Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sex Education in Australia - Current Trends



Background


The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is an independent body responsible for development of the national curriculum. Most recently it released the draft Health and Physical Education curriculum which made headlines around the nation due to the inclusion of a framework that introduces puberty in years 5-6.


ACARA initially tabled puberty for inclusion in years 3-4, but pushed it back to years 5-6 after respondents representing Catholic education expressed concern that this was too early.

In conjunction with the draft release, the media ran stories of “research” that found a majority of high school students wanted sex education to begin during the primary years. One particular study surveyed 100 high school students from Ballarat in Victoria, with just over half responding in favour of sex education during primary school. 


“Students want sex education earlier”, headlines proclaimed.[1] But 100 students is hardly a cross-section. 


In Randy Engel’s well-researched book, Sex Education - The Final Plague, the author challenges the concept of classroom-based sex education completely, whether in all its gory public school detail, or in its “values-rich” imitation of the Catholic system.


Engel’s challenge is that of the Church. And as ever, our Mother the Church has taken great care in providing careful instruction on the matter of education in human sexuality.




Church Teaching




“Parents should take an interest in the moral catechesis which is given to their own children outside the home and use it as a support for their own educational work. Such catechesis must not include the more intimate aspects of sexual information, whether biological or affective, which belong to individual formation within the family.”[4]


“Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.”[5]


“Fathers and mothers have a natural competence to instruct their children with regard to sex. False modesty should not deter them from doing their duty in this regard. Sex is one of God's endowments. It should not be ignored or treated as something bad. If sex education is properly carried on in the home, a deep reverence will be developed in the child and he will be spared the shameful inferences which he often makes when he is left to himself to find out about sex. We protest in the strongest possible terms against the introduction of sex instruction into the schools.”[6] (emphasis added)




History


More than just a simple presentation of the biological facts of reproduction, sexuality education is commonly defined as “the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy.”[7] (emphasis added)



Catching On Early, Victoria’s sexuality education resource for primary schools, affirms this: “Sexuality education is ‘bigger’ than biology, bearing social dimensions that can impact on

students’ need and right to know how their bodies function.”[8]


The Sex Information and Education Council for the United States (SIECUS) was founded in 1964 to advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services.[9]


Prior to SIECUS though, there were literally decades of campaigning and positioning by population control advocates, abortion law reformers, social elites, medical professionals, educators and even religious leaders that made it easy to transition from family-based moral formation to comprehensive sex education – and to transform the latter into what is now widely accepted as a vital component of a child's academic formation.


All of these early campaigners understood the impact that sex education has on individuals and societies, and they worked to ensure its implementation and success. 


One such campaigner was Alan Guttmacher, M.D., the president of Planned Parenthood and a signatory to the Humanist Manifesto II, which, among other things, affirmed the ‘right’ to birth control, abortion, divorce and euthanasia.[10]  When Guttmacher was interviewed following the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade case of 1973, he was asked how Planned Parenthood (America’s largest abortion provider) would uphold the Supreme Court’s decision.



“The only avenue Planned Parenthood has "to win the battle,” is sex education,” he said.[11]







“Catholic” Sex Ed



Generally speaking, there are two types of sex education that are considered acceptable (by differing groups) to teach in schools. The first is referred to as comprehensive sex education; the second as abstinence education.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that the aim of abstinence education is to prevent pre-marital sexual activity while the aim of comprehensive sex education is to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Abstinence education is often faith-based, with a focus on marriage as the only proper context for sex. Comprehensive sex education teaches that casual sex and sexual experimentation is normal activity for teens and focuses on STI awareness and prevention and contraceptive familiarity and know-how.

Because comprehensive sex education is glaringly evil, Christians have been led to believe that abstinence education is not just the lesser of two evils, but a good and healthy alternative.

All of this assumes that it is acceptable that sex be turned into a subject for academic study.

From a Catholic perspective, neither programme is acceptable. Both reject the premise that sex education is the sole domain of parents. There are even “Catholic” sex education programmes which take sex education away from parents and place it in the hands of curriculum writers and teachers whose moral views are often less than truly Catholic.

These so-called Catholic ‘chastity programmes’ are humanistic at best, scandalous and indecent at worst. In her 1986 Love and Life abstinence curriculum for Catholic schools in the US, Coleen Mast included an explicit description of the sex act, a guide for “values clarification” and displayed a distinct lack of reverence for sexuality.[12]
 
Today, the Tasmanian Catholic Education Office, in its version of a sex education programme, Growing Towards Wholeness, states: “It is the duty and the privilege of Catholic school communities to form students towards mature, healthy and loving sexuality.”[13] (Refer to Church teaching above: The parent’s rights in matters of sexuality education are never forfeited or transferred to another person, and certainly not to a school.)

