Australian students starting in kindergarten will be required to study “male privilege” and how “masculinity” encourages “control and dominance” over women, as part of a new school course aimed at combating family violence.
The Victorian government is planning to blow $16.5 million on the program, despite complaints that it fails due to take into account that family violence is the result of multiple and complex factors, and that the program borders on brainwashing children.
The report evaluating the pilot program launched in 19 schools last year also found that it risks alienating men: The lessons present all men as “bad” and all women as “victims.”
As part of its broader campaign against family violence, the Australian government has released new educational material aimed at kindergarten through high school classes as a violence-prevention strategy.
The resources aim to encourage gender equality in relationships and challenge negative gender stereotypes, which are key drivers of violence against women, according to the material.
The overriding emphasis in the program is on men being perpetrators of violent acts. The lessons will introduce school students to the concept of “privilege”—described as “automatic, unearned benefits bestowed upon dominant groups” based on “gender, sexuality, race or socio-economic class.”
Curriculum guidance for the grades seven and eight states: “Being born a male, you have advantages—such as being overly represented in the public sphere—and this will be true whether you personally approve or think you are entitled to this privilege.”
In later grades, students will be asked to examine their privilege and ways that equality can be encouraged—such as special benefits or entitlements for less “privileged” groups in society.
“An awareness of the existence of male privilege is critical in understanding why there is a need for feminist perspectives, and education on gender at all,” the curriculum guide points out.
The material also introduces the term “hegemonic masculinity,” defined as the dominant form of masculinity that encourages “boys and men to be heterosexual, tough, athletic and emotionless, and encourages the control and dominance of men over women.”
The program, however, is under fire from senior educators in the country. Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies, told The Australian newspaper that it amounted to “taxpayer-funded indoctrination” of children.
He slammed the idea proposed by the program that all men are abusers, and said it’s “an idea that only cloistered feminist academics could love.” He added that “a lot of evidence suggests that like child abuse, domestic violence is a byproduct of social dysfunction: welfare, drugs, family breakdown.”
Kevin Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said the program lacks balance and objectivity. “There’s no doubt that women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence and more needs to be done,” however “25 percent of victims of family violence are men and there’s little, if anything, in there that acknowledges the impact of violence on men and young boys.”
Education Minister James Merino, meanwhile, dismissed concerns over the program, saying: “It’s astounding anyone could think teaching our kids about respect for other people is a bad thing.”