanted to be given the surety that the protections were in place for people who were opting for euthanasia weren’t going to be coerced in any way,” he said. “That it wasn’t going to be expanded to include people with disabilities, mental illnesses.” At least one MP, Labor’s Nat Cook, had already said she had been swayed from her original opposition to the laws. She said earlier this month that the proposed amendments to the original legislation included a requirement that anyone seeking euthanasia must have a terminal illness and their suffering must be unable to be remedied by palliative care.