The framework policy goes on to state that, “Teachers make prudent, informed judgments about the content of programmes in relation to the individual needs and capacities of their students.”[14]
 
Even if classroom based sex education didn’t usurp the rights and responsibilities of parents, it is highly unlikely that teachers in a large classroom setting would have the necessary insight to make an informed judgment about the developmental stage of each child in relation to such a sensitive and morally important issue.

The Year 7 framework of Growing Towards Wholeness covers puberty, with a glossary of terms including conception, contraception, erection, ejaculation, nocturnal emissions and menstruation. Year 8 students look at the definition of consent, fertility and contraception. Year 9s look at STIs, sexting and teen pregnancy, while it is suggested that a school may call in experts to speak about natural family planning to senior students.[15]
 
One might have assumed NFP education should be reserved for engaged or married couples.
Remember, this is the “Catholic” version.

It is true that abstinence education is also a motivational programme, which focuses on the family as the central unit of society, encourages chastity and teaches students to “attain self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity”.[16]

But chastity education is a matter of grace and formation, not just information. It is an entire way of life that should be modeled by parents first and foremost and included as part of a “whole life” approach to a child’s upbringing.

Engel points out, “If Catholic schools were teaching traditional doctrinal catechetics… there would be no need for a separate course on chastity. Generally speaking, references to sexual morality, covered by the 6th and 9th Commandments, should, in a regular course of religious study, neither be emphasized nor under-played, but rather treated within the total context of traditional Church teaching, which includes the Commandments, the theological and moral virtues, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Beatitudes and Sacred Scripture.”[17]



Where We’re At



ACARA’s attempt to lower the age at which the topic of puberty is introduced is indicative of the relentless assault against children that seeks to break down traditional values, desensitize children and turn innocence into a myth.



In 2010, a Monash University researcher spent 5 days in a Victorian childcare centre trying to gauge the sexual knowledge and views of the 3-4 year olds at the centre. Dr Mindy Blaise asked the children questions like, “Are you a flirt?” and “Have you ever kissed a boy?”

Blaise believes childhood innocence is a myth and says she intentionally brought a topic into the preschool that adults usually ignore.[18] Never mind that parents might “ignore” this topic because they don’t think it a necessary part of their preschooler’s education.



This kind of research and educational theory is informing the development of curriculums and changing attitudes.


Future Developments

Tasmania is one state that is taking sex education to a whole new level of heinous.

The current Tasmanian Minister for Education and Skills, Nick McKim, became Leader of the Tasmanian Greens in 2008. Launching the Relationships and Sexuality Education Strategy (RSES) in October of this year, McKim stated his intention “that all government schools from K-12 have relationships and sexuality education programmes that include all students.”[19]
In contrast to Catholic Church teaching, the Tasmanian Department of Education states in its RSES that “Relationships and sexuality education is a shared responsibility between schools, government and non-government health agencies, parents and the wider community.”[20] It is unclear exactly what role the wider community should have in educating children about sex.
Further into the Strategy, it states: “A commitment to support young people; including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI), is integral to an inclusive approach and should be reflected in a school’s policies and practices.”

Throughout the document, the writers refer to ‘development-appropriate’ support, resources, frameworks, content. How does a curriculum provide ‘development-appropriate’ content? How does a teacher provide ‘development-appropriate’ information tailored to each student in a class? How can a teacher ever hope to know a child so well that they can tailor a curriculum to each student’s needs?

There is something you can do

There is more at stake here than avoiding teen pregnancy.

When tragedies occur, one of our first thoughts is of how the survivors will fare; how they will be doing in 2, 5, 10 years. We know too well the long-term effects that tragedies can have on the psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being of those involved.

Similarly, we cannot afford to neglect the long-term effects of sex education on our children. We cannot afford to think that a sex ed class is just one or two short periods, that it is just a simple presentation of biological facts. It is not. Sex education is now about helping young people to discover and utilize the “safest” expression for their individual sexual “choices”. 

The sex education movement is based on a dangerous and powerful ideology, and has the potential to affect children for life. It has the ability to create an attitudinal shift towards human sexuality that will cause spiritual, psychological and often physical scarring.[21]
There are two things we can all do right now:

  • Contact your local bishop and discuss what is being taught in the Catholic school your children attend. An Australian bishop has verbally admitted that part of the second collection taken at Mass each weekend likely goes to fund sex ed in the Catholic schools of his diocese. It’s important to know where our tithe goes.

It is vital that we are aware of what our children are being taught. The concepts discussed and materials used in classrooms are all accessible via the Internet or from our child’s school.
We must defend our children in this battleground. It is our God-given right and responsibility. 

