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Is sex education the next target of the Australian right wing?

By James Moylan

‘The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society’, at La Trobe University, have created a sex education package for years 7 to 10 called The Practical Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships. It consists of packages of age appropriate class materials as well as the complimentary online resources.

Some of the topics explored include:

  • The truth about desire (Yrs 9-10)
  • What’s OK and what’s not OK (sexual harassment) (Yrs7-8)
  • How to get to know someone (Yrs 7-8)
  • Porn, what you should know (Yrs 8 up)
  • Rollercoaster – love, sex & relationships (Yrs 9-10)

Students who do additional online research are provided with guidance on how to access more information in safe ways. In other words ways in which they will be shielded from overtly pornographic content as well being sure that their own privacy will be ensured.

The focus of the course material is on providing basic information about sex within an ethical frame that is entirely non-controversial as it does not purport to engage in an examination of the basis of our ethical frame of reference as a society, nor does it mention any belief system at all. By focusing on the pragmatic nuts-and-bolts of the sex act, and the social interactions which are commonly associated with it, the education package manages to simply assert basic and commonly-founded moral truisms without considering the bigger philosophical and religious questions at all. Which is entirely appropriate.

In the coursework that I have looked through it is simply assumed that ‘it is bad to treat other people badly’, that ‘violence and overt hostility is wrong’, and also that ‘we are all created equal and have equal rights regardless of our race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or sexual predilections’. These moral maxims are incorporated as a bedrock rationale underpinning the provision simple and entirely pedestrian ethical instructions regarding how one might learn about and explore your own sexual personality without damaging yourself or other people in the process.

However in today’s Australian, the columnist Natasha Bita proposes that she is seriously outraged that the researchers who designed this sex-ed course would dare to include materials that ask the kids about sexual matters.

In a sex ed class? Asking about sex? How horrifying.

In an article entitled ‘Students asked about sex, masturbation’ this supposedly disinterested journalist exposes the disturbing fact that ‘the teaching guide contains a quiz for Year 7 students [that] includes the question: ‘Will masturbation make your palms go hairy?’’ Also that ‘Students as young as 12 are tested on whether they know what proportion of teenagers ‘have not had vaginal sex’ before the age of 16.’ It also dares to ask, and then answer, questions like ‘How does a person know if they are gay?’ How incredibly non-controversial!

The article focuses on one lesson in which children are instructed on how to use the internet safely and is jam-packed with such dangerous concepts advice as: ‘It’s a good idea to start at the highest level of filtering and only switch if you can’t find what you’re looking for,’ as well as suggestions on how you might cover your traces so as to leave no easily accessible record of your investigations online. How incredibly not radical at all!

Yet while not a single element mentioned in the article, or presented in any of the class materials (that I looked at for some hours) made me feel anything but admiration for the work that had gone into preparing such a well thought out package of instructional materials: the tone of the article in the Australian and the responses in the threads below it were both utterly astonishing.

‘Christine’ was of the opinion that the: ‘Only one way to describe this – SICK! And to think, the government is using our tax money for spreading this garbage and foisting it on our children. This is what happens when a society is in decline, it elects perverts and puts them in charge of spreading the malaise.’

‘Rohan’ was equally outraged, commenting: ‘Who gave these activists the mandate to destroy our cultural norms and reconstruct it in them in their image … The outcome of plebiscite on this dangerous social agenda in our schools would be a no brainer. So why do politicians allow it to continue?’

‘Iain T’ was anxious to express his admiration for the newspaper: ‘Thank goodness for the Oz reporters who are letting us know what is going on!’ he gushed. ‘These things are well kept secrets it seems. Who is pushing this stuff??’

One respondent declared that it was a Marxist plot to subvert our children, another that it was simply due to all of our teachers now obeying the orders of the shadowy United Nations Agenda 21 group and that it is patently obvious that all our teachers are actually engaged in brainwashing our children instead of educating them. There were also hundreds of other similar deranged and misguided comments. It made me positively ashamed to be an Aussie.

