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Why we need LGBTQI+ inclusive education and protective policies in all Australian high schools

The current curriculum being taught in Australian high schools, is generally lacking in the area of LGBTQI+ inclusive education. This inadequacy has been discussed over the past decade but overall not much has been done to change this, despite the rise in recognition of value of and acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community (Rhodes, 2015; Hunter, 2006). Heteronormativity, or the “system that works to normalize behaviours and societal expectations that are tied to the presumption of heterosexuality and an adherence to a strict gender binary” (Nelson, 2015), has been covertly taught in our schools since education began in Australia, and continues to dominate the education system, leaving little to no room for more inclusive education (Writing Them In, 2010; Rhodes, 2015; Carpenter & Lee, 2010). Less than one fifth of high schools are registered with Safe Schools Coalition (Safe Schools Coalition, 2016) which indicates that only one fifth of Australian high schools have LGBTQI+ education. This is a number that is far too small. By allowing this exclusion to continue, we are letting the youths of Australia down, by putting them at risk through lack of education in a range of areas including inclusive safe sexual practices and information on the acceptance of non-heteronormative identities. This exclusion is also a form of institutionalised discrimination, which will be touched on later in this report.

This is not just an issue for LGBTQI+ individuals, but the wider community, as this proposed inclusive education will allow more understanding and knowledge of these issues amongst youths rather than ignorance. This will then lead to decreased rates of discrimination against LGBTQI+ people and stop young LGBTQI+ students from feeling alienated by their schools and fellow peers. The high rates of harassment, violence and bullying experienced in high schools by LGBTQI+ students has an impact on the right to education (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014); this fact alone, is a solid reason that the educational system needs to change, and soon.

This report seeks to: Evaluate the need for LGBTQI+ inclusive education and protective policies in all Australian high schools.

Schools act as agents of socialization for our youth, in that young people are strongly influenced by their schooling, particularly in regards to the development of their moral codes. Schools set up young people for life, both personally and academically. It has been found by the Australian Human Right Commission (2014) that 80% of homophobic bullying directed at LGBTQI+ youth happens at school. Clearly, this would have a massively negative effect on the students, which could affect them for the rest of their lives.

To combat this, these suggested measures should be implemented, so that high schools will become a more supportive and understanding environment for the youth of Australia, and will give birth to a generation of understanding and open-minded citizens.

This report was informed by a multitude of primary and secondary sources which differ on point of view. Two studies were conducted for the benefit of this report, one involving LGBTQI+ identifying high school students, and the other both LGBTQI+ and non-LGBTQI+ high school teachers and staff. Although these studies will be referred to, results from other studies will also be used to strengthen correlations and arguments.

In this report, the acronym ‘LGBTQI+’ will be used to refer to anyone who identifies as gender diverse or non-heterosexual.

 

Current Education System

In order to change the current education provided, one must analyse the current education system and identify its shortcomings. The current education system is acceptable for the majority, but completing lacking for the minority of students who identify as LGBTQI+.
Some individual schools have protective policies, but even less have inclusive education. This was outlined in a survey conducted for this report, which found that 23.1% of participants’ high schools had protective policies for LGBTQI+ students, whereas 15.4% of participants said that their school had LGBTQI+ inclusive education (Student’s Own Survey, 2016). These numbers are far too low and must be lifted to reduce the stigma associated with being LGBTQI+.
Furthermore, it is not just the high schools’ fault for this, as the government has not been helping change this. Recently, the government made plans to defund organisations protecting LGBTQI+ youths such as the Safe Schools Coalition. Major loopholes in Australian law also make way for the discrimination of LGBTQI+ youth. In current legislation, such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Part II, Section 37 1[d]), LGBTQI+ identifying individuals can be discriminated against if the discrimination is performed within a religious institution. This means that young LGBTQI+ people can be legally discriminated against if they study at a religious school, which would explain the strong correlation between the amount of participants who have experienced discrimination, and the amount of participants who studied at a religious or private school (Student’s Own Survey, 2016). Discrimination that can be legally undertook by these institutions include segregating individuals from their peers, excluding individuals from specific activities (i.e. certain subjects, excursions and extra-curricular) and marking in an unfair manner. This has been commented on in many publications and studies, including the study undertook for this report. As seen in the quote below, one anonymous participant shared their negative experiences with LGBTQI+ discrimination:

