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homophobia and sex education

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by durgamata, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    Hi Guys, in my blog for 16th - 17th Jan, just uploaded, I have been discussing homophobia and sex-education, after a very interesting conversation on this subject with a friend who teaches in a primary school with a big Somalian parent lobby who are very homophobic. I wonder if anyone here has experience re schools which have faced this kind of problem and advice re how to deal with it.

    The Senior Manager who is in charge of their flagship behavioural unit and who has helped make this school such a beacon of excellence is Gay and has written material on the subject which is some of the best in the country and used widely in many different authorities, but he feels his position is being made impossible by the head's refusal to confront this prejudice, for fear of loosing a large number of children if the Somali-lobby is offended.

    In my blog I have outlined a response which I think might work. I would appreciate any views.
  2. Do you really think it is wise to give so much personal information away on a public forum? You've given enough information for someone to identify the school and the teacher involved. You've also made claims about the headteacher and the parents.
  3. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    Hmm. That's something I will discuss with my friend.
  4. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    I agree with the previous comment about this being a public forum.
    Although I appreciate that this is a difficulty, I am a little uneasy that you accuse a group of parents of being 'very homophobic' and prejudiced.
    Presumably, they were brought up in a culture fashioned by their faith that is not as enlightened about same sex relationships as ours is and are therefore uncomfortable with their children being taught that practices they believe to be wrong are normal and natural. This is not necessarily homophobia or prejudice. Without seing the materials or knowing the regularity of their use, it is impossible to make a judgement but the parents' concern <u>may</u> be that they are used disproportionately or in a way that can be interpreted as encouragement.
    I think the only way around the situation is by dialogue between the school and representatives of the parents without accusations of homophobia and prejudice being used.
    I think I will now don a tin hat and hide in a corner!
  5. I'm sure many members of the BNP were "brought up in a culture fashioned by their faith" (or whatever) some of them may believe inter racial relationships are wrong and not normal or natural, but would you advocate a dialogue with them?

  6. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    I disagree with your assertion and therefore think the comparison is sufficiently flawed to safely dismiss it. However, despite that, surely dialogue without throwing in accusations that could be seen as insults is a way forward.
  7. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    Thanks for these comments, everyone. I do think this is an important matter. It's a question of principles and how to uphold them.

    To save anyone who is interested in this thread from having to go to the blog to know what this is about, I will summarise it here, taking a few precautions bearing in mind the comments above about confidentiality.

    from the blog

    Other interesting things ? in a conversation with a teacher friend ? they have been ducking the 'equality' and 'sexual education' question for a year or two as the intake is diverse and some communities from which they draw their pupils have strong (and narrow) beliefs on these things.

    At this school there is a unit for children with behavioural problems, led by an expert in SEAL, a deeply spiritual man ? although he would define himself as atheist. He also happens to be Gay ? and one of the main reasons for developing excellence in this field is to create a school environment which is secure and accepting of everyone ? including children who may be Gay.

    Recently the local authority or whoever checks these things has put pressure on the school to develop their sex-education framework and some leaders in the SMT hesitate to include homophobia in this. The official line is 'some people are Gay and that is all right' but they hesitate for fear of a riot from a rather vociferous and aggressive parent lobby (immigrants from an African country) who believe that being Gay is contrary to the laws of God.

    Update from 18th ? Yesterday, after talking about this in the morning, I had an inspiration related to this. I guess I had been reflecting/meditating on the problem and it occurred to me that one way to approach it would be to say, 'Some people are black and that's OK, some people are brown, and that's OK, some people are white, and that's OK. There are many different races and people have different coloured skin, hair and eyes etc. It's OK. That's who we are, what we are like. Nobody in our school will dispute that, everyone here agrees about that, but in this world there are some people who think one colour or race is better than another. That's called prejudice. When people who are prejudiced act in a way that favours one particular race, or in a way that makes problems for another race, people suffer. So in our school we want to make sure people are treated fairly, whatever the colour of their skin or whatever race they belong to. So we challenge that kind of prejudice. Then discuss the children's experiences. Have any of them any experience of prejudice? (I would be surprised if there is no experience of it, even in reception.)

    Then do the same with gender ? some people are girls and that's OK etc but some people think boys are better than girls and that's prejudice and when people treat boys and girls differently as a result, it can cause people to suffer. So in our school we want to make sure people are treated fairly and we challenge this kind of prejudice....

    Do this same exercise with religion ? 'some people are Muslims and that's OK, some are Christian and that's OK, some are Hindu and that's OK etc... but some people think one religion or branch of religion is better than another. Some people even think that another religion is wrong. That's another kind of prejudice. And when people treat members of one religion differently from members of another, it can cause people to suffer. So in our school we want to make sure people are all treated fairly and we challenge this kind of prejudice.

    Prejudice against one religion or another may even be something that people believe in really strongly because they believe their religion teaches them that the other religions are wrong. Then discuss the children's experience of that. (Again I would be surprised if there is no experience of this, even in reception.) In this country and in our school we respect all the religions and there is freedom of worship. This is very important to us. We welcome people to come to live here from all over the world and extend a hand of friendship to them all. We respect their beliefs and they also need to learn to respect the beliefs of others if they wish to live here and become a part of this country.

