There is a new curriculum trend developing in Australia. It needs careful consideration. Published in April 2016
RELATIONSHIPS EDUCATION – PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Caution should be exercised when issues of curriculum change and add ons to school and teacher responsibility are being considered. Proposals that schools become responsible for a recent initiative, ‘Building Respectful Relations’ is a case in point. ‘Building Respectful Relations’ has been developed as a way in which children can become more aware of and empathetic toward preferences in personal relationships. The program proposes that students develop understanding and empathy toward those with gay, bisexual and transgender preferences. It is about anti-bullying and anti-discrimination.
Before proceeding, the Federal Government has moved to have the program examined by a committee. Building Respectful Relations could become a component added into the Australian Curriculum.
States and Territories should carry their own assessment of this program. The Victorian Government has already decided to embrace the initiative without waiting for any Federal Government recommendations. A curriculum approach has been authorised and may well be expanded. While schools have the right to accept and use materials wholly or in part, the program is already becoming ingrained in that state. Three units and handouts on the subject have been developed and are available online. They can be viewed by googling http://www.fuse.education.vic.gov.au and following the prompts.
In an editorial on April 15, ‘Children sexualised in school diversity programs’
The Australian cautioned that this program “…encourages adults to sexualise children and expose them to sexually explicit materials. Such behaviour violates common standards that protect children from premature sexualisation … .” The editorial adds “While high performing school systems in the Asia-Pacific focus on developing literacy, numeracy and memorisation, activists are dumbing down the Australia school curriculum. The children likeliest to suffer … are those from disadvantaged backgrounds whose parents lack the means to opt out of state schools.”
Volumes of letters to ‘The Australian’ in recent days, confirm deep concerns about this latest Victorian development. It is an initiative likely to impact on other systems, one that may well become included in the Australian Curriculum.
Introducing relationship complexities to children at too young an age is of major concern. Children need to have sufficient maturity and capacity to understand what is being presented. The intention that this program be part of the early childhood and preschool curriculum in Victoria is alarming.
Northern Territory parents and teachers need to keep a careful watch on what is happening elsewhere. At the very least, schools and individual teachers must have the option of accepting or rejecting this curriculum manoeuvre. We live in an age that abhors inappropriate conduct toward minors and intensely scrutinises the conduct of educators. If teachers, particularly males, have to work with this delicate and sensitive curriculum, it could open them up to unfair criticism and accusations of using inappropriate teaching material.