The Importance of Values Taught in State Schools (2004+)

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In debating state versus private schooling, there has been criticism of the values that are taught in state schools. In this context it is suggested that careful consideration be given to:


The Debate

There has been a growing debate about state versus private schooling - and particularly about the values that are taught in state schools.

This has arisen because federal funding for schools has (in the Commonwealth's view) been arranged to allow parents to have a choice between state and private schooling. Under this regime state school enrolments have been stagnant for the past decade, while private school enrolments have risen rapidly. This is widely seen to reflect parents' preference for the disciplined environments and traditional values taught in private schools [1], as parents rate moral philosophy as the most important reason for paying fees [1]. 40% of secondary students now attend private schools [1].

At the same time claims have been made that state schools do not teach appropriate values [1].

Examples of what some have seen as inappropriate about the values taught include:

  • public schools find it hard to explain their core values (while private schools can give moral certainty). They are not value free - but whose values? With students from non-English speaking backgrounds, and diversity fundamental to education, it is hard to express values. There is a 'secular creed' in the National Goals for Schooling, which states that students be able to exercise judgment / responsibility in matters of morality, ethics and social justice. This merely confuses young people who expect to be taught some standards, and are can not (for hormonal reasons) act wisely [1].

  • opposing Iraq war; endorsement of homosexuality; claims about genocide against aboriginal peoples and the 'stolen generation'; insistence on equal education outcomes; opposing student assessment; opposing male contact sports; failure to teach Anglo-Saxon traditions which made Australia free, prosperous and tolerant  [1];

  • teachers regressing to be like kids [1];

  • protesting against Iraq war; dumbed down view of education; lack of testing; accepting homosexuals as teachers and endorsing their lifestyle; emphasis on environment threats but not of the benefits of science and markets (of which Queensland's curriculum for study of science and society is seen as example); following post-modern theories that see knowledge as tentative; and regarding traditional approaches to literature as ethnocentric and parochial [1];

  • there is no need for religion to impart values like 'inclusiveness, respect for others, ethnic diversity and multiculturalism', so religious education should be removed from the curriculum to make room for other subjects [1]

An alternative view is that the shift from state to private education reflects the inadequate funding of state schools [1, 2] - which may be due to Australia's vertical fiscal imbalance [1]. 2/3 of Commonwealth school funding is directed to private schools [1] - though this is presumably not the case for public funding of schools overall (which includes that by states for state schools). Moreover state schools have been seen as an essential element of society - with attacks on them being equivalent to erosion of universal health care and social welfare for the unemployed [1]. Criticism has been seen as insulting to state schools, teachers and students [1].

It is also argued that the values taught in state schools are appropriate and reflect Australian norms.

Examples of what have been seen as appropriate include:

  • reconciliation, emancipation of women, homosexual rights and sustainable development are seen as the type of egalitarian and tolerant values most Australians shared - and consistent with a liberal democratic and Christian ethos [1];

  • values taught are shared outcomes, inclusion and community participation. It is inappropriate that Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions be given priority [1];

  • values should be: equality of all people; equality of aboriginal people with others; and equality of men and women [1];

  • values emphasized should be: respect, tolerance and inclusion [1];

  • personal responsibility; educational excellence; tolerance; the merits of diversity of culture, ethnicity and ideas, as well as kindness, compromise and compassion [1];
  • (a) Acceptance, tolerance, fair play, equity and inclusivity; responsible citizenship; (b) community values, sensitivity to specific values of various groups, rights / responsibilities of parents; and (c)  love of learning; aiming for high standards; care and respect for families and communities [1]

Some 'middle ground' views are that:

  • state schooling is best, but this system has failed - so what is required is an integrated approach [1];
  • what is really important (which politicisation of the issue may not achieve) is working out what education is supposed to be about [1];
  • schools should match the diverse expectations of various communities in Australia, so a more community-focused approach is required to increase public school participation [1].

The Federal education minister commissioned a study of values education - and this identified ten values to inculcate - tolerance and understanding; respect; responsibility; social justice; excellence; care; inclusion and trust; honesty; freedom and being ethical [1].

A researcher involved in that process concluded that (a) values need to be presented in the context of a supporting world-view (eg a religion) and (b) values taught have to be consistent with Australia's democratic system of government [1].



This document is only concerned with contextual issues which might usefully be considered in evaluating the values that are imparted through the education process - as the author has no sound basis for commenting on the benefits of state versus private schooling.

In order to understand the significance of what values are taught in schools it first useful to note that many debates about culture and values have emerged in Australia in recent years.