© Eva Whiteley 2013





[2] The Pontifical Council for the Family The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality – Guidelines for Education within the Family, 8 December 1995 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_08121995_human-sexuality_en.html Accessed 11-12-12

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Pope Pius XI Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri on Christian Education, 31 December 1929
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri_en.html Accessed 10-12-12

[6] Catholic Bishops of the United States Statement The Child: Citizens of Two Worlds, 17 November 1950 http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/resources/child.htm Accessed 10-12-12

NB: this description was used by Australian researchers in their paper published May 2012: Bernadette Duffy, Nina Fotinatos, Amanda Smith & Jenene Burke (2012): Puberty, health and sexual education in Australian regional primary schools: Year 5 and 6 teacher perceptions, Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, DOI:10.1080/14681811.2012.678324

[8] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/teachlearn/student/catchingoneyrsv.pdf p. 3, Accessed 16-12-12

[9] SIECUS Mission Statement http://siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=472 Accessed 17-12-12

[10] Kurtz, P. and Wilson, E. 1973, Humanist Manifesto II http://www.americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_II Accessed 16-12-12

[11] The Evening Star and Daily News, 3 May 1973 http://uscl.info/edoc/doc.php?doc_id=91&action=inline Accessed 16-12-12

[12] Engel, pp. 115-117

[13] Introduction to Growing Towards Wholeness, Tasmanian Catholic Education Office, p. 7 http://www.catholic.tas.edu.au/Resources/documents/Growing%20Towards%20Wholeness%20Final%20Draft.pdf Accessed 11-10-12

[14] Ibid. p. 13

[15] Ibid. p. 15

[16] Family and Youth Services Bureau Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Programme Fact Sheet, 6 April 2012

[17] Engel, R. Sex Education – The Final Plague, TAN 1993, p. 156-157

[18] Blaise, M. Kiss and tell: Gendered narratives and childhood sexuality; Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 35 No 1 March 2010, pp. 1–9




[21] See Miriam Grossman’s article HERE for further information about the physical and emotional effects of sex education.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Sexualisation of Children is Big Business



Liz Hurley has come under fire from child protection groups for her new line of children’s swimwear.

Many of the designs are modeled off her adult swimsuits with an emphasis on minimal fabric, low rise and plunging neckline.

The Collette Bikini on Hurley’s website is described as “great for girls who want to look grown up.” Despite the fact that it’s a bikini of scant proportions, parents are told to “rest assured” that their little girls are “still well covered”.

The Mini Cha Cha Bikini, designed for under 8s, is described as a choice that both teenagers and younger girls will love. There seems to be no contradiction in Hurley’s mind about marketing the same product to two very different age groups.

The lifestyle photography for the children’s swimwear is provocative and is styled on Hurley’s own lifestyle shoots, albeit without the ample bust.

For $79 a piece, parents might expect some vestige of sun protection, but it’s unlikely these little numbers will come with a rash vest.

No. Hurley is a business woman. There will be no fa├žade of modesty, safety or commonsense to cover these designs.

*Website accessed 18 September 2012 - www.elizabethhurley.com
 
© Eva Whiteley 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Start Putting Children First

Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee
Regarding: Paid Parental Leave Scheme Bill 2010

Back in February when Abbott attempted to trump the Governments proposed Paid Parental Leave scheme, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Australian Women, Marie Coleman praised the move, believing Australia lags behind the international community’s standard for paid leave and that six months is the minimum required after the birth of a new baby.

"Indeed the scientific data on child development and the need for parental bonding would suggest that 12 months would be ideal," Coleman said.

Indeed.

Despite Unicef’s recent warning that placing a baby in childcare before the age of 1 can lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior during primary school, the Government continues to award women who return to work and ignores the needs of the majority who choose to stay at home with their children.

According to leading child psychologist and parenting author, Steve Biddulph, children under the age of 3 should not be placed in institutionalized childcare, but should remain in the care of a close relative, as formal or institutionalized daycare situations can lead to separation anxiety, emotional vulnerability and stress.

So the Government continues to ignore the mounting evidence in favour of full-time parent-administered childcare during the formative years. And the Government continues to ignore the 79% of 18-34 year olds who, in a recent Galaxy poll, voted for equal funding for all mothers.

Considering that unwaged mothers represent the majority of those who receive financial assistance in the child-rearing years, one might have expected the Government to be slightly more concerned about where their votes are coming from.

Please abandon this discriminatory and detrimental scheme in favour of a universal childcare endowment which assists all families equally.

© Eva Whiteley 2010

Pornography = Negative Sex Education


Educators have finally begun to discuss the damaging effect of pornography on young people.

In their interviews with 140 young people, Dr David Corlett and Maree Crabbe found that violent, graphic and sexist pornography is being widely accessed by teenagers. Accessibility to pornography has been exacerbated by high internet usage, social media addiction and imported video games.

Corlett and Crabbe developed a documentary out of the interviews and hope to use it as proof that pornography provides “negative sex education”.

And with 92 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls between the age of 13 and 16 having viewed pornography online, it is Australia’s most dominant sex educator.

For years, educators have noticed and acknowledged disturbing increases in eating disorders, coerced underage sex and low self esteem. This research is the first major look at how pornography might be affecting the increase. 

© Eva Whiteley 2012