school-books

ADVOCATES have raised concerns over the Federal Government’s planned review into the national school curriculum following the appointment of an educator with a history of criticising LGBTI people to co-lead it.

Last Friday Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced plans to overhaul the school curriculum, despite state and territory authorities agreeing to a new one in 2010 after five years of discussion led by the independent Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.

Pyne said the current curriculum focused greatly on progressive issues, particularly in history subjects, and was “not recognising the legacy of western civilisation and not giving important events in Australia’s history and culture the prominence they deserve, such as Anzac Day.”

Tasked with the new review were University of Queensland professor and public policy academic Ken Wiltshire and Education Standards Institute head Kevin Donnelly, who was also the former chief of staff to Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews and former education consultant to tobacco giant Philip Morris.

On the institute’s website last November, Donnelly wrote: “The history curriculum, in addition to uncritically promoting diversity and difference instead of what binds as a community and a nation, undervalues western civilisation and the significance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and way of life.”

In a 2005 opinion piece for News Weekly, Donnelly argued it was wrong for students to learn anything about LGBTI issues.

“Welcome to the gender wars. Since the mid-to-late 70s, much of the education debate has centred on the supposed disadvantage suffered by migrants, working-class kids and women,” Donnelly wrote.

“More recently, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people have become the new victim group.

“Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of GLBT people unnatural.”

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby’s Jed Horner told the Star Observer that the appointment of Donnelly was of a concern considering the current national curriculum already downplayed LGBTI issues, with the latest PD/H/PE curriculum being developed failing to mention HIV, STIs and the words gay, lesbian or bisexual.

“We are concerned by the seeming politicisation of health and physical education, including sex ed, in Australia,” Horner said.

“We call on the Federal Government to create a responsive health and physical education curriculum, that is informed by genuine research and dialogue. Young LGBTI people do not deserve to be treated as political footballs.”

In response to the concerns, a spokesperson for Pyne told the Star Observer the review will involve wide consultation and was also open to public submissions until the end of February.

“The reviewers have been specifically asked to ensure the curriculum is balanced and offers students an appropriate degree of choice and diversity, meaning differing community views will be given appropriate weight,” the spokesperson said.

“The Australian Government is strongly committed to raising awareness about important LGBTI health issues such as HIV.”

The review led by Wiltshire and Donnelly is expected to take six months to complete.

INFO: Submissions to the review can be made at www.studentsfirst.gov.au

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