SOUTH AUSTRALIA : by Paul RussellNews Weekly
Sex Education course leaves parents fuming
, July 12, 2003
A new sex education program developed by SHine SA (Sexual Health information network and education - formerly Family Planning SA) is being trialled in 14 South Australian schools in an initiative organised by the State Education Department.
The program's effectiveness will be evaluated by La Trobe University's Centre for Sex, Health and Society. We understand that, following the evaluation, the program will be introduced into all South Australian schools with the possibility of expanding later into other states.
Talk about teaching sex in the classroom has the potential to raise the angst of parents - that's nothing new. One of the differences with this initiative is that the Education Department and SHine SA have attempted to hide the teachers' manual from public scrutiny by stamping its cover with the injunction: "Not for distribution or citation". Parent worries
This has been a red rag to parents and parents' groups across the state who have wondered legitimately exactly what it is that they're not supposed to see.
It was not until Family First MP, Andrew Evans, tabled the documents in the State Parliament, that the content could be scrutinised for public comment.
The program targets children from 11 to 15 years of age in the school years 8 to 10. It covers subjects under headings such as Puberty
, Respecting difference
, Love, Attraction and Desire
, When things go wrong
and Sexual health decisions
The introduction claims that, "Relationship and sexual health education is best taught within the school curriculum by the class/health teacher", a statement that many parents refute; claiming correctly that theirs is the primary relationship for such discussions.
This underlying belief suggests that parents are not capable of instructing their own and seems to be the principle used for a "lowest common denominator" approach in the instruction and methodology employed in the manual and ancillary material. Further, the program implicitly suggests that our young people are incapable of controlling their sexual urges - chastity and "Saying No" are not suggested as an alternative course of action in any reasonable way.
Parents are also concerned about much of the content of the Teachers' Manual - to say that the program is "too much - too soon" would seem to be an understatement. In one place, students are introduced to a range of "scenario cards" and instructed to imagine themselves as the person described. Suggestions include: A young Asian man who is gay; A bisexual young man in a steady relationship with a young woman; an 'out' young lesbian who is a successful TV star, etc.
Parents want to know why their sons or daughters should be imagining themselves as these persons; especially considering that any suggestion they might imagine themselves as happily married with children is notable by its absence.
An exercise intended to, "explore ways young people can have close intimate/sexual relationships without having penetrative sex" is set out for discussion by the use of scenario cards. There are forty cards ranging in subject from "give or get a hug" to "touching or sucking breasts" and "masturbating each other". Safe?
Under the fallacious title "Safe Practices" students are asked to arrange another set of cards into the categories: Safe, Unsafe
, and Safe only if
. In groups the children consider such activities as anal intercourse, oral sex and use of a sex toy for arousal. Once again, truly safe practices such as chastity and monogamy in marriage are absent.
Many would say that the descriptions above of what is in the Teachers' Manual are bad enough - yet many also consider what is absent from the program to be far worse. The lack of discussion of abstinence is one glaring omission.
The information on sexually transmitted diseases is also seriously lacking in its detail. For example, the discussion on HIV/AIDS fails to mention that AIDS leads to death. Condoms are said to prevent the spread of STDs yet the fact that some diseases may be transmitted by contact with the genital area alone is not mentioned.
This issue has been the subject of a series of meetings organised by concerned parents around the state. On each occasion, the Premier, the Education Minister, SHine and school representatives have been invited to put their side of the argument.
The invitations have been declined on every occasion. Is it any wonder that parents across the State are angry and feel betrayed when the supporters of the program are refusing to answer their questions?