28 February 2016
by Babette Francis
The deconstruction of reality
Apparently a substantial number of Australian school children have no genitals.
Results in education appear somewhat dismal for Australian school students. Learning First, an Australian education research group has reported on data from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which tested the basic skills of half a million 15-year-old students in 65 industrialized countries in 2012.
The data showed that Chinese students were three years head of Australian students in maths, and eighteen months ahead in reading and science. Australian students are also 17 months behind Hong Kong students in maths, 20 months behind students in Singapore, and five months behind students in the Canadian province of British Columbia. No doubt our state and federal governments' education bureaucracies will give these deficiencies in our school systems the attention that is warranted.
But there is a far more serious problem affecting Australian school children, and it has only recently come to light. This is a devastating medical and health problem which requires consideration at the highest level of Government and by our Health and Medical Departments. Apparently a substantial number of Australian school children have no genitals. It is not clear whether these hapless children were born without genitals or had to have them surgically removed for various reasons, but this tragedy requires the most urgent attention, and Australian parents should be most grateful to the Safe Schools Coalition for drawing attention to their plight.
This also raises the question: is the poor performance of Australian students compared to their Asian and Canadian peers due to their lack of genitals? No such mass disability has been diagnosed among Asian or Canadian children.
The Safe Schools Coalition program, which according to Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, will be compulsory for all state schools in Victoria by the year 2019, requires ll-year-old children to imagine what it is like to have no genitals. These ll-year-olds are presumably the ones who still have genitals. The ones who don't have genitals don't have to imagine their dire situation, they are already experiencing it. The Safe Schools Coalition would presumably not have recommended this imaginative role play unless there was a wide spectrum of students suffering the disability of having no genitals. And of course these pitiful students should never be bullied into pretending they are normatively equipped.
Now I am all for empathy - people should sympathise with those in wheel chairs who cannot walk, or those who have missing limbs and need a crutch to get around, or a prosthetic hand to do ordinary stuff like buttering a slice of bread. And if to develop such empathy with the disabled it requires people to sit in a wheel chair for an hour or so, or hop around on one leg, that's fine with me. But I had not realised that there was such a major section of our school population who were disabled in such a fundamental way as having no genitals.
Possibly to accommodate such disabled genital-lacking students, the Safe Schools Coalition guide has developed a new pronoun - besides "he" and "she" for males and females, the SSC guide suggests "ze" for those who may lack the basic male or female attributes. However, there is a bit of a problem with this: the objective of treating the disabled as if they are part of the community and not focusing on their disability is an important aspect of non-discrimination policy. Referring to genital-lacking students as "ze", immediately highlights their disability, a disability moreover which would not be apparent to the naked eye - or not at least until the student "zimself" or "zerself" was naked.
And then there is the question of bathrooms. The Safe Schools Coalition program requires that students be allowed to use the bathroom facilities of their "gender identity", which can be fluid and can change from day to day, i.e. whether they feel like a "he" or a "she" or a "ze", Monday through to Friday, and regardless of whether they have genitals or not, nor what kind of genitals. Many parents object to this: while they may not know any "ze"s, they do not want any "he"s using the bathrooms their student daughters use.
I must admit I sympathise with these parents. While in schools there may be sufficient supervision to ensure safety in the locker rooms, there is little such supervision at bathrooms in sporting facilities where all the supervision is focused on the sport and not the locker rooms. At the swimming pool I regularly use, there is a notice on the bathroom entrances of the Women's and Men's shower facilities: "Children over the age of 5 may not use the facilities of the opposite sex." The supervisors at swimming pools are trained in life-saving and resuscitation, they watch the pools to see if help is needed. They are not bouncers trained in providing security for the shower rooms.
The Hon. Bill Shorten, Leader of the Federal Opposition, was given the title of "Electricity Bill" by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott because Mr. Shorten's support for a carbon tax would have put up the cost of electricity for householders. In view of his support for the Safe Schools Coalition he may well earn as well the title of "Bathroom Bill".
There is also a slight scientific problem with all this. As a microbiologist having some familiarity with the study of chromosomes and DNA, I know that a "he" cannot be changed into a "she" or vice versa no matter how fluid the student's gender identity or by the removal of genitals nor the addition of artificial genitalia. So is legislation going to be passed by a future Labor/Green Coalition to compel people to speak untruths by using scientifically incorrect pronouns or face the full wrath of the Australian Human Rights Commission?
The old story about the Emperor's new clothes may take on fresh meaning when the astute observer discovers that many Australian students do have genitals after all. In the meantime Mr. Bill Shorten needs to develop a health policy to treat the dreadful epidemic identified by the Safe Schools Coalition of students lacking these basic biological organs.