    From this foundation you can then teach that some men love women and some women love men. That's OK. But not everyone feels the same way. There are different sorts of sexuality. Some men love men and some women love women. That's called Gay, Homosexual or Lesbian. That's who they are and how they feel. It is just who they are and how they are. But some people think that these different ways of loving are wrong. That's another kind of prejudice. They may even believe it to be wrong because of something that their religion teaches and that can make a real problem for those who are Gay - both in their communities and in the wider society. In this country we believe it is wrong to reject someone or think badly of them just because of the way they feel about love.

    In our country we recognise that there are lots of different races, religions and ways of feeling love for other people. In Britain we believe that it is important to accept and respect people whatever their race, colour, religion or sexual orientation. But some countries are really prejudiced and people are treated badly if they are different. Some religions teach that it is wrong for a man to love another man, or a woman to love another woman. That can result in a lot of pressure on people who feel like that and it can cause people to suffer. So in our school we want to make sure people are all treated fairly and we challenge this kind of prejudice. Then discuss the children's experience of prejudice and homophobia.

    This is educating the children about reality and helping those from all communities to understand each other better.

    We are a school so we have to learn about all these differences and ways of responding to them ? and in school we make sure everyone is respected and nobody suffers from prejudice.

    When I had this 'revelation' yesterday it was so strong that I wanted to phone my friend at school to tell him. But today when he phoned on the way to school as he often does, I discussed it with him and he does think it's a good approach.

    He had a bit more news himself on the subject. His wife teaches in an area where they had a recent inset on sex-education and homophobia. They were given, by their instructor, the latest and best teaching on the subject of homophobia and the best way of responding to it ? and that is the material written by A, my friend's colleague, who is so unhappy about the way their school is capitulating to the powerful parent lobby, is refusing to counter their aggressive homophobia and has removed the homophobia-challenge element from what they are teaching in sex-education.

    My friend rang A to tell him this and he was delighted that this authority is using his work. But he is still not happy to work in a school which is in effect telling him that he is wrong to be Gay. He was saying that when he was reading a story with the children in his behavioural unit recently about an Indian family. There was a picture of the family at home. In one room there was a picture of Ganesha on the wall. Someone made a derogatory comment about this and he was able to say, 'That's not an 'elephant man.' That's Ganesha, one of the Hindu gods. This is a Hindu family and it's OK to be Hindu. But he said that if he were to read a story about a family where there were two dads and someone made a derogatory comment, he would not be (according to what the school is recommending at the moment) permitted to say, 'there are two dads because they are Gay ? and it's OK to be Gay.'

    He feels that the school is telling him that it is not OK to be Gay, that he should not be Gay and proud of it. And it was to combat this very kind of prejudice, prejudice which he himself suffered from as a child in school and which is blighting thousands of lives in our society and thousands of Gay children and young people in our schools, that he became a teacher and specialised in this area. He cannot stay in a school which perpetuates that kind of ignorance and prejudice.

    My friend said that basically the school is afraid of upsetting this parent lobby as 40% of the children come from that community and if they all decided to leave the school and go to a different one it would have catastrophic effects on funding. When they heard that she would be including sex-education ? after pressure from the LEA, she had a deputation of over 60 parents at the door next day.

    But surely, if we value our country and its values, we need to stand up for them. And if people are coming to live here, they need to learn to work within the framework of this country's ethical code of respect for all.

    My friend said that on the subject of homosexuality, even the staff are a problem. He was talking to one teacher who he likes a lot, quite a spiritual woman who is a practising Christian. She said that homosexuality is wrong and gave an example of a Lesbian woman who joined their church. She came to see that 'it was wrong to be Lesbian' and realised that 'she must have been abused in some way as a child' ? even though she comes from a lovely family and has absolutely no memory of any abuse ? or reason to think there could have been any - so her sexuality had been 'damaged.' She has now been able to 'straighten herself out' and got married and has a lovely family.

    My friend's colleague said that this 'ex-Lesbian' is very happy now. I told him a bit about the organisation Courage and it's founder who came to speak to us when I was training as a spiritual director with SPIDIR a few years ago. He had previously spent years, in a Fundamentalist church, spearheading an organisation which tried to straighten out gay men and make them into good heterosexual Christians. He had even got married himself. But eventually he saw how some people were being driven to contemplate and even attempt suicide because they were denying something very basic about who they were. And he himself was aware that he was living a lie. So he started Courage to educate the Christian community and support Gay people in being true to who they are.

    I said that my approach is aiming to educate the children about prejudice and the fact it exists ? not push people to change their views, just recognise the different views. He will discuss it with A today.


    UPDATE My friend did talk to A about my ideas and he really likes them.

    I think that the most important thing is to 'tell it as it is.' This is respecting the views of this parent lobby, listening to them, recognising that their prejudice comes from their religious beliefs - and appreciating that - while making it absolutely clear that in this country and in our schools we have a different perspective. If they wish their children to come to our schools - wherever they are - then this is something they will have to understand. We do not compromise on our policy of respect for all.

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