Examples of cultural / values debates include:

  • multiculturalism was initially advocated as a way of promoting tolerance of other cultures by Australians - but some feared that it was promoting a fragmentation of Australia into a set of different societies [1];

  • there has been uncertainty about whether reconciliation with aborigines should involve giving separate status to aboriginal cultures or to the 'practical' challenges of ensuring that aborigines could be healthy, educated and prosperous [1, 2];

  • there has been concern about liberal migration policies (especially in relation to the Middle East, and in view of political tensions in Europe due to problems in integration  [1, 2, 3] - problems which seem to have some parallels in Australia noting alienation of some groups, and evidence of racially based violence [1, 2, 3]);

  • One Nation sought to put part of the blame for social stresses which were being suffered in marginal regions on multiculturalism - and was described as racist for doing so;

  • racist motivations were alleged for preventing unauthorized migration to Australia mainly from the Middle East (see Complexities in the Refugee Situation);

  • the accuracy with which some historians presented Australia's history of dealings with indigenous peoples has been contested [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] while a negative view of that history was presented by the National Museum of Australia [1];

  • Christianity (which provided the basis for Australia's mainstream traditions, values and institutions) has declined in adherence [1, 2] and been subjected to criticism [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and defense; and to vigorous internal debates about values [1, 2, 3];

  • there is uncertainty about the viability of secular institutions separated from the value systems which created them [1], and about how values such as liberty can be justified without religious foundations [1];

  • strong values systems have been seen to be needed for effective society [1], while liberalism has been described as dangerous without its moral foundations [1];

  • there has been debate about whether Australia's relationship with 'Asia' would transition to that of an insider or remain that of an outsider [1];

  • positive features of Australia's traditions have been advocated [1], and risks claimed in sacrificing these features in uncritically developing a relationship with China [1];

  • some have seen a reduced tolerance of differences as a symptom of increased racism [1], while others have suggested that this explanation is inadequate [1].

Moreover the significance of these debates has been affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 [1].  In particular:

  • a significant basis for attacks against Western societies by Islamist extremists lies in the view that Western societies main contribution to the world is corruption [1] - as a product of liberal values;

  • laws requiring tolerance of all cultures are seen to allow advocates of hostile extremism to teach and recruit within Western societies [1]

Also the federal government (the Prime Minister in particular) has been seen to have an agenda of challenging what some others see as a progressive views of cultural values [1, 2, 3].

Four issues that might be given careful consideration is assessing the values taught in state schools are outlined below.



What does tolerance mean?

Australian schools seem to have a strong emphasis on tolerance and understanding. However it makes a huge difference what schools teach students to be tolerant of, and whether understanding is truly objective.

Tolerance and understanding of all people, is quite different to teaching that all ideas and cultures are equally valid and valuable, because:

  • some cultures and traditions contain intrinsic elements of social inequalities - so it is not logically possible to value both all cultures equally and also value all people equally;
  • not all cultures endorse tolerance of differences [1, 2]; and
  • culture appears to be a primary determinant of a people's ability to be materially successful - because it affects their goals, the way they solve problems, whether they can develop technologies and the institutions that their society supports. It can also affect the practical value of education itself, because learning to apply abstract knowledge is only of value in social environments in which individual rationality can be reasonably effective in problem solving (see Competing Civilizations).

Thus it is not valid to argue that 'tolerance' is always a positive value - because, if applied to ideas and cultures (as compared with its application to people), it may involve the endorsement of dysfunctional values.

Moreover the practical consequences of cultural assumptions need to be addressed in the way information is provided to students concerning various traditions. In particular:

  • it appears that the consequences of cultural traditions may be a significant issue for Australia's indigenous peoples to come to grips with (see The Challenge of Aboriginal Advancement) - and this needs to be taken into account as schools promote reconciliation.  Similarly,
  • the shift from elite to mass tertiary education in Australia has not strongly benefited those from lower socio-economic backgrounds as the latter often tend to be excluded by the absence of encouragement and the attitude to the relevance of education in their environment [1]; and
  • the political and economic dysfunctions suffered in most Arab communities arguably have a cultural foundation - noting that a core of traditional Arabic thought apparently involved a denial of the possibility / desirability of free will. Such an assumption must be a formula for fatalism, political authoritarianism and economic failure (as the ability to change - which denial of free will seriously inhibits - is vital for economic productivity).

It is because of issues like these that students need to be made aware of the consequences of cultural traditions at the same time that they are encouraged to understand them and objectively assess their relevance.

