Gay education illustration.
Gay literature in schools
Should kids as young as four be taught about homosexuality in the classroom? Inside Out visits a primary school in Leytonstone where youngsters are reading stories about same-sex relationships. We also hear two views for and against this idea.
This is one of a few schools taking part in a project introducing youngsters to gay and lesbian relationships through a series of books in preparation for controversial proposals due out later in 2009.
The books are aimed at showing children that homosexuality is part of everyday life and it is hoped that this may help reduce homophobic bullying in the playground.
It’s not just gay rights storybooks that are available to the children.
Junior schools kids act a play, And Tango Makes Three, featuring two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo.
There are now plans to distribute gay fairytales to nurseries but opinion is divided about whether this is a good idea.
We asked two people with opposing views to make their case for and against gay literature in schools.
THE CASE AGAINST GAY LITERATURE IN SCHOOLS
by Andrew Hibbard - The Parent Organisation Ltd
The value of marriage has been eroded in the past decade and the emphasis switched to same-sex relationships and single parenthood.
Schools now teach children as young as five that both are acceptable, although neither is condoned by any religion.
Schools call it 'relationship' education. It is the start of sex education.
Why teach them?
Infant school children are not naturally racist or homophobic.
If they make comments, they rarely understand them. Why teach them?
Homosexual subject matter may be suitable for older primary school children but by age 10 most would see a story of two male penguins hatching an egg as nothing but childish fiction.
Last year my 10-year-old announced he had been shown in class how to put on a condom.
Penguins - used in gay education.
Why did he need to know? It is irrelevant and inappropriate.
It is not appropriate to teach infants about homosexuality any more than it is appropriate to show 15-year-olds graphic images of genitalia and oral sex – images stronger than they can see legally outside the classroom.
There is huge inconsistency in sex education - some schools go much too far while others barely touch it.
Consistency is important, but why has government not sought the views of parents?
Why do some organisations want five-year-olds taught about sex?
It can come as little surprise that having been shown, in detail, how to do sex, and given access to free contraception, morning after pills and abortions without their parents' knowledge or consent, that teenagers get pregnant.
THE CASE FOR GAY LITERATURE IN SCHOOLS
by Sue Sanders – LGBT History Month
Section 28, the local government Bill that came into force in 1988, prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in classrooms.
For almost two decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people were invisible in the curriculum.
I believe that led to the current situation where pupils assume anything but heterosexuality is negative.
They don’t understand that different to other can be different because the words, lesbian, gay, bisexual were not mentioned in a positive way.
Teachers are now beginning to recognise that if they are going to tackle social inclusion, if they are going to think about equality generally, then one has to think about the diversity of the entirety of the population and include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans people.
Educating the parents
If a parent is saying that they don't want their kid to read a book about same-sex parents I would suggest that maybe what we need to be doing is think about how we educate the parents.
What we need to do is sit down and enable those parents to understand why are we doing this, what the purpose is behind it.
And the purpose behind it is to enable children who are being brought up by same-sex parents to feel that their lifestyle is being recognised and acknowledged.
The traditional family unit.
It wasn't that long ago that you would do your reading from Janet and John books, which would be mother, father, brother and sister and a dog.
There's a recognition that such a book now in school has to be augmented showing a whole variety of different families, so that we are reflecting the community that we are living in.
We have heard, for instance, of young black children taking bleach to their skin and trying to make themselves white, because they weren't seeing black images around them, they didn't understand what black was.
The whole world that was being presented to them was white, therefore, they wanted to fit in.
And that's pretty frightening and shocking.
Young lesbians and gays are faced with a not unsimilar situation.
Responsibility of schools
Schools have a heavy responsibility, and it's not an easy job.
So we are constantly trying to give them resources and ideas, and tools so that they can give a mirror to the diversity of their young people so that the diversity of their young people can see themselves reflected and be able to grow.
When I sit down with some teachers and say we need to challenge this pejorative use of the word 'gay' they will argue with me and say - oh, but they're not being homophobic.
Not all parents support gay education.
And I say, well, that's interesting, what are they being? What are they doing? Well, are they celebrating people?
You will hear the word 'gay' used pejoratively - that's so gay, you're so gay etc, and it is no way whatsoever celebrating lesbian and gay, bisexual, trans people.
It is a vicious and unpleasant term.
If lesbians and gays, bisexual, trans people are invisible in the curriculum, what we are doing is denying the identity and the reality of a lot of our young people, and the effect of that can be very powerful.
I would say that's homophobic in and of itself, and I would say that homophobia is very dangerous and it kills.
last updated: 03/03/2009 at 17:50