Now then. It's not exactly hot news that there has been a discussion about this issue: should parents be able to opt their children out of these lessons that have an inclusive agenda and represent a range of the lives that children and adults might lead? My imagination has always gone to a place where this sort of thing happens in a community radically different from the one I inhabit, where there is a group of people with a very specific (and often religious) viewpoint that is incompatible with the 21st century liberalism that seems to lie at the heart of most of the top-down agenda in education. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the sex education programme for the intermediately-sized person in my house has become the subject of debate in the school community.
To me, this is a non-issue, and perhaps that's where I need to do some improving. Schools can approach sex-as-procreation from a biological standpoint, and when it comes to describing and explaining reproduction, that's what happens. But when it comes to teaching about relationships, there's an entirely different flavour, and it's not right to limit what it is that constitutes an appropriate romantic relationship to the 'one man and one woman' that does not, in that guise at least, appear anywhere in the Bible. It can be easy to forget that not everyone supports this view, and it can be equally easy to dismiss anyone who does not share it as anything from under-educated to simply barbaric. Arguing against a religion-inspired viewpoint such as this, though, is incredibly difficult. I have tried - often with great enthusiasm but diminished skill due to the malign influence of beer - to persuade a range of hitherto unsuspecting Christians (and, for whatever reason, that's the group of people who have been on the receiving end of my efforts) that their interpretation of their own religion is wrong. I go down the line of Jesus being generally tolerant and forgiving, very much of the 'be excellent to each other' school of thought. The response is generally of a fairly intimate - one might even suggest 'prurient' - nature, focusing on people's sexual behaviour. I try the line that says 'same bit of the Bible as shellfish', the counter-argument seems to be that prohibition of homosexuality is somehow more central than prohibition of prawns, which was only ever a sensible counter-measure to the possibility of food poisoning.
This is a situation where parental choice could legitimately be overridden, but that takes a serious amount of stones for a headteacher: to announce to the community that she serves that one of their beliefs will be actively contradicted in school is to risk all manner of comebacks. Schools are held to account for all sorts of things that, really, lie outside their power to put right. Being a headteacher is obviously a responsible position, but this seems to be a responsibility that should be handled at a top-down level. It's an argument that ought to get some real attention, whatever the outcome.
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