There were conflicting reports flying around yesterday – the nature of the subject and the lack of clarity and confirmation is an explosive mix.
It seems that the British Government has confirmed that UK schools that are found to be ‘indoctrinating pupils about gay people’, i.e. referring to gay people in negative and derogatory terms, will face closure under new rules designed to promote ‘British values’. Terrific! Not only will the top brass at religious schools have to ensure conformity but the heads of all schools will have to ensure that their teachers tow the line on this one – bigotry is not the sole domain of religious schools. However, apparently the UK Department for Education had said (via a Tweet, according to the BBC) that it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest teachers in these (religious) schools would be forced to give lessons on gay rights. Now this is not good! This alleged ‘qualification’ by the DoE was picked up by Labour and the Lib Dems who accused the Conservatives of not regarding gay rights as one of the British values.
The implication here is that the British Government is trying to steer a middle course, prohibiting, obviously, bigoted teaching whilst not making it policy that teachers have to give lessons on gay rights. It seems that the Government is saying to religious schools, “you can’t demean gay people but you don’t have to say that gay relationships are ok, you don’t have to teach ‘gay rights'”.
I believe that ALL schools should give lessons on gay rights and on human rights generally. Scare mongers and bigots listen to this view and say that what I’m advocating is that gay relationships should/can be ‘marketed’ as the ‘preferred’ relationship but I am not saying that – I’m merely saying that the message must go out that gay relationships are as valid as heterosexual relationships, no more and no less. I know that there is a conflict here between religious doctrine and, quite frankly, what is right and I’m sure that there are many good, kind and caring teachers in all faith schools and that they deal with the subject sympathetically. However, I’m also sure that there are many teachers in faith schools (and non-faith schools) who refer to homosexuality and gay people in unacceptable, cruel and bigoted terms – imagine how some kids in those teachers’ classes, kids who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, perhaps being bullied, feeling lonely, suffering, imagine how they feel when teachers talk about gay people being bad, being sinners and being disgusting.
I’d be very surprised if the word ‘promote’ was being used in the way that the scare mongers are screaming about…my commonsensical guess is that the word ‘promote’, in this case, refers to homosexual relationships being openly discussed as being as valid as heterosexual relationships which is what they are – how many Jewish, Muslim, Catholic etc school kids in the past have committed suicide because of dogmatic, blinkered, nasty attitudes towards the subject of homosexuality in faith schools?
There is a real problem here: the various religions appear to say that homosexuality is a no-no which leads to many religious schools (and religious teachers) teaching that it’s a no-no….so how can the fact that homosexuality exists just as heterosexuality exists, how can that fact be reconciled with Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures? I don’t know the answer(s) and, as I have said, I’m sure that there are caring and sympathetic leaders in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities who have ways of working it out but the most important thing here is that kids growing up are taught that homosexual relationships are as valid and acceptable as are heterosexual relationships. The worst scenario is allowing bigotry and outright hatred to consign a school kid to a life of loneliness and despair. The gay kid in school didn’t decide one morning that he’d be gay – the sky is blue, the sun is hot and that kid is gay.
It sounds like the UK Department for Education is moving in the right direction but that it is not going far enough. I sincerely hope that British school children are not sacrificed on the Government’s altar of political correctness and fear of upsetting ‘religious sensitivities’!!