The Australian government’s push to teach primary school students about consent, relationships, and gender diversity has attracted heavy criticism from parents who worry about the unhealthy impact it will have on young children.
According to the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum that will be finalised by the end of 2021, students from years 3-6 will start learning about consent and sexuality, such as setting personal boundaries, “challenging” gender identities and applying “strategies” to give permission in different situations, such as when sharing photos online.
The groundwork of giving permission like “saying no to inappropriate touching” will be laid in children as early as in years 1 and 2.
Janice Atkin, who leads the curriculum review, said that these contents are merely suggested as “a way of starting the conversation,” before the kids go on to explore sexual consent, online intimacy, breaking up, gender diversity, and pregnancy prevention methods, etc from year 7-10.
“So we want this conversation to be more than just about giving consent around sexual interactions. We want it to be about learning the skill of taking control of their bodies almost from a very young age,” she said in an online webinar in June.
“They have a right to learn and that those skills and understandings are going to serve them well not just as young people, but going into the later lives as well.”
But whether students learning those skills would suffer any adverse effects on their mentality and behaviour was not broached by any of the experts on the panel, and it should be argued, said Glenn Fahey, an Education Policy researcher at the Centre for Independent Studies.
“We don’t really have many evidence-based studies of the effects [of these programs] on the development of young people,” he told The Epoch Times, “That’s partly the reason why we should be cautious when it comes to these things.”
“The truth is that some children are exposed to different things at very different times, so having a “one size fits all” approach with the curriculum is just an example of why some of these issues are not well suited to be taught in the education system.”
While many sex education proponents claim it will reduce sexual violence and prevent unwanted health outcomes, he said “trying to draw a causal relationship with sex ed as a preventative force is very hard.”
“The causes are very complex and are related to really complex home conditions, and it’s hard to say that education is a very effective cure when it comes to these issues.”
In fact, according to a US research re-examining the evidence for CSE in schools, sex education programs can produce harmful effects on children as they can either increase teen sexual experimentation, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), number of sex partners, sexual activities, forced intercourse, or they decrease condom use in participants.
One of the main reasons include inappropriate sex ed materials, the paper revealed.
In a program that increased the rate of teen sex, secondary school students engaged in a role-play, asking each other sensitive questions such as “I think we should do more than just kissing and touching,” or “If we use a condom, it will spoil the mood.”
The research also found that most pro-sex ed studies set low or unclear criteria for measuring the programs’ “success,” such as neglecting the long-term impact on children’s behaviour. Some reviews also ignored “strong evidence” about a program’s ineffectiveness while they disproportionally reported on a “significant effect of a single study.”
The concept of sex education was first introduced to the world by Hungarian Marxist György Lukács, founder of the Frankfurt School, who saw the program as a way to expose younger generations to the idea that marriage was an outdated human construct and about the concept of free love.
Parents Pushing Back
The experts do note that the new program for early sex education, which is suggested to be performed without parental consent, is receiving “massive pushbacks” from parents.
Vietnamese-Australian mother Mai Nguyen is one of them. The Sydney-based teacher who has a 10-year-old daughter said educating kids about sex-related issues is the responsibility of parents, not the school.
“The term “knowledge” here is used as a protective shield to hide the fact that these programs will morally corrupt our next generations,” she argued.
Nguyen added that sex ed often stimulates and takes advantage of kids’ “intense curiosity” to make them indulge in unhealthy topics.
“Sex ed programs are based on the assumption that extramarital sexual activities are unavoidable. By doing this, they are normalising, desensitising, then popularising these phenomenons, eventually making them happen on a larger scale,” she said, “This is extremely harmful.”
“The solution should be teaching kids about virtue and moral aspects of marriage instead.”