Toxic newspaper columnist Miranda Devine’s outlandish concern over a new program designed to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools has created a nonsensical front page story today.
The Proud Schools program, being trialed in twelve high schools across New South Wales, simply aims to spread the message that diversity is OK and encourages conversations around homophobia and the use of anti-gay slurs – even the widespread use of terms like ‘that’s so gay’ to mean something best avoided.
“You have the right to be proud of who you are and you have the right to be safe at school,” says the program, which was based on a similar one trialed in Victoria and gained cross-party support in NSW.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, Devine points to concerns from several Liberal MPs who believe the program goes too far when it calls for heterosexuality to no longer be portrayed as the only ‘norm’ for relationships.
“It’s not up to academics to dictate attitudes to society via indoctrination of captive children in classrooms, and it’s irresponsible of politicians to allow them to do so,” Devine opined.
She also sought a comment from notoriously anti-gay NSW Upper house MP Fred Nile, who can never resist putting the boot in. “I’m totally opposed to the brainwashing of high school students, especially when they are going through puberty,” he said, labeling the program “propaganda.”
Devine has a history of wading in unhelpfully on LGBT issues – which culminated in her most embarrassingly irrational opinion piece of last year, where she wrote that Finance Minister Penny Wong’s new baby with her female partner was symbolic of a ‘fatherless society’ which results in situations like the London riots.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann is among those who’ve been quick to blast Devine’s views this morning. “Her attempt to stir fear about the Proud Schools program will fall flat because the fact is, people have grown up on this issue – it’s time she did as well,” she says.
“The rest of us have moved on from the days when people thought being gay was somehow abnormal. It’s ‘60s era thinking and Ms Devine should catch up.
“Unfortunately homophobia in schools is still a big issue, with homophobic abuse and bullying causing significant distress and harm to young people. That’s why programs like Proud Schools exist in the first place – to make sure young people understand that same-sex attraction is perfectly normal.”
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has today also defended the Proud Schools pilot program, which he says is helping to assist schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students.
Recent national research highlights the impact of homophobic attitudes on young people, including the fact that about two in three same-sex and gender questioning youth reported they had been verbally abused, and that one in five had been physically abused.