It is frequently asserted that the values taught in state schools need to be compatible with Australia's democratic system of government. Achieving this requires vigilance, because not all value systems are compatible with democratic traditions (see Spiritual and Philosophical Programs must be Compatible with Australia's Institutions). The latter also notes that not all value systems are compatible with Australia's egalitarian (social equality) aspirations.

Ensuring A Flexible Basis for Moral Interpersonal Relationships

Australia seems to suffer substantial social dysfunctions as a consequence of the widespread loss of the traditional ethical basis for interpersonal morality (see Moral Foundations of Individual Liberty).

Thus the 'values' debate is of great practical significance - as it is vital that a very solid ethical basis for interpersonal morality be established.

However, as noted in Moral Foundations of Individual Liberty, Australia's legal and governance systems assume individual liberty - and this feature has critical political and economic implications. Also it is not characteristic of any but Western societies (being a product of their Christ-ian heritage) - and is strongest in the so-called 'Anglosphere'.

Such liberty seems possible only where:

  • a solid ethical basis of interpersonal morality is embedded in individual consciences responsible to God (rather than being externally-enforced by social elites or authoritarian moral legalism);
  • there is a clear separation between church (which deals with issues of ethical and moral values) and state (which deals with (say) social and economic systems without having to determine the nature of, or enforce, moral interpersonal relationships).  

This has far-reaching consequences, because:

  • in assessing value-systems that should be taught in Australian schools the issues at stake is not merely to avoid social dysfunctions but also presumably to ensure that Australia's liberal legal and governance systems can continue to be effective;
  • those systems can not be based on individual liberty if the values to be taught are determined by the state (eg by government or government schools).

Postmodernism: A Philosophical Over-reaction with Serious Consequences

Much of the confusion about values in education appears to be a consequence of the emergence over several decades of (so-called) post-modern theories in university humanities faculties.

These theories challenge the validity of claims to real-world knowledge on the basis that such claims are, to a greater or lesser extent, a 'social construct' which have political implications (through reflecting what is advantageous to some groups). This view encourages:

  • a disregard for what has traditionally been seen as 'positive' knowledge - and a well-meant desire to regard alternative systems of knowledge as equally valid; and
  • a manipulation of educational content to achieve particular political purposes - on the assumption that merely changing the way people think about a subject will change the reality. This is the essence of what has been called 'political correctness' (which one cynical observer described as coercive group-think [1]).

The whole basis for criticism which is being levelled at values in the state schooling system seems to be based (to the extent that it has any validity) on these consequences of post-modern theories. Some of that critique makes specific reference to post-modern theory [1].

However post-modern theories have not only had an impact in education and there is now a significant body of experience to illustrated their deficiencies in other areas. An account of philosophical and real-world problems associated with the adoption of 'post modern' assumptions is presented in Eroding the West's Foundations. This refers, for example, to:

  • valid concerns about limitations in traditional epistemologies (ie theories about the nature of knowledge) to which 'post modernism' has been an unfortunate gross over-reaction;
  • the breakdown of effective public administration in Australia as a result of politicisation and managerialism which (have post-modern roots and) devalue real knowledge and experience;
  • the threat to individual freedom which is implicit in demolishing the concept of 'public truth' (which has limited the autocratic exercise of power) through accepting post-modern assumptions;
  • blocking the advancement of certain types of knowledge (eg the the critical role which culture plays in people's ability to be materially successful) is incredibly dangerous in an integrating world - because as a result there is:
    • often no way to advance the position of disadvantaged peoples; and
    • a tendency to develop theories about exploitation or conspiracies to explain disadvantage - and such theories can be a key factor in motivating pointless extremism. A case can in fact be made for partly blaming those in the 'humanities' faculties of Western universities who have preferred relativism to realism about the causes of political and economic failures in marginal states for the terrorism and conflict that have resulted from their irresponsibility.

Homophilia: Public Acceptance of Homosexual Behaviour 

Introductory note: Many readers appear to misinterpret what is being said here based on their prior assumptions. The present writer has no direct knowledge of the 'gay' community. These comments arise solely as a by-product of a study of child sexual abuse. The latter indicated that the community is turning a blind eye to the extent of that problem - and the following suggests only that homophilia appears morally indefensible because homosexual behaviour has two not-immediately-obvious links with child abuse and neglect (see also Tactics used in covering up sexual abuse of children in the community generally).

Extreme caution in endorsement of 'homosexual rights' may be warranted. This issue may be nowhere near as clear-cut as it has been popularly presented. 

In fact public acceptance of homosexual behaviour (which some groups apparently label 'homophilia' [1]) seems morally indefensible because it may (often unwittingly) involve: (a) giving tacit endorsement to past child abuse and neglect - which seems often to play a role in breeding 'gays'; and (b) facilitating future child sex abuse.

