Wednesday, April 29, 2009

AWARE and sexuality education

The AWARE nonsense has opened a can of worms. Recently we found out per courtesy of the cat fight that the Ministry of Education had outsourced sexuality education to AWARE!!

Errrmmm....why? Have they taken leave of their senses?!! I got nothing against the association per se, and they are free to do whatever they want to do...but for the MOE to outsource something so important to a organization with liberal gay-lesbian leanings?

I think the MOE has to tell us more than just provide vague motherhood statements about the suitability of the guidelines etc etc. Senior Minister of State S Iswaran was quoted as saying "GET your facts right on what is happening in Singapore schools when it comes to sex education, and do not base comments on 'innuendo or information received on the fly'." Well, he's absolutely right. But SMOS Iswaran, how to get the facts right if you don't tell us the full facts? What I think you should tell us SMOS Iswaran, are:

a] Who actually vets the contents? And I mean the full contents, not just the headings and vague motherhood statements.
b] How do you select the teachers of this 'sexuality education'? And what their sexual values and leanings are, especially with respect to homosexuality?
c] What is the MOE's stand on homosexuality education in schools? Please be specific, and no motherhood statements about "value-based decisions etc", whatever that is supposed to mean.

I think the public and all concerned parents have a right to know.

* Let me make my position very clear on this issue. I don't really care what people do in their own time and in their own lives. In the end they have to deal with their own God, gods, or lack of... And it's their own choice and decision. What I absolutely reject is the right of a small militant group of people who have chosen a certain variant path to dictate to the majority (school children, for God's sake!) that their choice should be the norm.

19 comments:

auntielucia said...

Hi Giga: Thank you for putting the ball back in the Govt's court! No one cld have said it better. I've had emls fm several Xian friends who just yada-yada on but baulk when I suggest they write directly to PM, Minister for Education n their MP with their questions, concerns!

Incidentally, try this link which purports to show the training stuff Aware pushes out to the kids...
http://voicethread.com/#q.b468061.i0.k0
Have a great May Day! (May Day! May Day! for better thinking fm the Govt?)

gigamole said...

Yeah...it's scary when you wonder how the MOE can get so way off course. I hope it's not because of the national strategy to chase after the pink dollar.

But this thing blowing up may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it has flushed out some of these issues which had been previously swept under the carpet. It's like cannot talk about it, otherwise you would be discriminatory and non-inclusive. Not politically correct.

Decriminalizing something is not the same as making it 'normal' or mainstream which is what some of these militant groups (abetted by the MOE)appear to want to teach our kids.

glassbox said...

The whole argument on sexuality education like what gigamole pointed out earlier is really between liberals and conservatives.

For for that, I would like to say the argument in Singapore at this point is between militant and insidious liberals and the complacent reasonable conservatives.

Why militant? Death threats are terrorist type activities aren't they? Insiduous - these liberals know S377A makes it illegal for male homosexual activities but says nothing about female homosexual activities. So what other better way to corrupt the minds of our young impressionable children. Not forgetting, subtle character assassinations deployed on our national papers that target only one side.

Complacent - Yes, the vast silent majority is to be blamed on this, including MOE. Complacent because of misplaced trust in our government institutions to look out for our future and perhaps even our individual security - quite akin to misplaced trust in our financial institutions. Note the consequences. Reasonable - sometimes, when there is a war - especially when militant gays are involved, reasonableness becomes a weakness. My personal experience with engaging in a reasonable discussion with some on forums has turned out that their immediate response is that of labelling and rudeness. Personally, I wished that the new exco would be a little forthcoming but then, Sun Tsu Art of War strategy tells you that sometimes less is better. Only time can tell if the reasonable part is going to help.

Its definitely scary when you think that its so possible for a small vocal, militant liberal minority can be allowed to hijack agendas at national level. I seriously hope that the silent majority will stop being reasonable, less complacent and start taking back control of what they treasure - before its lost.

gigamole said...

Glassbox,

Unfortunately that's the situation in every sphere of activity. There is almost always a strident vocal minority who claim to represent the views of a relatively silent majority. For the most part the issues are not that critical and important so there's a lot of space ofr the vocal minority to ventilate.

