DBE sets unattainable gender identity goals

Sara | Dec 20, 2022
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is going full Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) by formulating a policy based on the gender identity politics that have bedevilled schooling in the United States and Britain according to Sara Gon

The DBE is seeking to implement the praxis of Critical Gender Theory which evolved in American academia. This approach is highly contentious, subject to dispute and criticism.

‘Consultations are currently under way after which ‘a formal public engagement process is scheduled to take place’ on the ‘Guidelines for the socio-educational Inclusion of diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) in schools’. (Our underlining). The Guidelines will be published for public comment during 2023.

The note about this issue on the DBE’s website seeks that utopian ideal (unattainable goal) of eliminating gender discrimination in the same way that the woke seek to ‘eliminate’ racism or gender-based violence. They pretend that unacceptable attitudes and human behaviour can be entirely eradicated from society.

‘The focus of the discussions is the elimination of gender discrimination in all spheres of society and creating a socially conducive and welcoming environment in schools.’ No small ambition that.

Apparently, the document ‘includes pertinent questions about inclusion of sexually and gender diverse children pertaining to school admission; curriculum; co-curricular programmes; uniforms; and ablution facilities’.

All of these issues, particularly those pertaining to exclusion in admissions and the changing of curricula, suggest that these are not “guidelines”. As described, these issues suggest a rather more obligatory requirement to be met by school administration.

The Department says that it is probing relevant response mechanisms to ensure the constitutional obligation for socio-educational inclusion of sexual minorities in respect of school governance and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) across Provincial Education Departments.

What constitutional obligation is the minister talking about? There is nothing in Section 29: Education that provides for such an obligation. The only pertinent section can be:

9(3). Equality

The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

There is no requirement for the DBE to create ‘response mechanisms’ to make sure that no discrimination takes place.

One does not argue against children being educated about issues of gender and race, and  promoting tolerance. But a whole programme to remedy the problems that children with gender dysphoria or identity have, is bizarre.

Religion, belief and culture

It may also conflict with the right to religion, belief, and culture.

To address gender discrimination, the DBE should instruct school management and teachers about the constitutional provision. Schools should acknowledge that the Constitution applies even if they hold a personal objection, religious or otherwise. Staff are expected to treat children without discrimination irrespective of their personal views.

The DBE can create a module in Life Orientation to explain the phenomena, and also explain that whatever attitudes or beliefs children may have, they are expected to behave tolerantly towards other children. Any bad behaviour will result in disciplinary action being taken. The DBE should warn of the same vis-a-vis the teachers. Schools should be expected to use psychologists to assist in supporting a child.

No one, however virtuous, can hope to eliminate gender, racial, or religious discrimination. You can try, and in some cases succeed, but there are too many factors that shape attitudes in the wider society, not just the school.

Attitudes are very difficult to change. What society has to strive for is teaching tolerance and decent behaviour despite any thoughts a child may have about another child. It is only through changing behaviour that attitudes will change. Unless the DBE’s intention is to indoctrinate children.

But is it the DBE’s intention to apply critical gender theory to advance the National Democratic Revolution? ‘The document provides International and Regional Frameworks that create an enabling environment for the United Nations (UN); the African Union (AU); and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States to include diversity and inclusion in education and training. Constitutional and Education Policy mandates that protect children of diverse sexual and gender identities are also stipulated. The focus of the document is on how the education system supports schools to create safe and caring environments for all children to receive teaching and learning without discrimination or prejudice’.

In other words, Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness (underpinned by Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory) are going to be forced on our schools. I say this is indoctrination, because these are political theories, and there is no intention to teach alternative political theories. The idea is to teach children what to think, irrespective of what anyone else, including parents, may say.

The DBE’s extensive proposal is bizarre because in the grand scheme of schooling in South Africa, prejudice is a problem that affects a relatively small number of children. Teachers and administrators can be trained to manage a problem if it arises. If the school doesn’t resolve it, then the parents can approach the relevant provincial education departments.

Ablution facilities are the obvious area where the most resistance will be met.

Children, particularly teenage girls going through puberty, are likely to be very uncomfortable with unisex toilets. They need privacy, and they need to be away from the sort of inappropriate behaviour teenage boys often indulge in.

Dire straits

Educational infrastructure is in dire straits. Many schools don’t even have proper toilets, which has been a huge bone of contention, educational and legal, for many years.

The DBE is likely to face resistance for both reasons. Is it going to require better resourced schools to use after-tax school fees to create such facilities? These are intended to be only guidelines after all. 

‘Many stereotypes exist about how boys and girls should look, speak and behave,’ explained Mr Likho Bottoman, Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education.

‘Early learning environments are important places to help children feel safe and accepted, whilst being encouraged to reach their full potential as every child has a gender identity, along with their personal understanding of how they perceive themselves. In addition, there is increased inequality in schools perpetuated by racism; xenophobia; gender stereotypes; harmful gender norms; and discrimination and related intolerances, including against vulnerable populations such as the LGBTQI+ communities. The Directorate has been conducting its first leg of stakeholder consultations on the Draft Protocol for the Elimination of Unfair Discrimination in Schools and Guidelines for the socio-educational inclusion of diverse SOGIESC. Diversity, in all its forms, should be embraced and entrenched by all actors of society in the ethos of every school community.’

Mr Bottoman’s assertions require supporting evidence, and they deserve to be challenged, but they give the flavour of what the DBE has in mind.

An article by the Freedom Front Plus’s Dr. Wynand Boshoff in Politicsweb provides more detail which exacerbates our concerns. Dr. Boshoff asked questions in Parliament over a two-month period to get information about the guidelines. He has seen a hard copy of the document.

Dr. Boshoff addresses the following matters:

1.         Children who want to undergo medical procedures to prevent puberty or change their gender should, according to the document, have the right to decide to do so from twelve years of age – without consent from their parents. And schools are meant to help make this possible.

2.         These guidelines are not applicable to Early Childhood Development (ECD) because ECD centres are already participating in a purpose-  made intervention programme called “Gender Responsive Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education” (GRP4ECE), which follows a play-based learning approach. Learning materials amounting to R20 million were funded by the ETDP SETA in 2022.

3.         Groups created to help formulate policy comprise the “Social Inclusion in Education Working Group”. They are a group of like-minded organisations to which the DBE reached out, because the Department’s own ability is limited.

4.         ‘The DBE has previously attempted to incorporate civil society organisations representing family values in the working group. However, this approach to group composition proved to be a challenge due to extreme differences in opinion. As such, the DBE has opted to openly engage with civil society organisations representing family values separately, as their voice is valuable and essential in addressing discrimination and oppression of children from a family values perspective. These engagements have already begun.’ There were 27 groups involved: 3 were from government; 1 was “conservative” and the remaining 23 were either left-leaning legal centres or gay, lesbian or transgender groups of one kind or another.

The Minister is obliged to consider extreme differences of opinion. If the best that the department could do was consult with organisations that supported its views, it must expect pushback when the full document is published, and public participation begins.

[Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay]

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