Apparently The Australian is now proposing that sex education is controversial. Sex education! Having been so successful in labeling the only LGBTI anti-bullying course in our schools as being ‘perverse’ and then having it gutted, the right wing warriors in our midst have now decided to come after sex education. It appears that the readers of The Australian think it is weird and wrong to discuss matters like masturbation or sexual orientation in a classroom? They propose that it is ‘perverse’ to do so? Have any of these same people even glanced at a television set anytime in the last ten years? I re-read the article three times just to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything.

No: the education package does not teach children how to build bombs. No: the education package does not preach hatred or bigotry. In fact, it does exactly the reverse. No: there are no disreputable political references included, or injunctions to take up arms against the state. In fact in the sex-education package is only a lot of information about sex, and information about how to get more information about sex. Nothing else.

It is obvious that the views of The Australian, and those of the majority of its readers, simply do not reflect what the vast majority of other Aussies think or feel about sex-education. Most Aussies are more than happy to discuss all sorts of things to do with sex. It is not the average Aussie who has problems with sex, it’s just a tiny group of evangelical and puritan religious folk amongst us. Plus a few old and largely decrepit right-wing warriors. In other words a group of people who don’t have sex or even like sex. Now, apparently, they don’t want any of the rest of us to have any sex either. Not even in the missionary position. Or talk about it.

The majority know that children will experiment with sex regardless of how much they have been taught about it. The majority also know that restricting information regarding sex will actually damage a small segment of our population in extremely significant ways. So the majority think that sex education is a terrific idea.

I just hope that the majority will also be willing to fight the minority anti-sex brigade this time on behalf of sex education remaining robust and free of religious nonsense. This is because unlike the anti-bullying parts of the curricula, sex education is a central and significant element of the modern educational landscape. If we allow the religious and political zealots amongst us to eliminate sex education then you can be sure that this will not be their final demand. It will be just the beginning. After all, until we run our whole society in a manner that accords with their perverse and distorted version of reality, then their demands will just keep on coming.

First anti-bullying. Then sex-education. Then physics, geography, history etc.

So NO! Sex education is here to stay. It serves an important purpose. Which is a whole lot more than you can say for the religious right wing in our country. They seem to do nothing but bully and intimidate the most vulnerable and helpless elements of our society just because they firmly believe that they have the right to tell all the rest of us on what we are allowed to do with our own genitals.

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20 comments

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  1. passum2013

    This could be fun Once it was priests then nuns some School teachers But I learnt From Randy Girls At primary school playing show and tell also drs and nurses it was a fun way to start sex then in the local drain penny for a touch 2 pence for a look and 1 shilling for the real thing pocket money from being a paper boy did not last very long but it made my miserable life happy knowing it was very taboo.

  2. Jack Russell

    Healthy minds lead to healthy behaviour and, if vested interests object to that, then they are sorely in need of re-education on this matter themselves instead of continally attempting to institutionalise their own abberations.

  3. keerti

    I believe that it is way passed the time that the death cults (catholisism and other forms of christianity) and their superstitious, uneducated adherents were given compulsory re-education.

  4. Carol Taylor

    Yes indeed, keeping children ignorant of sexual matters always worked so well..as evident by the number of teenage marriages and ‘six month’ pregnancies during times of Puritanism.

  5. kerri

    As a teacher I have had to teach sex ed as a part of the science curriculum.
    The first time was way more nerve racking than the first time I actually had sex!
    In staff meetings we discussed the age appropriateness of the various aspects being taught.
    It was realised that contraception was being taught way too late at year 10, and needed to be taught at a much lower year level.
    We needed to get the nuts and bolts stuff over way before kids hit VCE where sexual activity was quite common.
    I haven’t been in a classroom, let alone a staff meeting for 25 years!

  6. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Sex education and sex discussion is essential for each generation.

    Uncle Rupe’s MSM need to focus on the benefits that Uncle Rupe enjoys for being an octagenarian with a new 3rd partner despite the later legal battles expected when he meets the Devil.

  7. Jack Russell

    I think that kids who ask the questions should have the answers, no matter what age they are. If they are ready to ask, then they are ready to hear it. The other part of that is that the questions are asked in a guilt-free and transparently curious manner and should be answered easily and factually, and in full, within in the context of the question. If this begins early, then so be it.

  8. Rossleigh

    In a nutshell:

  9. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    I support the Safe Schools Programme. It is partly funded by the federal government but Simon Birmingham’s staff did not reply to a request for details of funding trends. Keep up the good work, James!

