In the current crucible of political contention, a Twitter clash unfolded pitting Spin Doctor David Cormack against National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Cormack disapproved of Luxon’s remarks on the matters of sexuality in schools, and his suggestion that this responsibility should rest with parents.
Cormack labeled the comments as ‘dangerous’, ringing the alarm over the potential impact on LGBTQI+ youth residing in conservative households. Cormack’s supporters backed him up, lamenting the scarcity of comprehensive sex education, and the thoughtful instruction they never received from their own parents. Unable to trust that parents wouldn’t be too reticent, or ‘correct’ in what they chose to share, state-sanctioned activists emerged as the only moral choice.
Cormack raises a valid point regarding children brought up in ultra-religious households, where candid discussions on sexuality, let alone sexual identities falling outside of biblical prescription, may face stern opposition. Nevertheless, to place unwavering faith in controversial activist groups to serve as a panacea for parents’ deeply entrenched beliefs seems naively optimistic. What is also optimistic is that religious, and other groups, will simply shrug their shoulders at education programs they view as aggressively working against their own cultural and religious values. Ask him and he’d no doubt tell you he is a champion of minorities, and yet Cormack, and others like him, are clearly on a collision course with multiculturalism itself.
The hard Left’s scepticism towards multiculturalism is a lurking specter that has eluded proper scrutiny. Scholars like sociologist Paul Spoonley, the rational spokesperson for state censorship, will often employ our shifting ethnic demographics as a rationale for speech restrictions. This argument insults both sides: on one it suggests we should fear a predictable bigotry in Kiwis who will be resistant to these demographic shifts, and, conversely, that non-white settlers demand the refuge of more and more illiberal policy. There is a perversity to this thinking, considering many of our new New Zealanders have fled regimes where their governments would dictate what could, and could not be said.
Multiculturalism, at its core, is a system based on the coexistence of diverse factions, notwithstanding their differing values. The boundaries of tolerance regarding the expression of sexuality will naturally differ, with some embracing progress and others holding fast to traditional concepts. Most will likely sit somewhere in the middle – religious parents, appreciative of our secular system, who will teach that homosexuality is real and that children shouldn’t display or suffer bigotry towards it while dismissing, say, the concept of gender. We also have communities in New Zealand that will encourage ethnic and religious discrimination when their child seeks a partner. Strangely, no one wants to have this fight. But on sexuality at least, Cormack, though representing a tiny faction both politically and socially, wants his views on these matters dictated to the children of the religious to the letter.
The efficiency of contemporary sex education in schools needs proper scrutiny too. A few educators have shared with me now that students privately pour scorn the subject, akin to our generation’s deriding of religion in schools. It is even proving a sense of mirth for them. Children are not always the sponges we pretend them to be and can often be far more sceptical than adults.
Cormack and others presume that their perspective should be universally embraced, irrespective of the vast array of backgrounds and experiences among individuals and groups. This approach contradicts the very essence of multiculturalism, which cherishes the richness of thought and cultural heritage across diverse communities. Consequently, such dogmatism risks alienating minority groups, including Muslims, African and Asian Christians, and others, estranging them from the hard Left’s purported inclusivity.
And is any of this warranted anyway? Multiculturalism is the ideal because it is a potent force of deradicalisation. As we are all thrust into shared spaces—be it workplaces or other domains—moderation gradually prevails. This is precisely how the West became the most liberal sphere. The imposition of beliefs through coercion represents an entirely distinct and hazardous path, however. And it is this brand of force that propels the hard Left toward a perilous confrontation with numerous minority groups, as they undermine the very harmony they purport to champion.
Lessons of difference and acceptance are around us daily in the West. We are constantly negotiating relationships with those with whom we may profoundly disagree but generally arrive at positive outcomes. Religious parents can, and should (and will regardless), be able to teach whatever they want: their children will experience plenty of encounters that will contradict some of what they learn, and most will form their own opinions. But denying parents this, and forcing highly ideological sex ed upon them is likely only to revive and entrench traditional views, and will create conflict in an education system that can’t afford more disruption.