The problem is that:

  • despite the tantalizing but inconclusive indications that some researchers find to support their assumption that homosexual behaviour may be purely a product of genetics or inter-uterine exposure to hormones, it appears that field observations suggest that homosexual behaviour may often be an emotional / addictive affliction as a way of coping with childhood abuse or neglect [1, 2, 3]. For example an observer with long personal experience (as an insider in Sydney's 'gay' community) and study argues [1] that:
    • people need to get the facts because of pressure to endorse homosexuality - and this requires reading. Reliance on the popular media is unsafe because there is a lot of misinformation around;
    • 1-2% of the population experience same-sex attractions;
    • a substantial percentage of those practicing homosexuality are married;
    • stable faithful homosexual relationships are a myth;
    • very few in the 'gay' scene are happy - and all seem to be damaged;
    • homosexuality has identifiable causes eg there is often a history of emotional deprivation and sexual abuse as children and a retarded emotional and intellectual development;
    • 50% of those who adopt a gay lifestyle become HIV+;
    • many people struggle with same-sex attractions and want help to avoid a gay lifestyle. Providing support for them is a long and difficult process;
    • homosexual orientation can change.
  • there seem to be reasonable grounds for concern that the public acceptance of homosexual behaviour has a key role in facilitating child sexual abuse and in breeding future child sex offenders (see About Child Sex Abuse). The latter referred to:
    • estimates that a disturbingly high percentage of children (eg 12-25%) within the community are subject to sexual abuse;
    • an expert view that the public acceptance of homosexual behaviour puts children at risk of sexual predation - because they are able to be convinced that it is 'normal' and, because their bodies respond when stimulated, they are able to be misled into believing that they are homosexual;
    • children who are sex abuse victims and thus confused about their sexuality, being at risk of becoming abusers of the next generation of children (a fact that it was suggested may be related to the apparent accumulation of potential abusers in some church institutions).

If the above claim that homosexual behaviour is an emotional / addictive affliction in many / most cases is valid, then it makes no more sense to either: (a) try to prevent it by law; or (b) endorse it as a 'right relationship', than would be be the case for anorexia nervosa.

A Parallel? It was suggested (by a prominent US psychiatrist) that transgenderism (ie a perception that one's real sexuality is different to one's biological sexuality - which differs from, but is presumably not unrelated to, same sex attraction) is a mental disorder that merits treatment. It is seen as a disorder similar to anorexia nervosa which can lead to grim psychological outcomes. 70-80 percent of children who express transgender feelings were suggested to spontaneously lose those feelings over time. Providing 'sex education' which suggests that their situation is normal was seen to lead to severe problems for transgender children. [1]

 Also some US and New Zealand studies indicate that between the ages of 16 and 26 some 80% of same-sex attracted boys and girls become opposite-sex attracted as adults. If this is so, then the common claim that sexual attraction is unchangeable is a myth (see Ritch C Savin-Williams and Geoffrey L Ream, “Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during adolescence and young adulthood”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 36, Issue 3, June 2007, pp 385 394 and N Dickson, C Paul and P Herbison, “Same-sex attraction in a birth cohort: Prevalence and persistence in early adulthood”, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 56, April 2003, pp 1607–1615). 

Moreover, if apparently-informed-observers' claims about the widespread incidence of child sexual abuse are valid (ie that sexual abuse might impact 12% of boys and 25% of girls) and if child abuse is a major factor in the breeding of 'gays' (as suggested above), then the public acceptance of homosexual behaviour as 'normal' would constitute belated and morally-indefensible endorsement of the neglect or abuse of children by adults who were supposed to be caring for them. Also if suggestions (op cit) that sexual abuse tends to arise in situations where children live with adults who are not their biological parents, then the breakdown of traditional lifelong marriages (which leads to the the emergence of blended families) would be a contributing factor to both large numbers of sexually-abused children and 'gay' adults.

A Comment on Causality? It is understood that about 25% of girls and 12% of boys are subject to sexual abuse, and that the percentages of those in the 'gay' community who were exposed to sexual abuse as children is around 65+% for males and 85% for females. If these figures are realistic, then:

  • those in the 'gay' community are 4-5 times more likely to have been exposed to sexual abuse as children than those the general community; and
  • something like 53-60% of those in the 'gay' community may be involved as a direct result of sexual abuse as children (ie 65+% - 12% for males and 85% - 25% for females)

Overall this implies that childhood sexual abuse (quite apart from other childhood stresses) is a significant, though not the only, factor in the breeding of 'gays'.  And, as noted above, if claims that abuse primarily involves step-fathers (ie arises mainly where children live with adults who are not their biological parents) are valid, then the post-WWII breakdown of traditional concepts of life-long marriages would have to be seen be seen as a causal factor.

