Current social attitudes toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) community can be seen as a significant contributor to the equity, or lack thereof, of the sexual education syllabus in schools. The range of topics covered in regard to homosexuality varies greatly between and within Australia and the United States of America (Bell, 2008, 2). This variance in service provisions can be attributed to differing social attitudes, specifically those held by parents, teachers, students and policy-makers. These social attitudes directly impact the equity of a schools sexual education program. Further, while social attitudes shape education provision they are also shaped by education. With statistics showing that the more the topic of homosexuality is included in education, the more tolerant individuals become toward the GLBTI community (Stevenson, 1988, 500). Increased education, thus, can be seen to decrease bullying and harassment and increase tolerance, making schools and society safer for GLBTI people.
In this essay I will discuss the impact social attitudes have on the provision of sexual education in schools. I will use the varying social attitudes between and within Australia and America as evidence that as attitudes change towards homosexuality so too does the equity of school curriculums. By examining the opinions of parents, teachers and students, as well as legal and health perspectives, I will show the impact the perspectives of society and individuals has, not only on education provision, but on the GLBTI community itself.
Over 35% of the Australian population aged 14 year and over believe that homosexuality is immoral according to a survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research (Flood and Hamilton, 2005, 1). Homophobic attitudes vary state by state with Queensland and Tasmania ranking the most homophobic and Victoria the least (Flood and Hamilton, 2005, 1). Metropolitan areas, the survey found, are substantially less homophobic than non-metropolitan areas, with the exception of some areas of Sydney (Flood and Hamilton, 2005, 1-2). Homophobia, further, varies with age, religious affiliation and religious service attendance (Flood and Hamilton, 2005, 2).
These Homophobic attitudes are further reflected in reports made by the GLBTI community in Australia in a 2005 survey conducted by La Trobe University. The survey found that 60% of GLBTI people had experienced verbal abuse, 23% had experienced threats of violence or intimidation and 14% had been physically attacked (Tucker, 2011). This harassment often leads to depression and anxiety (Tucker, 2011), however, it is especially worrisome for GLBTI youth who are an estimated six times more likely to attempt suicide then the rest of society (Lee, 2002).
Bullying and harassment is statistically most likely to take place within school with 69% of cases reported in school grounds, followed by 47% of cases taking place in the streets (Tucker, 2011). These figures leave...