EDUCATION MATTERS: Relationship and consent education: Always Necessary, but Never Sufficient
By Dr Gerard Gaskin, Executive Director of Catholic Education Tasmania
In 2022, news sources announced that consent education would be mandatory in schools across Australia, after education ministers from around the country had unanimously agreed to implement a so-called “holistic and age-appropriate consent curriculum”(SBS Feb 2022).
So, what is consent education? Consent education is usually included as part of Respectful Relationships programs.
Consent education programs are proposed as a way of to reducing rape and various forms of sexual assault, by requiring consent from each person in any sexual activity.
However, these programs make no distinction between sexual relations within marriage and extra-marital relationships.
Consent is proposed as the only standard we should use to judge whether a sexual act is right or wrong, legal or illegal.
In Catholic morality, consent is necessary, but not sufficient, to make the sexual act right or wrong. It is the long-held teaching of Christ that sexual activity is only legitimately expressed within the loving relationship between husband and wife.
In April 2022, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) published its commitment to, “strengthening the explicit teaching of consent and respectful relationships from F–10 in age-appropriate ways”.
Let’s be clear, age-appropriate or not, this means that according to Federal curriculum requirements, children are to be taught that any form of sexual activity is OK provided both persons give consent. Note too, the ACARA also says that consent education must be taught explicitly.
It is difficult to imagine how such complex and bewildering sexual information could possibly be taught to little children in any way that could ever be considered as age appropriate.
The sexual and moral formation of the child is the exclusive right of parents. Only they are entitled to judge how much information about sexuality their child needs, and at what stage of their development it should be given.
Yet, the Federal and State governments appear to have decided that such highly sensitive, amoral and potentially harmful information must now be provided by teachers and that it must start in the first years of schooling.
This places an unreasonable and unacceptable demand on our teachers.
As a registered system of schools, Catholic Education Tasmania (CET) has always been committed to meeting and/or exceeding all standards of compliance with all Federal and State curriculum requirements.
Needless to say however, CET reserves the right to question and challenge any educational prescriptions that would impose such an anti-family and secular ideology on our schools, students and families.
CET has engaged Jonathan and Karen Doyle, highly respected Catholic educators, to support our teachers with appropriate and faithful Catholic resources to promote respectful relationships and to promote the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of marriage.