Published in the WOW! supplement of the Evening Echo 21/03/2007
It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with the stance of religious organisations, but it does happen occasionally.
It happened today, when I heard about a hair-brained scheme to introduce books promoting gay relationships to primary school children in England. I have to say that on that score I’m firmly in the same camp as the Christian and Muslim leaders who are opposed to it. Perhaps not for the same reasons, but opposed to it nonetheless.
One of the books is a fairytale, imaginatively entitled â€œKing & Kingâ€. It tells the tale of a young prince whose mother, the queen, is anxious for her son to marry. She introduces him to a series of beautiful princesses, but he doesn’t fall in love with any of them. Instead, the brother of one of the princesses catches his eye. The two princes fall madly in love, marry and become two kings who rule side by side and live happily ever after.
Sweet story â€“ but not necessarily what I want my children to be reading in primary school. Not, I hasten to add, out of any sort homophobic prejudice. I’m all for promoting acceptance and letting consenting adults get on with whatever takes their fancy… within reason. I just don’t think it’s an issue that needs to be rammed down the throats of young children.
Sexuality and relationships are inherently complex issues, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with varying sexual orientation, I don’t feel that children of primary school age are equipped to handle those sorts of issues. Princes marrying princes, princesses with two mummies and King’s who deep down feel they might really be queens: it all just muddies the waters at a time when what children are really looking for is clarity.
In primary school children are laying the foundations on which future learning will be based. They’re acquiring the information that provides a point of reference: a yardstick against which they can measure and make sense of the world around them. For that they need clarity.
Advocates of this scheme say that the books are necessary in order to make homosexuality seem normal to children. My question is why on earth would we want to do that? When it comes to human relationships and sexuality, then surely the baseline for our children should be the heterosexual model upon which the survival of our species depends. Or am I missing something?
Going back to our original fairytale, the two princes may well have married and lived happily ever after, but with no heir to continue the royal bloodline the monarchy itself was doomed. Not, perhaps, the ideal model to promote as the norm to our young children.
At the moment this controversial pilot scheme involves just fourteen schools and one local authority in England. However it is backed by teaching unions, and could potentially be rolled out to more schools over time. For once Christian and Muslim leaders in Britain are in complete agreement, with both groups condemning the scheme as contrary to their religious teachings.
Here in Ireland, while I do have issues with some reading material the girls bring home from school, I don’t think this particular concern will rear it’s head any time soon. While the church’s influence here may well be on the wane, somehow I doubt that â€œKing & Kingâ€ or its like will appear on the Irish curriculum any time soon.