Australia’s Safe Schools program was originally promoted as an anti-bullying campaign. Aimed at making schools feel more safe, particularly for children within the LGBTQI community, Safe Schools was about encouraging equality and acceptance within the education system, which is crucial for children to really become kind, compassionate people.
However, many parents are concerned with the contents of this program, and have suggested that the program is “sexualizing” children to a certain degree and introducing them to sex and porn at far too young of an age.
If this is, in fact, an issue, it’s not about being homophobic or transphobic. To be very clear, CE as an organization supports the LGBTQI community and encourages self expression and equality, and does not condone bullying whatsoever. Of course, there are benefits to this program, because it was designed to make children feel safe in school, and that’s truly incredible. The question we’re debating here is, are some aspects of this program inappropriate?
Let’s take a deeper look at the program, and then you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s appropriate.
Details of Australia’s Safe Schools Program
Implemented in 2013, the Safe Schools program has grown into a four-year federally funded program to the tune of $8 million in Australia. It was inspired by the clear need to decrease bullying and inspire schools to become safe spaces for those who are attracted to the same sex, are transgender, or anyone else who falls into the LGBTQI community. Teachers are trained, and then they can either teach the entire eight-part lesson plan or parts of it to their students, depending on what the school agrees to roll out.
Many people supported the program because it was expected to decrease bullying and mitigate transphobic and homophobic behaviour, while others staunchly opposed the very idea of the program, particularly those who fall into the “far right” side of the political spectrum, but that’s not what we will be discussing here. In this article, we will be focusing on parents’ concerns regarding specific content, because the inspiration behind the program itself was clearly well-intended and justified.
One Victorian mother filmed herself while discussing her concerns about the program, which has since gone viral. She explains that she is neither transphobic nor homophobic, but simply concerned about what her kids are being taught in school.
She explained that the children are being taught that there are 63 different genders. That’s a lot of different genders that go far beyond the original “boy” and “girl” descriptions, which concerned this mother. The program also teaches gender theory, stating that gender is only a theory and that science cannot depict your gender.
Although this is inclusive and teaches children that it’s okay to ‘identify’ with a gender outside of the traditional “male” and “female” classifications, some question whether this confuses children’s identities.
Another thing to reflect on, why are we giving so much power to our gender in the first place? Whether you’re male, female, trans, or whatever else, at the end of the day that’s not who you truly are. For example, my name is Kalee and I am technically a woman, but I’m also a human being, and underneath it all I’m just a soul living out my human experience.
Our genders don’t actually separate us, they’re an illusory difference that doesn’t actually reflect our inner being and who we truly are. Perhaps this obsession with defining our genders actually represents a deeper desire to explore who we truly are. Instead of focusing on our outer identities, perhaps we can start reflecting on who we are as individuals, going beyond the physical level.
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Perhaps the biggest concern here is whether or not the program sexualizes children. It encourages masturbation, as teachers argue that children as young as 12 are having sex and thus they need to be educated on “safer” options like masturbation. The program explains to kids different households tools they can use as dildos, one of which is an electric razor. It’s not difficult to imagine how that could go wrong.
A lot of parents had no idea what exactly the program included because children were asked not to discuss the contents of the classes outside of school. Naturally, this upset parents because it discludes them from their children’s education. However, it’s also easy to imagine how the need for a “safe space” is important, as some parents aren’t as accepting of their child’s sexual preferences, genders, etc.
A lot of parents feel their 13-year-olds are simply too young to be learning about things like anal sex and masturbation. Plus, even if parents were okay with the curriculum, they weren’t made aware of its implementation, which means teachers essentially stripped them of their ability to have the “sex talk” with their kids first.
Lastly, the program allegedly directs children toward pornography and shows them how to hide it from their internet browsing history, as one mother explained. Porn is another issue entirely, and it’s sort of ironic that an “anti-bullying” campaign would encourage the use of pornography when this is known to provoke sexual violence and distort reality and our expectations when it comes to sexuality.
How All of This Relates to Porn and Sex Culture
If you’ve never considered what the issue is with watching porn, that’s completely understandable. We live in a society where sex often becomes fickle. It’s encouraged and normalized, making it commonplace to have casual sex with multiple partners.
To understand this concept, check out the following excerpt from an article written by Brett and Kate McKay called “The Problem With Porn“:
Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. I’ve sat through plenty of church sermons where porn is approached this way. However, such a approach hardly helps men rationally think through the issue. Rather it transforms porn into an even more desirable forbidden fruit, pushes porn consumption into a secretive underground fetish, and prevents men from being honest in their need for help.
The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.
There’s no shortage of issues within the porn industry: child pornography, violence, associating pain with pleasure, rape, pedophilia, disconnection, objectification, and more. Even the U.S. government has recognized the addictive nature of porn and the issues associated with watching it. The state of Utah tried to issue a bill in response to these concerns, stating pornography is “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” You can read more about that in our CE article here.
When it comes to modern sex culture and porn, we went from one end of the spectrum, suppressing our natural instincts and sexual nature because of religion and patriarchy, to the complete opposite, running wild with it and often setting the goal to sleep with many partners. There’s is of course nothing inherently wrong with this; but our actions allows us to reflect and become more aware of our deeper soul desires, challenging us to not simply act from the mind in an unconscious state.
We witnessed a massive shift during the feminist era in regards to our sexuality and our ability to express it freely, and we’re experiencing another shift today. We’re becoming more comfortable with our sexual preferences and more accepting of the LGBTQI community, which is awesome! However, as with every issue that touches upon people’s core beliefs and values at the mind level, opinions vary widely and intensely. Does science depict our gender, is it a choice, or is it entirely dependent on an inherent feeling within us?
I believe that’s up to interpretation, but I also have to ask if it really matters if your opinion differs from another’s and if it’s worth arguing over? The most important thing here is to be accepting of other people and learn to love their differences. If you’re not transgender, how can you argue with their feelings? If you’re not attracted to the same sex, how can you argue that it’s a “choice”? We have no idea what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, and thus non judgment of others’ actions is the best way to begin to understand them.
When it comes to Australia’s Safe Schools program, it’s clearly a controversial subject, and for good reason. We shouldn’t be teaching kids to watch porn, but we should also recognize the sheer necessity of creating anti-bullying programs. Bullying is not an experience we want to encourage, and children and adults alike can benefit from becoming more aware of our actions and how they affect one another.
We’ve obviously come a long way in regards to accepting the LGBTQI community, but we still have a long way to go. At the end of the day, we are all fundamentally connected to one another, and we are so much more alike than we are different. We all deserve compassion, love, forgiveness, and kindness; things like sexual preference and gender shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to the way we perceive and treat other people!
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