“The discrimination involved the school not allowing LGBT+ students to take someone of the same gender to their formal. This was one of many scenarios where the school discriminated against LGBT+ students both on an emotional and psychological level.”

(Student’s Own Survey, 2016)

Another example was displayed in a study completed by the Victorian Department of Health called Growing Up Queer (2014), where a young transgender man described his experiences:

“The teachers didn’t want me playing sports with the guys because they were scared that I was going to get hurt. It was actually the other way around. They actually stopped me from participating in all the sports like football and stuff like that, that’s generally a guy’s sport. Basically the only sport they’d allow me to do was either softball or netball. I was like I’m not doing netball.”

(Robinson & Denson & Davies & Bansel & Ovenden, 2014)

Not only was this LGBTQI+ discrimination, but it was also gender based discrimination, which is often allowed to run rampant in our schooling system. Often, schools subtly enforce “traditional gender roles” and so anyone who may not fit into these out-dated societal norms can experience second-hand discrimination. This not only affects LGBTQI+ individuals, but also non-LGBTQI+ individuals who may just not fit into what is considered “normal” of their gender or sex. This has been going on for generations, and is often considered to have been “fixed” through modern feminism and gender activism. Instead, it has just become more covertly integrated into the education system.

 

Proposed Changes to Australian High Schools

In order to fix the current pre-mentioned issues, the current curriculum needs to be more inclusive overall. Instead of teaching heteronormative concepts or terminology, teachers need to be trained on how to teach to address everyone, no matter their sex, gender or sexual or romantic orientation. It also includes the teaching of basic Queer politics, Australian Queer culture and historic Queer events. These topic don’t need to be explicitly and forcefully included, but should be made reference to when topics relate, rather than the blatant disregard that currently takes place.

More specifically, safe same-sex sexual education needs to be implemented in all Australian high schools. By denying LGBTQI+ students of the right to accurate sexual education, we are putting them at risk, physically, mentally and emotionally. Very few studies have found some sort prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the LGBTQI+ community, but still these sources are often cited by anti-LGBTQI+ activists. Perhaps the reason that these sources exist is because safe sexual education for LGBTQI+ youth is incredibly rare and very overdue.

Young people, whether LGBTQI+ identifying or not, need to be assured that safe and consensual non-monogamous or non-heteronormative relations are okay. Large amounts of self-loathing LGBTQI+ youths feel this way because they were brought up by families and school to believe that their identity and feelings are invalid, wrong, immoral, or indecent, accounting for the high rates of suicide and self-harm in LGBTQI+ youths (Rosenstreich, 2013; Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016; Flood & Hamilton, 2005; Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013; Dwyer, 2011; McGlaughlin, 2009; Skerrett & Kõlves & De Leo, 2012).

Policies protecting LGBTQI+ youth are vital to this proposal, because knowledge is the next step after safety. The protective policies would need to cover both public and private schools as well as religious and non-religious educational institutions. This way, all students will be treated as equals and protected by law.

These protective policies are essential and the evidence of its benefits are clear. LGBTQI+ youths are more likely to feel safe in schools with protective policies for students like them, than in schools without (75% compared with 45%)(Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014). They are also almost 50% less likely to be physically assaulted at school (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).

By the information provided, it is clear that including both inclusive education and protective policies will allow LGBTQI+ students to experience a safer, more enjoyable and more beneficial schooling career.

 

Rebutting/disproving common concerns

Usually when the general public has concerns on creating an equal and accepting educational system, reoccurring statements are made against the proposal.

