New Zealand to axe sex ed guidelines in schools after ‘woke extremism’ campaign

Key Points
  • New Zealand’s new government is a coalition between centre-right National, libertarians ACT and populists NZ First
  • The inclusion of a clause to scrap gender and sexuality education in the coalition deals ha provoked outrage
  • Prime Minister Chris Luxon said a role for parents and schools in sex ed would continue
New Zealand is set for a brawl over after the new coalition government pledged to axe the sexual education curriculum.
The sex ed scrap is just one of many areas which the new right-leaning government has signalled a “war on woke”.
Trans participation in sports, gun laws, constitutional rights enjoyed by Maori and the use of the Maori language are all in the crosshairs of Chris Luxon’s National-led government.
New Zealand’s new government – a coalition between centre-right National, libertarians ACT and populists NZ First – has already made global headlines for .
The pledge to “refocus the curriculum on academic achievement and not ideology, including the removal and replacement of the gender, sexuality, and relationship-based education guidelines” has drawn particular outrage.
“My initial reaction was dismay,” education union NZEI president Mark Potter, a Wellington-based primary school teacher, told AAP.

“The one thing our children don’t need is less education in the area of relationships and health.”

‘Woke extremism’

The inclusion of the clause to scrap gender and sexuality education, called RSE, in the coalition deals drew attention because the issue did not feature in the election campaign.
The clause has been inserted at the behest of NZ First, which scraped into parliament with 6.1 per cent of the vote as leader Winston Peters campaigned against “woke extremism”.
“Woke means like a lot of you, you woke up yesterday thinking you know a lot more than the rest of us, and got a greater sense of consciousness about these issues,” Peters said this week.

The pledges have been celebrated by anti-trans lobby groups Resist Gender Education (RGE) and Speak Up For Women, which also want the removal of unisex bathrooms in schools.

The current RSE guidelines require schools to consult with parents on what and how they teach, and give parents the chance to withdraw their kids from the classes.
Tabby Besley, managing director at rainbow charity InsideOUT, told AAP it was the only part of the curriculum structured in that way.
Besley said schools had a responsibility under legislation to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment that was free from discrimination, and RSE played a major role in that.

“If young people aren’t getting that in schools, they’re gonna be getting it from their peers and from the internet where parents don’t have control of what they engage with,” she said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Chris Luxon said a role for parents and schools in sex ed would continue.
“All that has been raised with us over the course of the last year has been by parents about some of the sexuality training,” he told journalists in Auckland.
Luxon said he wanted a “a well-defined (sex ed) curriculum, agreed to by experts, that actually makes sure that the content is age-appropriate, that parents have been consulted and importantly that parents also have an ability to withdraw”.
Potter insisted the curriculum already was age-appropriate.

“You’re not going to talk about things that alarm people at a young age,” he said.

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