New curriculum could endanger the mental health of children, the council warns
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The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe put under seige on 4 June 2013 by a written question challenging the French government’s desire to “deconstruct gender stereotypes” in schools starting at age 6.
The Committee is a gathering of the ambassadors of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. Its main role is to monitor the states’ respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The author of this question was Mr. Luca Volontè, an Italian MP, Chairman of the EPP Group (center-right) at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). In April, he took the lead in this same organization on the subject of the police crackdown on mass demonstrations in defense of the family.
This question denounces the ideological nature of gender theory and the violation of the rights of children, parents, and teachers that follows from their compulsory education. It exposes the French government to criticism from other European governments so as to compel it to greater restraint in the implementation of its plans.
It should be noted that the possible deletion of the word “gender” in the final text of the Peillon Law for schools will not affect the government’s willingness to use the school as a means to “deconstruct gender stereotypes”; vigilance should therefore be maintained in all circumstances on the practical implementation of such “education.”
The Committee will have to provide a detailed written response to this issue in the coming weeks. To this end, it will ask the French Government to explain the project and the means it intends to use to implement it.
Here is the text of the written question, as presented before the Committee:
Written Question No. 638 of the Committee of Ministers | Doc. 13222 | 4 June 2013
Mandatory deconstruction of “gender stereotypes” and violation of the rights of parents
by: Mr. Luca VOLONTÈ Italy, EPP / MP
The French Government has undertaken to require, starting in the 2013 school year, that all children aged 6 and over, in public and private schools (even religious schools), take a new compulsory sex education class adopting the “gender theory” approach. This government project has stirred up immense concern among the students’ parents and teachers.
Presented under the guise of promoting gender equality and the fight against homophobia, the aim of this course is to “substitute for categories such as sex (…) the concept of gender that (…) shows that the differences between men and women are not based on nature, but are historically constructed and socially reproduced” (Julie Sommaruga, Member, Committee on Cultural Affairs of the National Assembly, February 28, 2013). In his letter to the presidents of the Academy on 4 January 2013, the French Minister of Education, Mr. Vincent Peillon, said that “the government is committed to relying on the youth to change attitudes.” According to Peillon, the school’s purpose is to “remove the student from all family, ethnic, social, and intellectual determinisms” (L’Express, 2 September 2012).
The precise content of this course is still under development. In a report from December 2012, the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs recommends that the school engage in the “fight against gender stereotypes … from the earliest ages,” that it deconstruct “the ideology of complementarity” between men and women, and that it replace the terms “boys” and “girls” with gender-neutral terms such as “friends” or “children.” The school should prevent the processes of “sexual differentiation” and children’s psychosocial internalization of their sexual identity.
This so-called “education” is not scientifically based, and so a very large proportion of the population that does not adhere to “gender theory” views this teaching as indoctrination. It endangers the mental health of children, and parents will be trapped into explaining to their children that they must not believe everything that is said in school. And yet, students will have to keep silent to avoid getting into trouble with the official ideology. Such a program, if implemented, will clearly violate the best interests of children and the natural rights of parents.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that “the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society” (Art. 16.3) and that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that they will give to their children” (Art. 26.3). By ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states are committed “to respect the liberty of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (Article 18.4). Even more explicitly, the European Convention on Human Rights declares that “the State, in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, will respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions” (Protocol, art. 2).
Mr. Volontè asks the Committee of Ministers,
Would the Committee of Ministers reaffirm:
- that education must be objective, and that in a democracy the government should not attempt to manipulate the psychology of children?
- that the parents, not the State, are the educators of their children?
What action will the Committee of Ministers take to ensure that the content of this program is not indoctrination, but that conversely it is objective and respectful of the rights of children and parents?