One of the most common concerns is that not all youth need the education, only the minority. But, as La Trobe University (2010) found, 10% of Australian youth are same-sex attracted. This means that statistically, in a class of 30 students, there is likely to be at least 3 same-sex attracted students, as well as any gender variant or questioning students.
Furthermore, youth aged 16 to 24 years are more likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity (Human Rights Commission, 2014). Therefore, it cannot be assumed how many students may need the education; and by teaching other students who may not “need” the education, a culture of understanding and acceptance will be created, rather than continuing to create ignorance.

Another point often raised is that the material is too inappropriate to be teaching to youths. It has been brought up that same-sex education is a “sensitive sexual matter” which is often deemed “inappropriate” by parents (Donnelly, 2004) or contains material which can be considered “inappropriately sexual” (Shepherd, 2016). This is easily rebutted with the fact that any same-sex education implemented, would be no more explicit or “inappropriate” than any current heterosexual sexual education.

Often critics express that they believe it is enforcing an unhealthy/unfavourable lifestyle. This viewpoint in itself proves that LGBTQI+ discrimination is running rampant in modern Australian society. There is no scientific evidence that LGBTQI+ inclusive education can turn young people queer. The evidence is clear (La Trobe University, 2016).

Often LGBTQI+ inclusive education is just pushed to the side with a shrug off the shoulders and mutterings of “This is how we’ve always done it”. This way of dealing with the issue is not going to fix anything. The current education system has been built upon generations of ignorance and deeply rooted “tradition” which has caused more issues to arise and solutions to be swept aside.

As identified, none of these “concerns” should be thought of as viable reasons to delay the implementation of LGBTQI+ inclusive sexual education. Change should happen now.

 

Looking towards the future

There is a multitude of benefits for creating a more inclusive education system. One of which is simple: it will help create a more open-minded and accepting society for future generations to grow up in; one which celebrate differences, not discriminates.

Beyond Blue (2013) found that there was a strong correlation between discrimination and social exclusion, and increased levels of mental illness and suicidality among LGBTQI+ individuals rather than the rest of the population. Therefore, through bringing up our youth to be more open-minded and accepting, we will decrease the rates of mental illness prevalent amongst gender and sexual minorities in Australia.

“Coming out” and identifying as anything not considered to conform to societal norms can cause immense amounts of stress for Australian youths. Through normalising LGBTQI+ culture we are allowing young people to be themselves without fear or stress. They would also not have a need to hide their identity and be able to explore themselves freely, increasing the accuracy of our statistic relating to LGBTQI+ individuals.

 

Conclusion:

LGBTQI+ people used to be negatively characterised as being a part of deviant counterculture, trying to overthrow all that is moral and right. Now, the LGBTQI+ community is becoming a more accepted part of our modern society. The issue of LGBTQI+ inclusive education is complex and fraught with controversy, but it is of paramount importance so that our country can become one filled with understanding, open-minded and happy youths. Recent developments in the journey to equal rights and protections of all LGBTQI+ individuals have been positive, allowing for even more support from the general public towards the cause. Although there is support, there are also people who don’t believe in equality, and so education of the uninformed is a great step to changing these negative attitudes.

The main motive of this proposition is to ensure the wellbeing of all Australians, not just non-LGBTQI+ Australians. Our country is one big melting pot of different cultures and minorities, so we should educate like it is.

Ethics of Hacktivism

Protest is a vital aspect of the development of our society. When people don’t agree with something which has been done or is proposed, people in countries like Australia, England and America, have the right to publicly oppose the issue. Protests created a lot of change particularly in the Vietnam War era and the counter culture movement of the 1960s and 1970s (Noyes, 2014). Without protest, we quite possibly wouldn’t have social change; living the exact same way for decades, even centuries.

