A gay old time

4th February 2000 at 00:00
SAM ("I'm a Dad") Galbraith has been wheeled out to reassure parents that there will be no gay crusade in schools. It is not an addition to his job that need worry him. The new guidelines for teachers will bear a remarkable resemblance to the previous ones. No Scottish teacher, whatever his or her sexual orientation, is going to preach to pupils, any more than the keenest member of Tommy Sheridan's party (or David McLetchie's) is about to turn the classroom into a party political broadcast.

None the less, it is a sad reflection on the popular understanding of the teacher's role that reassurance is necessary. We are told, by Cardinal Winning for example, that a tide of homosexual propaganda is about to flood the schools. In San Francisco or some such centre of gay activism Britain is being targeted. If the propagandists knew Scottish schools better, they would rewrite their strategy. The groun, they will find, is stoney.

As Donald Dewar indicated in his Newsnight interview on Monday, the controversy is irritating because it is so artificial. He and Wendy Alexander, who first announced the intention of repealing Section 28, know that many of the real issues before the Executive and Parliament deserve debate. Section 28 is an irrelevance and a distraction. Why some have leapt to the defence of a piece of unused legislation is a matter for psychologists rather than politicians.

Among those who want the silly controversy to go away is the Scottish School Board Association. It found its campaigning bed-fellows uncomfortable and realises it must think (and consult) before acting. The minister's working party announced last week will allow it to claim that it focused the nation's attention. Teachers, however, know that nothing much is going to change, nor does it have to.

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