The following is part of Dr Muriel Newman's "Newman Weekly". (Apologies if this is not all right, as I had trouble with transferring it from my email to this. It went all weord and computerry.)
While reflecting on education, I was reminded about the comments that are frequently made about how young people today think so differently from their parents’ generation. As a result, I decided to check out the school curriculum to see what our youngsters are now being taught and how it has changed since the fifties and sixties when I was at school and the seventies and eighties when my children were there. I have to say that I was surprised at what I found.
The school curriculum is now divided into seven essential learning areas: Language, Maths,Science, Technology, Social Sciences, Arts, Health and Physical Well-being.
Even a cursory examination indicates that there has been a dramatic shift in curriculum content in some areas. Maori language, rights and beliefs (including “the spiritual dimension of hauora”), have been interwoven into the curriculum at every level and in every area, and significant amounts of material that would previously have been considered to be political can now be found. The burning question, though, is whether or not this constitutes indoctrination and social engineering?
Firstly, to the Social Sciences learning area and Social Studies where our five year olds (Year 1) are being taught about the benefits of central planning and environmental advocacy, through talks from planning staff and building inspectors, resource materials supplied by Greenpeace and farming discussions about issues such as “concern from anglers that dairying effluent is harming fish (and tourism) in South Island rivers”.
In Science, seven year olds are asked to discuss not only recycling, but also global warming and environmental activism, eight year olds must write “a letter to the local council justifying why a mangrove swamp "should be conserved”, and twelve year olds are expected to research “the ethical implications of a current biotechnological issue: genetic engineering, reproductive technology, cancer research, HIV/AIDS”.
But the most dramatic curriculum change is in relation to those deeply personal issues that used to be regarded as family matters that have now been incorporated into the Health and Physical Wellbeing learning areas. This curriculum teaches five year olds to name all “sexual parts” of the body. By age seven, the children are taught about “gender equity”, “cultural equity”, “abuse” and “harassment”, and at eight, they are learning about “pubertal change”, the “differences in gender and in sexual orientation”, and recognising “discrimination on the basis of chronic illness, mental illness, or cultural difference”.
At age nine, they are taught to manage risks in “sexual decisions, drug use, rape, harassment, racism, sexism, and homophobia”, and at ten, they are learning about harm minimisation in relation to “rape, harassment, the use of drugs, discrimination, and sexual activity”, as well as being introduced to the Privacy Act and the Human Rights Act.
By age eleven, the children are taught “safe sexual practices and drug use”, and in one teaching unit, “Positive Puberty”, they are expected to carry out ‘group’ research on “menstrual periods, wet dreams and erections”.
At age twelve, students should be able to analyse “euthanasia, reproductive technology, abortion, racial conflict, politics and sport, poverty and unemployment, unresolved grief, child-rearing practices, and violence in sport, gangs, and families”.
To explore the curriculum yourself, go to the NZ Centre for Political Debate website where all the learning area links have been provided - http://www.nzcpd.com/