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The gender agenda

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Friday, 17 June 2005

A NSW school teacher has created a public furore after asking Year 9 students to imagine that they lived in a world where heterosexuality is the exception and, as a result, they were surrounded by gays and lesbians.

Apparently, the teacher’s aim was to prompt students to imagine what it would be like to be a minority group and, hopefully, to teach them to be more sensitive and accepting of different sexual practices and lifestyles.

Should parents be concerned? If the NSW teacher’s actions were an isolated incident, then parents would have little to worry about; unfortunately, this is not the case.


The reality is that governments and teacher groups around Australia, for some years, have pushed the rights of gays, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people on the basis that there is nothing wrong with such lifestyles.

The Australian Education Union is a strong advocate of a politically correct approach to gender. Under the heading “Sex Education,” the union's policy paper argues that gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education and that such learning should be "positive in its approach".

National and state English teachers' associations are also strong advocates of alternative sexual lifestyles. Since the late 1990s, conferences as well as official publications have sought to undermine heterosexuality by arguing there is nothing special about traditional approaches to gender.

One edition of the English teachers’ journal is entitled Gender and Sexuality and includes articles such as: “Boys and Literacy: Exploring the Construction of Hegemonic Masculinities” and “Only Your Labels Split Me: Interweaving Ethnicity and Sexuality in English Studies”.

In the first named paper, the rationale for teaching gender issues is "to initiate students into an active and effective exploration of alternative versions of masculinity".

Most parents are happy for their children to develop a traditional sense of what it means to be male or female. But English teachers are told that they must help students recognise "the various ways in which gender categories are tied to an oppressive binary structure for organising the social and cultural practices of adolescent boys and girls".


As a result, traditional literature, such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, is attacked for promoting heterosexual love and books, such as The Magic Faraway Tree, and traditional fairytales, such as Jack and the Beanstalk, are attacked for presenting boys as physically assertive.

As argued in a primary classroom resource, entitled Fracturing Fairytales, traditional tales, "present powerful images of gender-specific roles, and, in particular, negative female roles and the attitudes, beliefs and values inherent in them need to be critically examined and challenged".

Education Queensland is also a strong advocate of this politically correct approach to gender issues. The department’s Internet site dealing with gender and schooling urges teachers to “examine and challenge existing gender and power relations” on the assumption that it is better to have “culturally diverse masculinities”.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at

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