Scientific studies of the causes of homosexual behaviour do not seem to provide a reliable guide to what is going on. An attempt to identify literature on this (ie examining the first 100 references returned by Google Scholar) identified, for example, 5 relevant studies which respectively:

  • suggested that there was little in the scientific literature about the causes - but then indicated an interest only in whether there were biological causes [1];
  • indicated that parental maltreatment was a factor - though details of the extent of this were not included in readily available documents [1];
  • suggested that claims about biological causes were invalid, and that homosexual behaviour was 'learned' in various ways (including the effect of childhood abuse) [1];
  • suggested that the causes of homosexuality was a very muddy and debatable field, and there seem to be a multiplicity of causes [1] ;
  • claimed to present a comprehensive account of causes, but in doing so considered only biological factors [1].

An Australian observer privately suggested in June 2011 that a systematic scientific study of the causes of homosexuality had been undertaken, whose results were not yet published. It was further suggested that the study showed that child abuse was a factor in homosexuality (a finding that surprised that observer) but that the percentage of cases (though undisclosed) was below the estimates above, and that genetic factors were more important. [CPDS Comment; It is hard to assess research results that are unavailable. Also, as shown by the brief literature sample above, the conclusions that researchers reach seem to be heavily influenced by their assumptions]

The present writer's attention was also drawn to studies which implied that there was no evidence at all of a linkage between sexual abuse of children and homosexual behaviour (Schlatter E and Steinbeck R, 10 Anti-gay myths debunked', Intelligence Report, Winter 2010) - a conclusion which suggests that the referenced studies probably reflect the starting assumptions of its authors.

A US study reportedly found that 'sexual minority youth' face serious personal problem (eg ‘suicidality and depressive symptoms’) as a consequence of violence, discrimination and victimization, but did not seem to consider the extent to which both directly and indirectly such problems and their homosexual behaviour itself may often have a common cause (ie abuse / neglect as children).

A US study reportedly found that two stretches of DNA are linked to homosexuality in men - strengthening arguments for a 'gay gene'. This was based on a study of 400 gay brothers. One researcher said that: (a) sexual orientation is not a matter of choice; (b) two gene sets affect whether a person is gay; and (c) this should not be used as a basis for selective abortions of potentially gay babies - because it is not accurate and there are many other factors involved [1]  [CPDS Comment: There is something strange about drawing the conclusion that 'being gay is all in your genes' based on a study of gay brothers (surely a sample where genetic factors are most likely to be involved) and also pointing out that many other factors are involved]

It was suggested in June 2014 that that there is evidence of a 'male-loving-gene' which in women predisposes them to mate young and have many children, while in men it causes a predisposition to homosexuality [1]

Many / Most are Not Born this Way: A Child Abuse View of 'Gay' Lifestyles - email sent 6/6/14

Professor Jenny Graves
Latrobe University

Re: Born this way? An evolutionary view of ‘gay genes’, The Conversation, 2/6/14

Your article points to the possibility that homosexual men may share a ‘gay gene’ which affects their mating preferences.

While this is possibly / probably valid in relation to some who favour a homosexual lifestyle it seems that a very significant percentage (probably a majority) are ‘gay’ because of sexual abuse and neglect as children. This (and other reasons to suggest that publicly proclaiming homosexual behavior as normal is morally indefensible) are outlined in Homophilia: Public Acceptance of Homosexual Behaviour.

John Craig

Furthermore, if the public acceptance of homosexual behaviour makes children more vulnerable to sexual abuse, there must be some uncertainty about the motives for supporting homosexual  'rights' by adults in institutions and non-biological families where children are most at risk of sexual abuse. Also the existence of unproven (yet not implausible) indicators of involvement in child sexual abuse by some with official roles that potentially allow them to stifle attempts to investigate anything that would raise public awareness / concerns about child sexual abuse can also be noted.

Finally it is noted that the Judeo-Christian scriptures (the traditional guidebook on morality in Western societies, that is now increasingly regarded this way worldwide) does not seem to endorse homosexual behaviour anywhere - quite the reverse in fact.

February 2004

Links regarding Keeping Religion out of Australian Politics

Humanism classes in government schools (email sent 12/11/10)

Get God out of the Classroom: Good Luck with That! (email sent 12/4/11)

Are Politicians Idiots? (email sent 13/5/11)

A Confident Secularist Society? (Email sent 6/8/11)