When journalists miss the mark (or, does Kevin Donnelly still want to brand gay people?)

This article from the Sydney Morning Herlad’s Gareth Hutchens highlights the fact that in Kevin Donnelly’s 2004 book he argued that sex education classes should be taught by heterosexual teachers because “many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural”.

Now there is no denying that this is an abhorrent sentiment on behalf of Donnelly (and given the book’s pedigree, by implication an abhorrent sentiment tacitly endorsed by Malcolm Turnbull and the Menzies Research Centre). Beyond the blatant bigotry of the attitude, the policy implications are downright totalitarian. Consider for a moment that in order to ensure that only ‘straight’ teachers teach sex-ed, it would require a policy of forcing all teachers to disclose their sexuality to their employer, in effect have it recorded as one of their ‘teaching qualifications’, and then having teachers actively denied the capacity to do their job based on their sexual orientation.

And then what happens if there is a school in which ALL of the qualified health/PE/Sex-Ed teachers happen to be gay? Does the school force someone to teach the topic outside of their subject knowledge? Now I understand than in Christopher Pyne’s world anyone who has ever had sex is arguably an expert in sex education (and therefore someone who has engaged in unsafe sexual practices who has contracted one or more STI’s is an expert above the rest!), but really, would Donnelly rather have someone with limited knowledge of sexual health issues teach the class and risk a poor quality of education (after all, what does his ‘Education Standards Institute’ webpage have to say about the issue of teacher quality and qualifications?) rather than have a trained teacher lead a class because they happen to be gay?

There is no denying that such sentiments are the semi-rational ravings of a fevered mind that likely fantasises about a world in which homosexuals must wear yellow arm bands to allow easy identification.

But there is a more concerning issue here about the level of account to which this article holds, or doesn’t hold, Kevin Donnelly.

The fact that he published those sentiments in a book book ten years ago is not news! Ten years ago the public attitude toward homosexuals in society was very different to today. While Donnelly’s views were bigoted and extreme,  they would have found much more sympathy among the unthinking Australian public,in a world where same-sex marriage wasn’t even really a topic of discussion and TV shows still featured blatantly camp gay stereotypes as comic relief. The world has come a long way on acceptance of homosexuality in society since 2004, and so it is not unreasonable to ask whether or not Kevin Donnelly’s views of the issue might have also changed. But the article does not ask that question.

Also, at the time Donnelly published that book he was not really anybody to pay attention to. This book appears to be his effort to clutch some public notoriety by courting controversy at the same time that he was planning a run for Liberal party preselection. But in 2004 the response ‘Kevin who?’ would not have been unexpected.

What IS relevant, and what the article kind of dances around, is the fact that, now, Donnelly is one of the two appointed heads of the Australian Curriculum Review, and what SHOULD be news is the story of whether or not Donnelly stands by his previous statements or is willing to distance himself from them.

Does the current head of the Australian Curriculum review still hold to views of homosexuals that, if implemented in policy, would require a public branding of homosexuals that would make Nigerian anti-gay extremists go weak at the knees?

Does the head of the Australian Curriculum review still hold views on homosexuals that would place bigotry and prejudice at a higher value than an individual’s academic qualifications and professional capacity to teach a subject?

Or does the head of the Australia Curriculum review recognise that in the past he has spouted hateful utterances that belie an ignorant disregard for individual human dignity, and is he willing to go on record stating that many of his previous publications no longer reflect his views, and thus meaning that for someone whose primary contribution to public discourse has been to espouse his own opinion, that in effect his entire public profile is no longer valid and people should just ignore him as they would any old man spouting bigotted statements in public?

If a reporter were to put those questions to Donnelly and then report on his response, or refusal to give one, now THAT would be news.

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Filed under Education, Just Add Logic; Won't Hold Water

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