As with almost anything else, protesting has developed over time, adopting new methods, reaching across multiple mediums and adapting to address new issues and appeal to different types of people. As protesting changed over time, a new form appeared to utilise computer systems and used a much more offensive approach to push political and social change agendas. Hacktivism is often defined as the subversive use of computer systems for politically or socially motivated purposes (Rouse, 2007; Techopedia, 2016; Webopedia, 2016).

Although the first ‘hacktivism’ style malware (the anti-nuclear “WANK” worm) was first used in late 1989 (McCormick, 2013), the term ‘hacktivism’ wasn’t coined until 1996. This term was first used in an email from Omega, a member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow (Trend Micro, 2015).

Although this form of demonstration is more aggressive, it can be highly valuable for individuals or groups who may not be able to publicly protest or take action due to social or political oppression or persecution. It can also be used to provide support, hope or even fight on the behalf of the before mentioned oppressed or persecuted individuals. “Tools like Twitter and Facebook were the only way to engage and get their stories out, especially since local media was being blocked” said Terry Cutler (2014) a certified ethical hacker and the founder of Digital Locksmiths, Inc. speaking of previous hacktivist missions.

Common techniques used by hacktivists include “computer break-ins, including website defacement as well as worm and virus infections; and denial-of-service attacks (DoS) including website sit-ins and email bombings” (Thomas, 2001).

Ethical Hacktivism

The surface level ethics of hacktivism often involve the ethical testing of online security by hired professionals and freelance hobbyists, but the more complicated and debated aspects are the many other uses of hacktivism and so this is what will be mainly discussed within this website.

Rick Flakvinge, founder of the first Pirate Party of Sweden (political group), raises a highly valid point of the complexity of the issue:

First, what is considered ethical can have many layers: Is the penetration testing made within the organisation in order to promote better security practices, or is it penetration of a corrupt organisation to expose corruption? Both could easily be described as ‘ethical’ (Flakvinge, 2014).

 

The general concept of hacktivism isn’t defined by the need to involve “bad behaviour” or outright law breaking, and can be used to make a positive impact on the world in a justified and ethical way. “Ethical use” of hacktivism often depends on the user’s intentions. An example of hacktivism being used for good involved an incident where a notorious hacktivist, The Jester, helped with the identification and incarceration of several ‘script-kiddies’ (Hacking/programming culture slang for a younger, less experienced hacker who rejects the ethical principles often adopted by professionals and hacks maliciously for the fun of it) who disrupted the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorist hotline, possibly putting people in danger (Armstrong, 2014).

Hacktivism simply involves using rights (like the right to free speech) to effectively protest to a larger audience in a more effective way. It just builds on to the original concept of protest in modern ways and should be judged on ethics in a similar way to any other medium of protest.

Hacktivists claim that they are doing no more and no less than following in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., by attempting to bring about social change through non-violent means (Thomas, 2001).

Some hacktivist organisations or groups even have their own moral/ethical codes of behaviour which they stick to in order to operate in a more structured and ethical format (not just a free for all). For example, Anonymous, a well-known hacktivist group, adhere to a shared philosophy, known as the hacker ethic.

The Electrohippies, another hacktivism group, also holds their own code-of-conduct around distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks are only acceptable if they do not “disrupt the communications of an organisation on a general basis and focuses attention on a single issue, rather than the organisation as a whole. The instigators of the attack, furthermore, should provide information on both sides of the contested issue so that participants in the attack are well educated. Finally, all participants in the attack should provide their real names” (Thomas, 2001).

Determining Level of Ethics

Due to this inconsistency of adherence to standardised ethical guidelines, an overall standpoint of determining the appropriateness of actions taken by the end outcome is generally accepted. Sometimes unfavourable actions need to be completed in order to produce a positive outcome, and this is the ethical guideline that hacktivism generally employs.

It’s not the methods employed which are wrong, it’s what’s done with them: “Like most weapons, hacking can be used for good or bad, to defend freedom or attack it” (Davis, 2014). Arguably, anything could be deemed an unethical weapon: It just depends on how it’s used and what its motives and reasoning are.

