Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Herald reports: "Anti-abortion group barred from schools"

In August of last year I commented at this blog on a report by Sydney Daily Telegraph education writer Ms Maralyn Parker on a conception/pregnancy/&c. education programme, run by Mr. Bruce Coleman, for use in New South Wales schools. The Saturday Sydney Morning Herald provided information on the latest development:

A LIFE education program created by an organisation with ties to anti-abortion groups in Australia and the United States was endorsed by the NSW Education Department for use in public schools. But since the links were raised by the Herald , the department has banned the group from visiting schools and announced a review of the processes that led to its approval.

The Wonder of Life (Before Birth) was approved by the NSW Department of Education and Training in March to be taught in years 5 and 6 as part of the personal development, health and physical education curriculum. However the program's creator, Bruce Coleman, has strong links to anti-abortion groups here and in the US.

Mr Coleman is a former executive director of the anti-abortion lobby group, NSW Right to Life, a member of the management committee of Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party, and an unsuccessful CDP candidate at the 2004 election.
Now let me make clear that I am opposed to children receiving instruction in these matters from their respective schools and at such a young age. I think that instruction in these matters is, in normal circumstances, the inalienable duty of the child’s parents. (I say ‘in normal circumstances’ because exceptions might arise in the case of, say, a widow who entrusts the task of informing her young son in these matters to a trusted male relative or family friend e.g. the boy’s godfather. But I cannot imagine how it could be licit to have a virtual stranger instructing a mixed class in these matters in a purely biological, ‘ethically-neutral’ context, and at a fixed time which takes no account of the fact that any given child might be more or less mature than his classmates, though I suppose that there is a place for it later on, in non-co-ed science classes at high school, when it may safely be assumed that the child knows the facts of life already.) But it’s interesting nonetheless to consider what this says about the N.S.W. Education Department. Let’s see what the secularists have to say about sex education and Mr. Coleman’s programme:

An expert in sex education in schools, Associate Professor Anne Mitchell of La Trobe University, said it was entirely appropriate for children in years 5 and 6 to be taught about conception, pregnancy and life in the womb.
The fact that a La Trobe University “expert in sex education in schools”—i.e. an expert in corrupting children at as young an age as they can get away with—is all in favour of this sort of thing ought to alert parents happy to shirk their duties in these matters to the immorality of what is going on. But I digress. Prof. Mitchell then says that

"[her] problem would be if it's put in an ideological framework, if it's being used to influence people's thinking about abortion."
But by this criterion there should be no problem with Mr. Coleman’s programme, because

In an interview with the Herald, Mr Coleman said the program was "very much biology", that he "doesn't get involved in the politics at all" and does not mention abortion "in the primary context" because it is "not appropriate". However, when abortion is raised, he responds by "explaining to them the value of life. I just state clearly that abortion is the taking of an unborn life", he said.
And as Ms Parker noted in her report last year, the programme doesn’t even make any mention of abortion. So this is about excluding someone because of his connections and opinions, despite the fact that he (Mr. Coleman) does not seek to foist these opinions on the children. Now the article notes that a “spokesman for the Department of Education and Training said it was reviewing how the program was approved”. Will there be a concomitant investigation into the pro- or anti-abortion views of every N.S.W. late-primary-school teacher? Does the Department intend to enforce a policy of strict neutrality in teaching on matters related to abortion, requiring strongly pro- or anti-abortion teachers to step aside?

Surprisingly, Monday’s Herald contained two letters criticising the Department’s decision and none supporting it (perhaps some might be published in the days to come, though there is none in today’s edition). If the letters editor was prepared to devote space to two letters, both anti-abortion, then that would seem to imply—given that a pluralist paper such as the Herald would usually print one pro- and one anti- letter if it intended to print two letters on the one subject—that either that the Herald received no pro-abortion letters, or that the pro-abortion letters received were in some way unsuitable for publication. Interesting. Anyway, here are the letters, published under the heading “Children need to be told”:

The abortion lobby is obviously worried that children may be getting the scientific facts about human foetal development without the correct ideology ("Anti-abortion group barred from schools", June 13-14). They must think that if educators show respect for the developing child, children will be more likely see human life as a continuum from conception to death, and be less likely to believe in any absolute right to abortion. And we can't have that, can we? One wonders if the Herald would be so assiduous in detecting and advising the Education Department about links between educational material and pro-abortion suppliers.

Joanne Russell Clovelly

An educational organisation has been banned from schools, not because it is teaching anything scientifically inaccurate, but because it has inappropriate political associations. If someone who is teaching the facts about what goes on in the womb happens to be associated with the Christian Democratic Party, he gets gagged. Why? Because the abortion debate has nothing to do with scientific content, but populist ideology.

This ideology allows the Department of Education to decide which educators are approved, not on their content but on their outside political affiliations. This is nothing but political and ideological prejudice.

Mike Southon Waverton

Reginaldvs Cantvar


matthias said...

Experts are just drips under pressure,and are so confined to their fields that they tend to lose sight of the bigger picture,and remain in their silos. Afterall it is 'experts' tnat have given us climate change fascism

Anonymous said...

Good letters in the SMH, Pole.

Secularists are profound hypocrites.

And yes, sex ed ought to be taught by the parents at the time which seems most appropriate for each child. Upper primary school age is not bad, in answer to the direct questions of the child. But a classroom? No! In mixed sex groups? A thousand times, No!