Monday, 9 May 2011

Against "Gender Education"

"Recently there has been much vocal opposition to teaching about homosexuality in elementary and junior-high school based on the firmly held belief that fifth and sixth graders are too young to learn about such things...

...The experience of the Canadian government shows that such fears are not only unwarranted, they are in fact harmful. Beginning in 1994, the Public Health Agency of Canada published the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education...

...These guidelines have now been in circulation for 17 years — not only have they not been discarded, they have been further enhanced...

...This is ample proof the Canadian government and public do not think that elementary school students are unable to understand gender diversity and homosexuality, or will become sexually confused as a result of such education."
Who can follow the absurd reasoning there? According to the authors of this ridiculous editorial, Lee Shao-fen (李韶芬) and Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), the belief that fifth and sixth graders are too young to learn about homosexuality is both incorrect and harmful because the Canadian government says so. This display of absurd reasoning ought to be sufficient grounds on its own to ensure government funding for "gender education" in Taiwan is cut entirely.

Besides that, the relevant question is not whether such programs actually work in preventing bullying (I doubt it), but at what cost - not simply financial, but also in terms of time and opportunity. Every hour spent watching a video about homosexuality is an hour that could have been spent on teaching algebra, history, or reading literature. Of course that issue of opportunity costs leads directly to the question of removing the State in order to allow a free market in education - which, though typically and wrongly dismissed as "unrealistic"*, is what ought to be the salient topic for education editorials given the broader context of Taiwan's national debt (NT$21 trillion) standing at nearly 200% of GDP (NT$12.5 trillion). There must be spending cuts and this "gender education" nonsense surely ought to be one of the first things for the chop.

I say gender education is "nonsense" not only because the State ought to be removed from the business of education on general Liberal principles, but also because gender education is the most explicit attempt at social engineering:
"Simply issuing empty calls for respect while stopping children from learning about homosexuality is hypocritical because social relations based on true respect and equality cannot be created out of thin air."
What is wrong with this is the unspoken assumption about who would be issuing "calls for respect". Of course the State cannot simply command people to respect homosexuals - but neither can it engineer such respect, unless it be a false, coerced "respect" imposed 1984-like at the cost of incurring further public contempt for the education system. True respect cannot be commandeered by the State, but neither can it be engineered by the State: true respect can only emerge from a society of free association and free exchange.

At the age of ten I wasn't interested in girls, I was interested in books and chess. I didn't need to know about gays and lesbians, I needed to know about algebraic equations, the revolutions of 1689 and 1789 and the history of money. During the entire time I spent in the compulsory State school system, I only got the first of those and even then I had to wait until I was thirteen. Important things like Money and Commerce were never taught at school, History and Geography were a joke of an hour on Wednesday afternoons and only English and Science really motivated me. I remember the face of a woman teacher we had (forget her name, but she had vaguely Margaret Thatcher like hair) for a subject on "business" - it must have been hell for her, struggling against the entire school culture.

Those were betrayals I will never forgive.

*It is wrong to say that a free market in education is "unrealistic" for at least two reasons. The first is that what is typically meant is that the likelihood of successfully establishing such a free market given the present reach of the State into eduction is improbable. The second is that the obstacles to establishing a free market have nothing to do with what reality will allow and everything to do with human thought and will.

Note: I later corrected some minor typos and syntactical slips in this piece.


  1. I think you make the mistake of looking at their left hand when they are trying to hide something with their right hand.

    The problem is that most elementary school teachers in the US and probably UK don't know much about math, science, English nor history. By changing the topic to gender studies they take your attention off of true deficiencies that they'd rather not deal with. After 11 years of living in Taiwan, I don't think Taiwanese teachers are all that great either at teaching math, science, or history either.

  2. Not a chance am I guilty of making that mistake!


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