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Posted by Philip on 1 June 2015, 11:13 am in , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gender neutral education recommendations a huge step forward

The Ministry of Education's new curriculum guidelines released last week, aimed at improving sex education and diversity for students, seem almost too good to be true. Actually they are, because they are not mandatory.

Recommendations for non-gendered uniforms, same-sex partners at school balls, reviewing toilet spaces and making sport less gender-specific are no-brainers in our day and age — actually they've been no-brainers for decades.

These guidelines show surprisingly courageous change leadership from the Ministry. But there's always some right-wing plonker, who purports to represent the moral majority, ready to go into bat for the status quo (as I posted about recently).

This time it's Family First's, Bob McCoskrie, wading in with the ridiculous argument that "uniforms are part of life. There are places where there are certain uniforms that women wear and ones that men wear."

As for his understanding about reviewing toilet spaces, Mr McCoskrie says this is "confusing and unrealistic."

"If Johnny goes to school and decides he wants to be a girl that day, does that mean that he uses the girls' toilets? Does he change with the girls before P.E and play in the girls' soccer team? That's recipe for confusion."

I often wonder, when the media publishes statements like this, whether there's a reporter or editor chuckling to themselves, delighted to show how stupid idiots like McCoskrie really are. You would hope so. Sadly I suspect they're just trying to balance the story.

And, as sadly, that so-called 'moral majority' will read it and agree, because they're as stupid as he is.

For me, blogging about this kind of stuff is slightly double-edged. I enjoy the public sharing of my views, however narcissistic that may be. But I know I'm preaching to the converted. The majority of my readers share my values so I'm unlikely to change many attitudes.

What I can usefully do, perhaps, is to suggest ways to support this seldom-seen leadership. Guidelines and recommendations like these are rare. They are in peril of gathering dust on shelves, being ignored by schools who don't wan't to be to 'out there', and being sunk by that loud moral voice that thinks it represents everyone.

So, can I ask you to do something to help these guidelines create the change for which they have the potential?

  • If you're a teacher or parent, will you contact your principal or Board of Trustees and let them know just how important these recommendations are?
  • If you're at a dinner party and someone argues uniforms are a part of life, can you ask why they think that is? Could you perhaps suggest that uniforms are only a part of life because human beings made them such — and we can change that? And if you can't quite go that far, just point out that, if they look around, they'll see many non-gendered uniforms — like at retail outlets, in the military and in the police.
  • Finally, please don't perpetuate McCoskrie's two most stupid beliefs: that reviewing toilet spaces means letting boys go to the girls toilets for a perve; and that gender diversity is something that happens for a day. The potential for change, you can say, is to make all bathrooms standalone, unisex and accessible. Then you can let people know that the realisation that your biological gender is different from your gender identity, especially as an adolescent, is hard enough without knuckleheads like McCoskrie minimising it as a whim.

These are examples of small steps we can all take. Combined they are an opportunity to take a huge step forward in respecting and encouraging young people and their diversity.

Thank you.

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