In this case I think the issues are very important because it affects the community value system. If unchallenged, such minority deviant views will be assumed to represent the community interests. So really more people should speak out. One doesn't have to be confrontational or abusive to make a point. A note to the MP is a good idea, or even to the Minister.

leon said...

I'm not really sure I follow you assessment of what's happening here. While well intentioned, it looks decidedly one-sided.

First on what's going on in MOE, alot of people have been calling for proof or evidence of this supposed homosexual indoctrination that's going on in schools. So far, beyond various unsubstantiated speeches, and emails, no real evidence or proof have been produced. On the other hand, MOE has come out to explicitly state that whatever the rumors were, MOE has had no complaints so far and that people should get their facts right. Now, our government is many things, but inefficiency is probably the last thing you'd characterize them as.

Taking a step back, we arrive at this very curious situation. We have a small organization of women who are claiming that homosexuality is being encouraged in schools or taught in some way. Surely, the burden of proof in any claim lies on those who claim it. Admittedly this is something right out of the court room and is not necessarily a rule in real life, but i would suggest that it's really just common sense. If, for example, I were to accuse you as secretly having 3 legs and 4 arms, the first person who has to produce any evidence about said extra limbs would be me. The new AWARE exco in their claims about homosexual education has done nothing substantial so far beyond the claim of a senior lawyer (who is well beyond the schooling age) that such things are happening in school.

On the other hand, we have the MOE, possibly one of the biggest poster boy of political corrrectness (my textbooks have always been populated by this surreal and happy mix of races)telling the public that these things are not happening. The burden of proof isn't on the MOE, since they are not claiming anything. Which is why I would take issue with your demand for an explanation from the MOE.

Would it clarify things and put people at ease? Perhaps. But until substantial evidence has been put against it, the MOE has not onus to do anything about these claims. Otherwise, any crackpot claiming that the MOE is a breeding ground of terrorism would be granted a full review of the MOE curriculum, which might contain confidential information. Yes the ministry is ultimately answerable to the public, but if the ministry were to entertain all kinds of groundless claims, then our education system will be incapacitated.

@auntielucia
That's an interesting find, but hardly any kind of convincing proof that homosexuality is being taught in schools.

1) This is admittedly just a personal impression, but the way the material is written seems more attuned to adults than children. I'm not quite sure that some of the issues inside there are stuff that students can relate to. However, I will assume that this is indeed the thing that the trainer is reading out to the secondary schools (we should remember that it's being taught to teenagers, school children =/= primary school).

2) Even if on the assumption this is the actual course material, it is hardly the "Gay booklet" that everyone is having fits over. The meat of the thing is devoted to other issues like how to use a condom, sexual identity, how to REFUSE sexual advances (something which cannot be further away from the degenerate morals that gays are portrayed to have). Yes there is a line or two here that states a very neutral take on homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, but if we were to be honest about it, that kind of stuff can be covered in less than a few minutes.

So where is the "hey be gay" message that everyone is afraid of?

On a personal note, I am quite amazed at what kids are learning these days. I think it's a very asian thing to want sex to be a hush hush affair, and so alot of us are going to read with some difficulty that this AWARE group is bringing in dildos to schools for students to practice wearing a condom on.

However let's not mix up this unease with some kind of homosexual agenda going on. In fact the message of the syllabus seems very clear: sex can be healthy, but do not let yourself be sexually harassed or coerced into having sex. This has nothing to do with gays or lesbians, who warrant nothing more than what looks to be a footnote.

And while we're uncomfortable with school children handling dildos, well i'm sure everyone can agree that learning what is a condom and how to use it is extremely important especially if you're a teenager with ranging hormones (and for the record, i think the straits times has done several surveys on the matter which put the "de-virginity" age right smack in the middle of the teen years).

leon said...

Forgive me for going on like this, but I'm going to sneak in just one more comment.

I think if anyone is being militant here it is the conservatives from the fundamentalist christian camp. They are, after all, the ones taking over organizations on a basis of their personal beliefs. Unfortunately too, they are the small vocal minority trying to represent the greater religious community's views. If anything, we should encouraged moderate religious people to comment since they can act as a mediating force.

The "liberal" camp on the other hand was really just minding it's own business until this whole mess came along. It is them i would accuse of being complacent, not the conservatives. IT would do use well to remember that the whole gay issue was not brought up by anyone in the supposed "liberal" camp, but rather it was the new exco who first accused AWARE of harboring a homosexual agenda.

