ONE of the greatest trusts Australians place on their governments is the running and funding of public education.
The majority of school-aged Australians spend upwards of six hours every school day for 13 years away from their families and in the care of the state.
So far, this system has worked well. Australia has enjoyed a tradition of balanced public education which has focused on reading, writing, maths, science, history, the arts, etc. Governments have focused their political energy on lifting the bar for student outcomes in these areas.
Unfortunately, the age of balance may soon come to an end. Its death knell will be the Safe Schools program, a divisive invention and exercise in destructive public policy.
The Safe Schools program has opened one of the most longstanding problems facing Western society. Namely that public education can be used to inject into a new generation untested and controversial ideas, and can do so without parental consent.
In a policy arena that demands scrupulous prudence, there are few initiatives that have suffered from such recklessness as the Safe Schools program.
The Safe Schools architects revealed their hand when their program was first rolled out.
They denied parents the opportunity to opt out. The online content linked high school-aged students to an online sex-toy store. And they made the dumbfounding decision to partner the Safe Schools Coalition with a Melbourne strip club.
Victoria is the cautionary tale of what the Safe Schools program hopes to become.
The children are younger, the program is more severe, and the administrators are more openly radicalised.
At the head of the Victorian program sits Roz Ward. She is an advocate of Marxist ideology. For Ward the Australian flag is a symbol of racism; our society is almost universally homophobic, transphobic and bigoted; and “Marxism offers both the hope and the strategy needed to create a world where human sexuality, gender and how we relate to our bodies can blossom in extraordinary new and amazing ways that we can only try to imagine today”.
Yes, there is no secret that the Safe Schools program exists in a broader cultural agenda. Values once considered indispensable are being abandoned. Objective truths are being rewritten. Modern trends in ideological gender theory are becoming orthodox, and the relationship between parent and child is being turned on its head.
In Safe Schools lies the idea that gender is an ineffable quality that can only be actualised by the individual, and then only after it has been discovered through happenstance and time.
It is wrong, says the Safe School, for parents, doctors, or teachers to presume a child’s gender is based on something so mundane, bourgeois and unenlightened as biology.
Children, in some cases very young children, are encouraged to assert their gendered identity. Before they hit puberty, sometimes before they can even read, kids are locked into decisions that may affect every single day of the rest of the lives.
The Safe School holds that only the blithe and bigoted and unloving person would ever question this system. The only acceptable course of action is that of affirmation.
This strikes one as an odd way of raising children. Expecting them to be the repository of knowledge while all of society is to sit quietly on the outside, passive observers and nothing more.
This is a bad program.
Many parents are rightly concerned that the debate Safe Schools has ignited might very well have a negative impact on the experience some students have at school. I fully agree.
The public curriculum should not be so controversial. The discussions had in the houses of parliament, seldom nuanced at the best of times, are unlikely to translate into the world of the schoolyard.
Bullying is an important issue for policymakers to tackle. Next year the Tasmanian Government is due to release a new anti-bullying program, which will resource schools with the tools they need to tackle bullying whenever it occurs, and for whatever reason it occurs.
It will be important that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We cannot see the new program become a Safe Schools 2.0. For the Government, the most important duty will be a return to balance.
Blake Young is vice president of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation.