"Gender" and "Liberalism" are dangerous!"
‘Tasked by the European Union, the Education Ministry is going to carry out a massive attack on our children in September’ – that’s how boldly starts a petition, addressed to the Education Ministry, which has been signed by famous artists and public figures.
The matter concerns a new school subject – ‘Society and I’, that will be taught to the lower grade students starting from 2017.
There has not been either a textbook or a specific curriculum developed for this subject yet. However, it has already become a reason for beating “the tocsin of alarm.’ That’s the titled of the petition that has dozens of signees and that has caused a great stir in social networks.
According to the petition signees, the reason for the “alarm is a book entitled the “Compass. This book has been put in the reference section of the Education Ministry’s official website, which means that a teacher can optionally choose it as a school textbook. The book provides guidelines and exercises on how to discuss with students different topics, like, for instance, sexual minorities.
The words and terms, such as: ‘gay’, ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ are also mentioned in the book.
The petition signees believe that a new subject – ‘Society and I’, ‘on the one hand, serves to poisoning minds through vile and terrible sodomy consciousness, and, on the other hand, to degradation of religious and national consciousness.’
‘This school subject concerns children’s sex education from a gay perspective!’ – Says Guram Palavandishvili, a philologist, who is an author and initiator of the petition.
The Education Ministry notes that what makes the petition signees worry in advance does not actually exist.
‘The petition aims at misleading the public and discrediting the education system. This is a provocation,’ – the Education Ministry’s statement reads. The statement once again specifies that the work on the textbook is underway at this stage and that different social groups, including the Patriarchate, have been engaged in the process.
However, ‘the tocsin of alarm’ has apparently concerned the Education Ministry, since the ‘Compass’ book disappeared from the website.
Guram Palavandishvili, the petition author, expects the Education Ministry to make concrete clarifications:
‘In order to trust the minister, we should make sure that the Minister considers sodomy to be a sin. She should publicly state that it is a vicious practice and that it will not be introduced in schools,’ – he claims.
Country’s most powerful institution – the church, also stands against introduction of the new subject alongside the public figures. The church is regularly cooperating with the Education Ministry, closely watching the agency’s activity and often making adjustments to it.
The Education Center, that is entitled to interfere in the education system and make alterations in the form of recommendations, has been operating at the Patriarchate of Georgia as early as since 1993.
Bishop Ioane (John), the Head of the Patriarchate’s Education Center, says the Ministry often takes into account the Patriarchate’s advice and recommendations. He brings particular examples.
‘Such terms as ‘gender ‘and’ liberal values’ have been withdrawn from the third grade textbooks on our recommendation. Both of these terms are dangerous. ‘Liberal values’ is a political term. We believe, schools should not be politicized … As far as ‘gender’ is concerned – how many sexes are there? Just two. And as for ‘gender’, there are more than 50, ‘- said Bishop John.
According to him, not all differences are permissible:
‘High-grade students should be told about religious and ethnic minorities, rather than about sexual minorities. These issues are so widely promoted on TV. It is unacceptable to discuss these issues in course of the teaching process. ‘
A standard of the ‘Society and I’ school subject, as well as the aspects that this subject should teach, are being developed now. Part of the society’s protest and mixed reaction prompted “Tanadgoma medical and psychological center to conduct a special survey jointly with the Ministry of Education, aimed to reveal public attitude towards the new subject and what should be taught at school, in general.
Teachers and students’ parents from over 60 schools in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Batumi and Telavi, were involved in the survey.
It turned out that there is an interest only in such topics, as: family, healthy lifestyle, the environment we are living in, prevention of violence among schoolchildren, why should one his/her country etc.
As for the issues, such as: religion, gender and minorities, the respondents showed great caution in this regard.
For that very reason, the initial version of the subject standard has been changed and these topics have been withdrawn from the curriculum:
‘The religion was initially included in the standard’s draft version. We live in a multi-ethnic environment and we should be tolerant towards each other. Although this has also led to confrontation and the religion has been completely withdrawn from the final version, that is available now. As for the gender, in the initial version of the standard it was considered from the point of view of equal opportunities for boys and girls. The boy and girl shall equally help parents at home; or that a child should be taught that both, a mother and a father, should equally participate in child upbringing etc. That’s the perspective, from which the gender issue was considered. However it has also become a subject of controversy and led to withdrawal of the theme,’- says Sergo Chikhladze, initiator of the survey.
Nargiza Kakulia is teaching lower grades at Zugdidi school #2. From the next academic year, her students will be presumably studying a new subject – ‘Society and I ‘.
At this stage she has no information either about a new textbook or the teaching methodology.
As she says, she often talks to her students about the norms of behavior that should be observed in the society, as well as about inadmissibility of violence and oppression of friends.
‘We all come from traditional families, we have Georgian mentality and this is quite understandable. However, the life is moving ahead after all? If we do not tell the children about sexual minorities, they will learn about them themselves, won’t they? Therefore, it would be better if they are provided with accurate information in a competent manner. ‘