In last weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald, I read an article that stated, “Homophobic bullying rife in high school PE lessons.”
The article went on to say that a study funded by beyondblue, found 98 per cent of students had heard casual homophobia in their PE classes, while more than 80 per cent heard it frequently. Casual homophobia describes phrases such as “that’s so gay”.
More deliberate homophobic remarks – “faggot” or “dyke” – were heard by more than 60 per cent of students in PE.
There’s no question that sexuality is an area that adolescents need education around. But as was eloquently expressed by an audience member on the ABC’s Q&A show a month ago, “Sex Ed at school only teaches Straight Sex.”
If I can elaborate on that, I reckon schools only really teach straight sex, and if we’re being honest, we probably don’t do that all too well either and this is backed up by the findings of the 5th National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health that found this year that:
50% of expressed significant dissatisfaction with sex education at schools, citing irrelevance to their real experiences, lack of relationship advice and lack of discussion of same-sex issues as problems.
Professor Brett McDermott from the Queensland University of Technology and a director of beyondblue said the report begs the question, “Is PDHPE the right place to teach sexuality?”
I think this raises the question.
Are schools well placed to help in this regard? Can students really feel comfortable asking the questions they need to ask, and can teachers allow students to explore questions of sexuality in meaningful ways free from personal bias or discomfort?
Yes some schools employ outside agencies to come in and work with their kids, but perhaps we need to take a more holistic approach. Perhaps we need more appropriately qualified youth workers in schools on a regular basis to work with students around issues like sexuality, or drug and alcohol use, or even online behaviour.
I realise this is an idealistic (perhaps controversial) position to take. After all, the majority of schools don’t have a fulltime counsellor – something I still can’t fathom in today’s world.
Author: Dan Haesler is a teacher, consultant and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. His website is: http://danhaesler.com/ and he tweets at @danhaesler