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Progressive Sexuality Education: the conceits of secularism

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Associate Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen will present Progressive Sexuality Education: The Conceits of Secularism, on Tuesday 26 August at Monash University,  Clayton Campus Rotunda (Building 8) Lecture Theatre 6.

What’s the place of religion in sexuality education in Australian public schools?

Sexuality education, a topic that continues to be a site of contestation and controversy within Australia and internationally, will be explored at the next Faculty of Education’s Dean’s Lectures Series next week.

Sexuality education is not mandatory in Australian schools and its place in education, and, in teacher education is often tenuous.

Associate Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen believes that the tenuous nature of sexuality education may partially be associated with the perception of it as hostile towards religion.

The lecture aims to draw attention to some key assumptions that frame, what Associate Professor Rasmussen terms, “progressive sexuality education”.

Some progressive preconceptions that frame sexuality education in Australian public schools include sexuality education needs to evidence based; it needs to promote sexual autonomy in order to ensure that young people are able to act as self-governing sexual subjects; it is responsible for the cultivation of tolerance of sexual and gender diversity; and, public education precludes discussion of the intersections between faith, religion and morality (such conversations should happen in private settings family, church, mosque, temple).

“Sexuality education is not neutral. The constitution of progressive sexuality education as neutral effectively plays into the hands of religious and political conservatives who seek to constitute sexuality education and public schooling as entirely devoid of religion, values and morality,” Associate Professor Rasmussen said.

“How might dropping the progressive tag, and thinking differently about the relationship between faith, cultural difference and sexuality – change contemporary imaginings of sexuality education?”

In pursuing this inquiry Associate Professor Rasmussen hopes to provoke dialogue about how sexuality education within public schools can better address values, and cultural and religious differences that necessarily inform young peoples, teachers and parents imaginings of sexuality, relationships and sexual health.

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