  10. margcal

    Keerti, however relevant, or not, your comment might be elsewhere, my reading, supplemented by word finder, could not find the words ‘catholisism’ (sic) catholicism or christianity anywhere in this article.
    However, your broad sweeping bigotry is on display. But George Brandis says that’s OK. So that’s OK.

  11. margcal

    After thinking about it, I’ve unfollowed the AIMN on facebook and via my RSS feed reader.

    As I said on a post very recently, I am finding it just too depressing reading good articles about how bad the LNP is and yet 50% of surveyed people say that’s who they’ll vote for. A young friend “liked” the Liberal Party on fb today. She is a normal sensible person, well educated, responsible job, ‘average’ pay. But with a mortgage, husband employed but on a low wage, and two little children, she and her family will be worse off under a LNP government. Too, too depressing.

    But the final straw was Keerti.
    There are many reasons to condemn religious people and religions. But last time I looked we still had freedom of religion in this country – freedom to believe, freedom to not believe. Many adherents to all sorts of faiths (not just Christian ones) do far more good than their highly publicised appalling compatriots. Yet, to some people, to have a religious faith makes you fair game for their criticism, regardless.

    I say to the bigots here, and some of you are bigots, that many Christians support exactly the same things you do, as written right here on this site. Most do “not” follow their leaders blindly.
    If you cannot make a good argument against a legitimate target but instead opt to be lazy and insult “all” people of faith, you are a bigot and to be a bigot makes you no better than those you criticise.

    And it beats me, as I’ve also said before, what you think you will gain by being so offensive to people who are on your side.

    I’ll be putting Liberals last, of course, but I won’t be sharing good, and sometimes excellent, AIMN articles any more. Pity.

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Yes margcal,

    I have also felt stressed today by the feeling that my feelings

    – or my lack of decorum has lost me the good friends we have on AIMN.

    None of us have the total answers. At least AIMN gives us a voice to speak.

    Please don’t go. I appreciate your input.

  13. Gangey1959

    Margcal. Please don’t go. We all need all the help we can get.

  14. Garth

    @margcal….for what it’s worth, and if you are still reading these comments, I’ll add one more voice saying please don’t go. There is no reason to tar the whole AIMN site and readership as bigoted because of what a minority might say (I am making no judgement as to the intentions of those commentors). I enjoy reading your feedback to articles and a diverse readership can only be a good thing for a progressive site like this. Please don’t go.

  15. James Moylan

    Margcal:

    “After thinking about it, I’ve unfollowed the AIMN on facebook and via my RSS feed reader.” –

    It is always terrible disappointing when someone decides to remove themselves from the discussion rather than argue their case. Normally this sort of behaviour is employed by people who do not want to engage with a subject honestly. After all there are oodles of things said on AIMN that I disagree with but I won’t take my bat and ball and go home.

    “And it beats me, as I’ve also said before, what you think you will gain by being so offensive to people who are on your side.’

    In the above article I take aim at ‘right-wing Christians’. And not just all right-wing Christians – just those who lobby to change our way of life to suit their ideology and theology. How does this apply to you?

    I am not on anyone’s ‘side’. I do not take ‘sides’. I barrack for plain speech and confronting ideas that are equally offensive to everyone, I take aim at the left-wing as well as the right-wing and sometimes even the centre. That is what a social commentator does. I am an equal opportunity grouch – but never a bigot. My criticism is always a reaction to actions, words, and ideology.- never a general perception regarding the attributes of a particular group.

    So I did find it a bit odd that you might feel ‘offended’ by any element of my article. The harshest words in the piece were at the end and upon reflection I would not change a single word: “They seem to do nothing but bully and intimidate the most vulnerable and helpless elements of our society just because they firmly believe that they have the right to tell all the rest of us on what we are allowed to do with our own genitals.” Every word is true, however I most especially was not talking about ALL Christians otherwise I would have said ‘all Christians’ instead of ‘right-wing Christians’.

    However, all that being said,, if you find such mild criticism to be ‘offensive’ then perhaps the social media is not for you? It would be a pity to see you go as I have noted your comments on quite a number of articles. If reading articles on the AIM makes you unhappy then perhaps you should leave?