Unethical Hacktivism

Arguably, whenever hacktivism has come under fire by the media, it has always had to do with the after effects of actions taken in the name of hacktivism. An example of this was with Stuxnet, a computer virus discovered in 2010 which has been called the ‘world’s first digital weapon’ (Lauder, 2016). It attacked the computer system of the machines used to enrich uranium in Iran and caused them to spin out of control. This could have caused the unnecessary loss of life and would be generally considered unethical.

Another example of unethical hacktivism is the use of Dox Drops (the practise of hackers stealing personal or private information of individuals and publishing it on the internet) by Anonymous in 2010 for Operation Payback. The aim of this operation was to get revenge on the CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shutting down LimeWire (a peer to peer music piracy software). Following the Dox Drop, Anonymous instructed their followers to bombard the CEO as well as associated individuals with mail bombings (sending overwhelming amounts of emails), prank calls, fax bombings (faxing black paper) and similar techniques. Operation Payback was clearly unethical as it was a breach of individual privacy and served no purpose for pursuing a social or political agenda. It was pure revenge, and that fact in itself caused a major backlash against Anonymous.

Hacktivism in the name of revenge is never ethical, and as often agreed, isn’t the embodiment of true hacktivism due to it not being about protest or rebellion.

Some others believe that tactics like DoS attacks and mail bombings are denials of freedom of speech and therefore do not adhere to ethics defined by deontology. “The mail bombers need to know that vigilante censorship is just as unacceptable as government censorship” said Audrie Kraus (2001), Executive Director of NetAction.

The Electrohippies hacktivism group acknowledges that methods like DDoS attacks and web sit-ins violate the First Amendment, restricting the freedom of speech and freedom of association (Thomas, 2001).

Although this is said, these methods of hacktivism can be effective at letting others speak in the silence or making a powerful force (such as a corporation or governing body) receive a taste of their own medicine.

 

Hacktivism will always exist as it is a vital aspect of the development of protest in society: Hacktivists “symbolise a form of cyber-rebellion that is the digital manifestation of the spirit of revolution” (Freddie, 2011). Pierluigi Paganini said “We can arrest hackers and hacktivists that violate our networks and that disclose our data, but we cannot stop an ideology” (2014) and that is so very true; hacktivism is never going to stop, we should at least encourage ethical hacktivism to allow society to evolve socially and politically, but make practises which border on cyber-terrorism less common at the same time.

Hacktivism is incredibly effective and necessary, but due to it often involving drastic measures, should be the last option when all other methods of protest fail (Armstrong, 2014).

“The issues at the heart of hacktivism appear to be the same issues that are at the heart of activism and civil disobedience in the physical world” (Thomas, 2001). When determining the ethicality of hacktivism, as with any social and political change, it comes down to the long-standing question of whether the end justifies the means in true utilitarian ethical style.

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Another essay from my senior year 🙂

Free to be ME in 2017!

So this morning I’ve woken up on the other side of the year change over with a foggy brain, but I’m determined to post this morning before it’s classed as “late”.
I recently came across a blogger by the name of Ivy Iris (by the way, please go check out her blog) who inspired me to come up with a word of the year (here’s the insta post which inspired me).
My word for 2017 is if you haven’t already guessed ‘Freedom’.
‘Why freedom?’ I hear you ask. Well:
For the past thirteen or so years, I’ve been restrained by the expectations of my schooling institutions and now that I have graduated I have this immense feeling of freedom. But although I have this feeling, I haven’t felt truly free, because I’ve contained myself to suit society and fit “the norm”, and I’ve been too afraid and self-conscience to truly be myself.
So this year, I’m going to free myself.
I will be free to speak and live my truth.
I will be free to reach my highest potential.
I will be free to learn and become who I truly am.
I will be free to develop myself and my spirituality without fear of judgement.
I will be free to be me.
no…
I AM free to be me and no one can stop me from being happy with who I am.

Hannah xx