Less ado about sex

30th March 2001 at 01:00
The sex education row has ended not with a bang or even a whimper but with guidelines. Teachers, for most of whom the Section 28 (or 2A) controversy was a maze of irrelevancies, have as usual to make sense of what has been left behind by the politicians and, in this case, churchmen and self-publicists. Fortunately when educationists, led by the director of education for South Ayrshire and Learning and Teaching Scotland, were eventually allowed to apply common sense, an outcome meaningful to teachers was achieved (page 7).

It is worth repeating for the sake of tabloid newspapers that Section 28 should never have been introduced by a previous Conservative government. Since no teacher would contemplate using the classroom to campaign for homosexuality it should have been repealed by the Scottish Parliament without dissent, not after an intolerant brouhaha and fatuous ballot. Yet out of a shaeful episode some good can come.

True, as a measure of morality the guidelines are worthless. They applaud marriage but they also have to underscore any stable relationship. They pass muster with the Roman Catholic Church. Evangelicals have not objected, nor yet humanists, agnostics or what might be ironically described as the broad church of teachers. So the guidelines are not catechetical and a good thing, too.

As a statement of how teachers should approach sex education they can be useful. Parents will know for the first time what is covered in school and may wish to supplement them or give their own interpretation. What used to be described as the biology teacher's embarrassed (and embarrassing) "birds and bees" lesson will now be part of an open curriculum. It can be part of RME, PE or PSE as teachers decide - anywhere that the arcana of schools keep politicians out.

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