Hence, i think any accusations of the "liberal" camp being militant here are quite unfounded. I pause to note however that whoever is issuing these death threats is not representative of anyone and should not be painted as the "liberal camp." If a group were indeed colored by one person, then one could say that conservatives are inherently intolerant, bigoted people who lie on national television - a statement that I would never try to associated with those who have expressed their views there.

gigamole said...

"On the other hand, MOE has come out to explicitly state that whatever the rumors were, MOE has had no complaints so far and that people should get their facts right. Now, our government is many things, but inefficiency is probably the last thing you'd characterize them as."

Truth of the matter Leon, is few people complained to the MOE because few people knew what was going on. Now that some of this has been flushed out into the open, you have a flood of complaints. Can the MOE claim now no one has complained?

So perhaps there has been too much misinformation. Perhaps we have been led astray by the new guard,... or even the surreptitious agenda of the old guard.

Time now, isn't it to clarify the situation?

So what is the MOE stand of teaching about homosexuality? If neither old or new guard are objective about this, how can they teach a neutral position about the subject? What constitutes a neutral position anyway?

Now that the public is aware (couldn't resist that)the MOE should use the opportunity to be fully transparent about this and assure everyone. Put the detailed curriculum out for everyone to see, as well as the credentials of the people who have been recruited to teach this. The public needs to be reassured that the teachers are are wholesome family based individuals who do not represent any minority interests.

leon said...

I find it difficult to believe that no one knew what was happening when at any point before this a child could simply have gone home and told their parents what happened in school. Yes, kids might not talk all the time, but this program has been in place for a long time and if any of the truly concerned parents from the christian bloc had but heard the slightest whisper of homosexuality being encouraged in schools, they would have gone straight to the Ministry earlier.

As for the sudden "flush" of complaints, I would suggest to you that most of them are just parents worried about their children. Many parents are probably like yourself, simply calling for the MOE to clarify matters against the possibility of this happening in schools, and without an actual substantial complaint. As objective as we might all try to be, a parent's first responsibility is their child, and once that is in the equation logic necessarily takes a back seat.

Sensibly looking at this, how many of these parents are actually from the affected schools? (AWARE only teaches a small handful) And from the pool of parents who actually have kids in the affected schools, how many actually have a substantial complaint? If they have a substantial complaint, why hadn't they complained earlier? Surely AWARE, during this time of confusion, hasn't been conducting further workshops that suddenly give rise to these fresh complaints? And if these are really substantial complaints from past sessions, how did the parent suddenly find out from their child now, and not previously?

All these questions would caution us against treating these new complaints as some real treat that is happening in schools. With respect giga, parental responsibility should resist the temptation to venture into paranoia.

When you look at it objective giga, you are choosing to believe the unsubstantiated claims by a bunch of women you never head from against the MOE, which we call can acknowledge as having provided world class education for Singaporean children.

And as to the neutrality of the old guard on the topic of homosexuality, again you are allowing the unfounded representations of the new exco to affect you. The old Aware has been consistent in their message of being neutral to homosexuality, and the course material reflects this suggesting homosexuality as an alternative and not conventional lifestyle. The new exco challenges this view, but again, it has offered very little in the way of proof.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is a very civilised and intelligent thread. A breathe of fresh air.

I am a concerned parent. For a list of disparities between the actual CSE and Aware’s CSE Trainer doc, you might want to check out what voice0freason wrote.
http://comment.straitstimes.com/showthread.php?t=19461&page=28

Aware is definitely up to no good. No good at all.

gigamole said...

Hi Anon,

Welcome to the discussion.

The problem here, as has been pointed out in other parts of the discussion is that the proof of wrong doing/intent, or the lack of, cannot really be produced by either group without a detailed investigation. So far there has been a lot of hearsay, and deductions based on reading between the lines.

But yes, I think there is enough 'evidence' to call for a certain amount of suspicion of AWARE's agenda. Whether this 'suspected agenda' was there from the very beginning, or whether they drifted from the original mission (as the new guard tactfully suggested) because they began to attract members who were of liberal pro-gay leanings, who can tell? The current reality is that there are adequate (I believe) reasons to be suspicious. And that's all there is at the moment. And perhaps that's all that's really required to ask MOE to review the situation. If it were a red herring, let it blow all over.