    However IMHO happiness is all about being able to interact with lots of other people regardless of their opinions – and still see them as being interesting and exciting people despite these differences .

    Religion will not buy happiness, nor will money.
    Happiness is largely born of spontaneity, humility, and other people…

    *The value of a coin*

    I need to buy some happiness
    Perhaps about a pound
    Then the same again of silliness
    Should be enough to go around
    Plus three dozen warm embraces
    A crate of happy days
    A sheaf of reminiscences
    And a long contented laze
    Then a week of morning birdsong
    Two hundred quiet guffaws
    A bunch of feeling that I belong
    Plus a quart of kitten snores
    A smile for every morning
    A salve for all my fears
    Plus one sense of general wellbeing
    That will last for many years

  16. townsvilleblog

    I wish people would get over calling people bigots or racists because they express an opinion that differs from your own. These particular people may have had an experience that you haven’t had and are venting their spleen for good reason. I find these days people are quick to judge others. I am a devout ‘leftie’ on most subjects except Muslim immigration, which I feel is not compatible with Australian society. I suppose I will be drawn and quartered for that particular belief, but, so be it. It is still a ‘free’ country where people are entitled to their own opinion, who knows it may cause some of you to reflect on the last few years in recent history:

  17. Juggernaut

    Shaun,

    Yes, “bigot” is one of those handy little pejoratives that people use in place of an argument. Leftist SJWs are becoming a touch obsessed with its use, making them, ironically, bigoted. But true bigotry involves the dimension of unfairness or baselessness or irrationality. I don’t find your concerns over Islamic immigration to possess any of those qualities, necessarily. They may be problematic, but not bigoted.

  18. Pilot

    These so-called right wing christians are anything but followers of Jesus. They really are a bigoted lot who will preach their own word, not the word of Jesus. They truly are a disgrace and as a christian, I do not support their views. NONE! If it come from the likes of Bernardi, Brandis, Abbott, or any other lunatic right-wing FOOL, then, to me, it is nothing short of LIES. They are LIARS.

    I have atheist friends, moslem friends, Jewish friends. I respect them all, we debate, we argue, but our friendship has never been questioned

    True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ our Saviour, respect, love and assistance. The ludicrous misfits of the LNP (cohort of the damned) preach hate, hate and more hate. They preach abuse, bullying, intimidation and lies. They quote from misguided old testament writings. History even Jesus had a problem with.

    The LNP are so far removed from true christian teachings, they belong in some other religion, not Christianity!

  19. margcal

    Yes, I’ve been vain and curious enough to see if there was any reaction to what I wrote.

    James Moylan – You misunderstood what I wrote but Jennifer Meyer-Smith did not – thank you Jennifer.

    Your response sounds like you didn’t read “properly” what I said at all.
    I was referring to comments such as those by Keerti, above. “Not” your article. I have no problem with that.

    As a disaffected Catholic but still a Christian, I have argued my case here on several occasions, as regular commenters will attest, trying to be reasonable and courteous. I am happy to agree to differ with those who argue in similar manner.

    There were objections here and elsewhere to George Brandis’s proposition that we have the right to be bigots. Well, if you can’t call out bigotry when you encounter it, George was 100% correct.

    If Keerti’s comment is not bigotry, what is?
    If Keerti has had some awful experience or any other reasoned argument – where is it?
    How do you argue your case in the face of vitriol, un-reason and lack of factual argument?
    Keerti and a small number of others here are the one’s not prepared to argue their case, not me.

    I will remain unsubscribed for the time being. I dare say I’ll look in closer to the election.
    But for now I don’t want to be further depressed by the rightness of the articles here and what can only be called the success of the LNP in that they maintain 50% of the preferred two party vote.
    And I don’t want to see the bigotry for a very long time. I can always check George Christensen’s facebook page if I feel I’m missing it.

    I won’t comment further but I couldn’t let pass James Moylan’s response to my comments. His response would have failed the year 12 comprehension test back in the day when I was at school in that he completely misread what I wrote.

  20. RT

    The The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society relies on poor statistics including staistically invalid low response rates, non randomised studies, loaded questions and basically rubbish pop psychology research to push their ideological barrow onto my children. And no, I don’t even go to church much except at Christmas so feel free to call me a right wing Christian if that makes you feel better.

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