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Britain: Children as young as four are given ‘gay’ assembly June 7, 2009

Posted by laïcité in Education, International.
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This morning in my hotel room in London I happened to chance upon a very interesting headline in today’s copy of The Daily Telegraph. Children as young as four were given an assembly about homosexuality as part of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. From the article (emphasis mine):

In a statement sent out to schools by the council education officer Lynne Miller said: “Young children are exposed at a very early age to homophobic language. Pupils may call each other ‘gay’ without really understanding what it means, but learn that it means something negative, useless, and not positive.

If such usage is not challenged it makes it much more difficult to address homophobic bullying in secondary schools.

“Schools are well placed to explore different lifestyles as they are able to reach all children and young people and do this in a professional and evidence-based way and within a safe learning environment.”

Other than the fact that this issue mirrors the fiasco over Aware’s sexuality education program in schools in Singapore, I found a couple of things about it particularly refreshing.

Firstly, although there were indeed parents who complained about this assembly session about homosexuality, it was not because they were concerned about their kids “turning gay” or because of homosexuality being “immoral” or “sinful”. Instead, they were concerned that their children may have been too young and too easily confused by issues such as homosexuality. In fact, a parent even commented “I think for the older children they could understand as they tend to know about things already. But for my younger daughter Keira I think it was quite confusing.” So their concern was with the age at which the children are given the ‘gay” assembly, not the message itself.

Secondly, the authorities, the supportive parents, and the school involved have their priorities right: putting the interests of the children first, even if it means undertaking potentially controversial and unpopular actions. In this case, serving the interests of the children means preventing the occurrence of homophobic bullying, thus not only protecting the students who may eventually identify as homosexuals, but also protecting those who do not conform to traditionally accepted gender roles and behaviors from homosexual slurs. Moreover, what is even more commendable is the recognition that schools have a duty to give its students unbiased and factual information in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

After reading this article, I could only look back with dismay at how the Aware sexuality education program controversy turned out. The sad fact remains that when it comes to educating our children, Singapore’s conservative parents and education ministry have little respect for the principles of openness, inclusiveness, honesty or non discrimination. Maintaining the conservative status quo still remains their top priority, regardless of the welfare of the children, the existence of factual and scientific evidence which contradict their position, or the fact that prejudice and bigotry and intolerance are simply unethical.

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