In the world of presidential elections, we’re watching the fascinating spectacle of clashing identity politics. Neither Hillary nor Obama has a strong resume (or even a medium resume). Each is distinguished from the other, and from others in the field (remember Silky Pony?) solely because of gender or race. He’s black (sort of); she’s female (sort of). It’s hardly been an edifying show, although anyone familiar with the demands of identity politics could have predicted the way in which this particular race would shape up.
Since liberals live for labels and hierarchies of victimhood, I’d like to direct your attention to another clash, this time in Britain, and this time involving differing groups that have been deemed worthy of homage from the PC crowd: gays and Muslims. It turns out that, some time ago, Britain passed a gay rights law mandating school curricula aimed at preventing gay bullying. Now, I am entirely in favor of preventing gay bullying. Indeed, I’m strongly in favor of preventing any type of bullying. If it were up to me, I’d have a strictly enforced, broad-reaching, no-bullying rule in all schools.
The problem in this case arose because the schools at issue felt compelled (either because the law requires it or because that’s how they interpret the law — I’m not sure) to teach 5 year old kids about homosexuality. Thus, the schools included in their kindergarten curriculum books touting homosexual and lesbian relationships, something that seems a bit premature for the 5 year old set, most of whom are dealing with such intricacies as shoe laces, the alphabet song, and counting to three digit numbers. Throwing in non-traditional relationships seems a bit much.
One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers.
Another named And Tango Makes Three features two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo.
I’m that all would have been well if a conservative Christian group stepped forward to object to this curriculum. We know, after all, that conservative Christians (a) hate gays and (b) don’t have to be listened to because, in the PC hierarchy, they’re victimizers, not victims, thereby invalidating their concerns. The problem is that it wasn’t conservative Christians who were upset by the indoctrina . . . er . . . education their kids were getting. Instead, it was Muslim parents:
Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about samesex relationships after objections from Muslim parents.
Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five.
They were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying, it said.
But the council has since removed the books from Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, both in Bristol.
A book and DVD titled That’s a Family!, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.
The decision was made to enable the schools to “operate safely” after parents voiced their concerns at meetings.
Now, as it happens, I am sympathetic to both sides in this argument, although more so to the parents. With regard to the schools, they had a legal mandate they had to follow and, as I said, I’m extremely opposed to bullying. (And to clarify for new readers, I don’t have a problem with adults engaging in homosexual relationships although I’m resistant to suddenly jettisoning 30,000 plus years of human history by suddenly legalizing gay marriage — I may ultimately agree to doing so, but I’d prefer to stop and consider the societal ramifications first, rather than rush of with the trendy idea of the year.)
Having expressed these sympathies, though, I am still troubled by introducing the whole concept of adult sexuality to the 5 year old set, even if that sexuality is cutely dressed up in penguin or prince clothes. I just think it’s a topic that these little people are neither emotionally nor intellectually ready to deal with, and they don’t need it on their plates as they struggle with the practicalities of learning basic life skills. For this reason, I hew to the view of the parents, who present themselves in the article as very reasonable people indeed:
Farooq Siddique, community development officer for the society and a governor at Bannerman Road, said there were also concerns about whether the stories were appropriate for young children.
“The main issue was there was a total lack of consultation with parents,” he said.
“The schools refused to deal with the parents, and were completely authoritarian.
“The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us ‘our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven’t even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet’.
“They don’t do sex education until Year Six and at least there you have got the option of withdrawing the children.
“But here you don’t have that option apparently. You can’t withdraw because it is no particular lesson they are used in.”
He added: “In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions but the main issue is that they didn’t bother to consult with parents.
“The issue should have been, how do we stop bullying in general, and teaching about homosexuality can be a part of that.
“This was completely one-sided.
“Homosexuality is not a priority to parents but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think ‘What the heck is my child being taught at school?’.”
I agree with everything Siddique said. Schools shouldn’t be high-handed with regard to these sensitive matters, parents weren’t given a say, it’s not (in my opinion) age appropriate material, and the school’s decision may well extend beyond the legal mandate. (I do wonder, though, whether the bulk of the parents were as reasonable as Mr. Siddique. I’m sure you caught the factthat the school backed down from its position because the school needed to “operate safely.” That sounds, of course, as if the schools were receiving threats. The article provides no further information about this cryptic phrase.)
The one thing I can assure you is that this will be an interesting battle, and it won’t revolve around the actual merits at issue: preventing bullying, respecting the complete sexual innocence of 5 year olds, acknowledging parents’ right/need for input regarding sensitive issues, etc. Instead, it’s going to boil down to a battle of specially protected classes: gays vs. Muslims. One of them will win quickly or the whole thing will get very loud and very ugly. The only thing you can be sure of is that the children’s age-appropriate educational needs will not be taken into consideration.