I suspect though it will not blow over. The controversy globally remains vibrant and strident, and there is no reason to expect it would be any less.

The gay community feel victimized, and there's no denying that as a community they may have legitimate reasons for feeling that way. The conservative lobby feel that the militancy of the gay community erodes core values, (perhaps to rapidly for them to accept)and is forcing the community to go down roads that they do not want to go.

Two important points:
a] protecting gay rights (non-discrimination) is not equal to promoting gay values, or 'normalizing' gay values in society.
b] Other women issues are more important and pressing, and these should not be ignored. The obvious danger in these series of catfights is that the legitimate causes have have become the collateral damage in the battle for turf.

Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly!

Anonymous said...

I remembered an incident at the hospital a few years ago. A young man in his early twenties was admitted for panadol overdose. I was seeing another patient nearby and overheard the conversation between this young man and the female house officer (HO)who was attending to him. She asked him why he took an overdose and after a long pause, he replied "relationship problems". I guessed the HO was trying to be helpful, because I heard her asking the patient if his "girlfriend" knows he had been admitted and whether he needed any help to contact his "girlfriend". The patient kept quiet for a while, eventually he told her "i'm gay, it's my partner, we've been together for 12 years." The HO appeared uncomfortable at his revelation, and quickly hurried over the remaining parts of her clerking, pretending not to have heard what the patient just said. At the end, the HO made a routine "psy" referral for "suicide risk assessment". That was how I got to speak to the patient subsequently and was informed that he had been suffering from depression for a number of years. He had impulsively taken an overdose after an argument with his live-in partner. He confided that theirs was generally a loving relationship and his partner had been very supportive of him all those years, despite the challenges of recurrent relapses of his depression. He remarked that he would've "died long ago" without his love and understanding. At the end of the interview, he shyly told me that his partner had just SMSed him from downstairs and would be coming up to visit, and asked me if that would be alright. I told him that would be no problem at all as I had completed my interview.

I'm recounting the story because all too often, as doctors, we make the fallacious assumption that our patients are always heterosexual. In fact, another medical colleague told me recently he didn't understand why some people have to state that a patient is "heterosexual" on the clerking sheets. To him, stating a patient's sexual orientation is silly because every patient is heterosexual until proven otherwise.

The heterosexist (even homophobic) views of some medical colleagues underlies the importance of sexuality education from a young age. Even amongst doctors, there is a surprising ignorance of the concept of "sexual orientation". There is a lot of fear about gays infecting our younger generation, as if an innate psychosexual trait is capable of being imitated, learnt or spread from one person to another. There are doctors who speak of homosexuality as if it really were some kind of a habit or addiction that you can pick up from others, or worse, a disease.

Like how women used to be in the past, the homosexuals are a largely oppressed and despised group in society. Due to ignorance, there is a lot of fear and stigmatization which leads inevitably to marginalization. Gay youths suffer a higher risk from self-harm behaviour and suicides compared to their heterosexual counterparts. This is not from their sexuality per se, but from the sense of alienation, and for some, from overt harrassment from classmates and homophobic school bullies. As doctors, I hope we can help this particular sub-group of our patients by decreasing the stigma, rather than by adding to it.

As a mental health professional and a parent myself, I have absolutely no problems with the stance made by AWARE's sexuality course on homosexuality, which is fully in line with position statements currently held by major mainstream Mental Health and Paediatric Organizations in the world.

In fact, I would feel that, given the extent of ignorance and misconceptions of our generation, the course would do even better to further emphasize to our younger generation the importance of tolerance and respect for others who may be different, as well as to provide more community resources and guidance for the counselling of gay and lesbian youths in Singapore, which is sadly lacking.

I would also like to draw reader's attention to a website for parents of gay and lesbian children called "SAFE SINGAPORE" which was founded by a well-respected colleague in the medical field. Do read her touching story as a mother of two gay sons.

If one day, my child comes to me and say "i'm gay", I would know what to say to him. For sure, it wouldn't be "son, gay is a negative thing".

gigamole said...

