M is for maturity

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
THE FARCE into which the Section 28 (or 2A) debate descended is exemplified by the relief with which the report of the working group on sex education in schools was greeted. It apparently gives enough prominence to marriage to pass muster. In fact, the crucial M word features hardly at all in the report, which, notwithstanding, does what the working group was asked to do - cover the place and nature of sex education for every age and stage in school. That the sternest critics of the Executive's repeal of the existing, supposedly protective legislation are apparently happy is surely testimony to war weariness rather than a sign of significant change of heart by the educational and political establishment. MSPs had to face a final debate when there was nothing new to say.

Michael McCabe's working group tackled sex education as any other group would have examined any other curricular issue. Teachers will welcome its helpful comments. Sex is set within the contexts of health educatin, personal and social development and religious and moral education. Almost in an aside, teachers are adjured not to promote homosexuality. They are also reminded that some of their pupils may be worried about sexual orientation, or even convinced they are gay or lesbian.

As a warning about inappropriate behaviour by teachers, the new guidelines (whatever their status in law) are unnecessary. But teachers always knew that the controversy which gave them birth arose (confusing the metaphor) from a false pregnancy. There has never been a risk of gay propagandising in schools.

The Executive landed itself in a distracting mess because it assumed that Scotland is a more mature society than, alas, it evidently is. Ministers will now be reluctant to intervene where they might well. A case in point is the distasteful proselytising among school pupils by Precious Life. The group's anti-abortion leaflet is obscene and an affront to the spirit of the sex education report.

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