Elite private boys schools have been slammed for promoting "offensive and misogynist" toxic masculinity by a leading education academic.

Dr George Variyan, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, has questioned the relevance of boys' schools in a "gender-just world".

Such schools' gender segregation, hyper-competition and rugged sport "continue to manifest a culture of masculinity that is both toxic and excluding of females," he told the Australian Association for Research in Education.

He told the Herald Sun he stopped short of calling for a ban, saying such calls would sidetrack important discussions about school culture.

Dr Variyan's comments follow a petition calling for sexual consent education to be taught in schools, which was swamped with testimonies from young women saying they had been sexually assaulted by their male peers.

Many of the anonymous accounts say their young male perpetrators came from elite private boys' schools in Sydney and Melbourne.

These calls were "a 'wake-up call' for the privileged all-boys' private schools who have been named in these allegations," Dr Variyan said.

Private schools’ gender segregation, hyper-competition and rugged sport manifested a culture of misogyny among boys, the academic argued. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross.
Private schools’ gender segregation, hyper-competition and rugged sport manifested a culture of misogyny among boys, the academic argued. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross.

"For critics who have previously argued that the "education sector [has] yet to learn lessons of #MeToo", perhaps this is really the moment when everyone actually wakes up."

A number of former students from elite Victorian boys' schools, including Xavier College, St Kevin's College and Trinity Grammar, were implicated in the petition, along with a number of boys from co-ed schools.

One former student from Xavier College who finished in 2018 wrote of boys "forcing themselves onto girls, making them kiss them or perform oral sex on them".

Dr Variyan said he was sceptical about the possibility of boys' schools changing.

"Dealing with gender violence and oppression in elite private schools might be a question of dealing with powerful interests," he said in the public post to AARE followers.

However, there are signs a number of boys' schools are committed to change.

St Kevin's College now has a female principal, Deborah Barker, and Trinity Grammar has a female deputy principal, Susan Hill.

An academic has slammed elite private boys’ schools, saying they are a breeding ground for misogyny. But St Kevin’s is among those committed to change, hiring a female principal. Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson.
An academic has slammed elite private boys’ schools, saying they are a breeding ground for misogyny. But St Kevin’s is among those committed to change, hiring a female principal. Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson.

Both schools have communicated with students and parents in light of the petition's contents about the need for respectful relationships.

Bill Doherty, principal of Xavier College, said the key was having "critical ongoing conversations" with students.

"We have to put a reflective lens on everything we do and always aspire to do better," he said.

Mr Doherty commended the young women for speaking out in a bid to bring about change.

 

susie.obrien@news.com.au

Originally published as Elite boys schools promote misogyny: academic


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