There is always a bit of a problem following Anonymous' line of thinking especially as there are so many of you who are anonymous... :)

But yes, I know where you are coming from. It is always easy to take a black-white position when you are distanced from the problem, and you can sit in 'judgement' over the people who are affected. When the problems come closer to home, the perspectives inevitably change. Sometimes this may be doe to having to deal with a clinical problem(during which dogma may have to take a back seat) or when it involves a loved one. Often, it is only then when you begin to appreciate the nuances and the greyness of the issues. In another part of the discussions I mentioned the mother of a lesbian daughter. Deeply hurt, the mother wanted to disown the daughter. How do you deal with a situation like this.... can a dogmatic moralizing position help either?

But this acknowledgement of the grey should not cause us to abandon our value system. If fact, all the more we should be clear of what they are (at to be more accurate - to be clear what the actual moral position should be)and not just mechanical application of a 'law'.

Your reference to the clincal context allows me to share another analogy...

A patient with hypercholesterolaemia would not necessarily be labelled as being 'abnormal' or 'diseased'. Yet we know they are really on the tail of a bell curve. Being on the tail has consequences. As a doctor, you would not discriminate against such patients in any way, but you would not encourage them to insist too much that they are 'normal'. Nor try and persuade the general public that being high is right.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's appropriate to compare hypercholesterolemia with homosexuality. Hypercholesterolemia, if not properlyn controlled, has adverse consequences on a person's health. A more accurate analogy would be left-handedness. Would we tell a left-handed person he has a disorder just because most people are right-handed?

glassbox said...

Anonymous

I think gigamole's use of hypercholesteralemia as an example is appropriate because like you yourself said - its bad for health.

Having gay tendencies is not the problem, the problem starts when you give in to that tendency ie you adopt the lifestyle. As a doctor, you must be quite aware of the medical issues associated with this group of people.

In addition to harming oneself, the diseases spread, even to uninvolved ones.

There is also the social consequence of such a lifestyle, which breaks down the natural moral and social fibre of the society. I stress the word natural because there is a reason why most (like at least 98%?? sorry I don't have the exact statistics) are born normal with distinct chromosonal make up.

Its never an easy issue dealing with a love one who is gay. And there is always a desire to help them lead 'a normal life' by trying to legitimise their 'rights' in society. But actually, these people already have rights like any other normal person.

Would it be easier for that mother to help by advising him to live in harmony with society than to go out there and adopt a militant, persecution mentality approach to making their case heard? It never pays to go against nature. The worthiness of a person with gay tendencies is never in question - most gays I know are highly talented and I appreciate them for it. But when some of their type crosses the line, everyone gets hurt - including those who try to adapt and live in harmony with society.

The militant gays are just destroying acceptance of their own type by their bad behaviour.

gigamole said...

'I don't think it's appropriate to compare hypercholesterolemia with homosexuality. Hypercholesterolemia, if not properlyn controlled, has adverse consequences on a person's health.'

On the contrary, the high cholesterol isn't a disease. It's just at the tail of a distribution range. People don't die from hypercholesterolaemia. But having high cholesterol does increase the risk of other things happening. Lots of people walk around with high blood cholesterol without anything happening to them, and you won't really recognize them in the streets. One could just as well say the complications associated with high cholesterol are also just the consequence of being at the wrong end of the normal distribution curve, for example, blood vessel narrowing.

For some the high cholesterol levels are high because they were born that way. For others it could be the result of lifestyle choices.

So why is it a poor analogy to use?

gigamole said...

'The militant gays are just destroying acceptance of their own type by their bad behaviour.'

yep.

Anonymous said...

AWARE should stop making excuses and start taking responsibility for their deliberately non-compliant CSE programme. It is only decent that they own up to their mistakes and learn from it rather than repeatedly trying to package their offending behaviour than what it really is.
Please give your support to these 2 petitions and forward to your friends if you agree that (1) AWARE should start taking responsibility for their mistakes and issue a public apology for their CSE Programme, and that (2) MOE should ban AWARE from offering sex education to schools:
Here:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/aware_to_apologise/
And here:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ban_aware_from_schools/

Anonymous said...

Sorry, reposting links:
Here:

www.ipetitions.com /petition/aware_to_apologise/

And here: www.ipetitions.com/petition/ ban_aware_from_schools/