23 February 2010


Sex Education and Religion

Today's headlines focus on the matter noted in yesterday's post - that the government has watered down its own bill on future personal sex and relationship education by caving in to pressure from the religious schools lobby. The bill does advance the cause of good sex and relationship education by establishing for the first time certain requirements on all state schools to address issues of sex and relationships. However, the requirement to give sex education in a way that encourages the acceptance of sexual diversity and with information about abortion and contraception has now been qualified by an amendment that allows religious (faith) schools to teach such matters in accordance with their own religious ethos.
A discussion between John Humphries and Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, on his amendment this morning brought out the problems. For example, a Catholic school (which already separates out and identifies its pupils as different from others, as believers in the 'one true faith') will be able to say that homosexuality exists but that it is considered a sin for which offenders will go to Hell; that abortion is available but that any girl who has one will be committing a sin and will go to Hell; that contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies (ref. previous point!) but that anyone that uses a condom will be committing a sin and will ...
Where does such an approach leave the teenager seeking an understanding of how best to conduct their sexual lives? When the sermon in school assembly tells the student that sex is bad and the sex education curriculum is pictured by teachers as an externally imposed requirement that they don't agree with? Confused, that's where.
The furore exposes, once again, that the whole attempt to revive religion through massive public funding of religious schooling is fraught with dysfunctionality and conflicts. Creationism v. evolution; diversity v. homophobia; sex education v. backstreet abortions; birth control v. overpopulation; healthy sexual activity v. guilt; STIs v. condoms; scientific method v. mythology; etc., etc.
Religious schools should not be funded from the public purse. Let the religious pay from their own pockets to indoctrinate their children in all the nonsense in which they specialise. Better still, make it a legal obligation that all children must attend open community schools that concentrate on education, not indoctrination.

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The Catholic Education Service crows about its success in lobbying for this U-Turn.

I too heard Ed Balls on Today - and what a B**** up his government has made of it (no originality claimed - just seemed especially apt this time). Sadly his opponent was Jonathan Romain of the Accord coalition which latter some secularists and humanists regard as 'a step in the right direction' on account of their position on segregated admissions and now S&R education. But Romain said quite unequivocally that he is in favour of 'faith' schools. How can an organisation holding such a position be supported by secularists? For some clarity, listen to Andrew Copson of the BHA on BBC iPlayer (Beyond Belief, 22 Feb).

BTW - the 'let them pay for it themselves' argument doesn't work for me because it does not address a child's right to be properly educated. And how, with all the abuse they've been responsible for covering up, can anyone at all contemplate trusting the RC church with looking after children, let alone educating them.
Thanks Anon. I am also sceptical about Accord - but it's an old argument - do you soften your position to be able to align with a broader movement or stay pure to make things clear? P'raps at times you do one and at others the other. On faith schools I think the majority of people are opposed so there's no need to have a broad and compromised coalition to try to soften the edges.
My last point (let the religious pay) seems only right. I would argue that all kids should compulsorily attend state community schools but if their parents want to have them indoctrinated it is their choice - but it ought to be done in their time and with their money. I think it would be virtually impossible to criminalise the indoctrination of children in to religion. And knowing kids, if it was illegal they'd probably want to be indoctrinated just to be awkward!

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