'Tell them it's OK to be gay'

14th November 2008 at 00:00
Teachers are morally obliged to promote homosexual lifestyles, says academic

Teachers are morally obliged to promote homosexuality in class, according to an education academic.

Michael Hand, of the Institute of Education in London, claims there are two ways to tackle moral questions in the classroom. The first is to provide pupils with guidance, promoting a particular answer to the question.

But where there are two conflicting answers carrying equal weight, teachers should not promote one over the other. Instead, these issues should be taught as controversial, with opposing viewpoints presented in an even-handed manner.

To decide which method to adopt when teaching about homosexuality, Dr Hand examined whether the arguments for and against homosexuality carry equal weight. Heterosexual sex, he said, has a procreative purpose. But it also provides pleasure, companionship, sexual release and intimacy. All of these are valid reasons for having sex.

"This is not to deny that homosexuals sometimes have sex for bad reasons, just as heterosexuals sometimes have sex for bad reasons," Dr Hand said. "It is simply to observe that all but one of the good reasons for engaging in sexual acts are available to homosexuals as well."

Teaching that promotes homosexuality has been contentious since 1988, when Section 28 of the Local Government Act ruled against "the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality". Section 28 was repealed in 2003.

But several arguments against homosexuality remain. The best-known is drawn from the Bible, Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."

But this argument is only valid if one accepts that all biblical injunctions are morally sound. Dr Hand then cites several that are lacking in moral validity: the sanction of slavery, the subordination of women, the use of the death penalty against someone who works on the Sabbath.

"If acknowledging the ... moral fallibility of sacred texts is damaging to the integrity of religious traditions, so much the worse for those traditions," he said.

The second argument against homosexuality insists it is morally wrong to use any body part in a way that disregards its biological function. Since the biological function of sexual organs is reproduction, all non-reproductive uses can be seen as morally wrong. But, by this logic, walking on your hands or picking up an object with your toes would be defined as immoral.

The third and most sophisticated argument claims that all actions should serve a basic human good: life, health, knowledge, aesthetic appreciation, excellence in work and play, and harmony between people. A basic human good is a self-explanatory reason for action.

Using this logic, only marital sex between a man and a woman is acceptable, as it unifies them as a single reproductive entity. But Dr Hand argues that any sexual act promotes harmony between people. While only heterosexual intercourse unites two people as a reproductive organism, many sexual acts can create feelings of emotional closeness.

He also points out that pleasure should qualify as a basic human good: "because I enjoy it" is reason enough to do something. "The objection advanced to having sex for pleasure appears to entail the view that it is also morally wrong to eat for pleasure," he said. "The ... argument against homosexual acts also rules out chewing gum."

Since all arguments for the moral illegitimacy of homosexuality collapse under rational examination, Dr Hand concludes that homosexuality cannot be taught as a controversial issue.

"The only view that enjoys rational support is the view that homosexual acts are morally legitimate," he said.

"We ought, therefore, to be unapologetic in our commitment to promoting this view in the moral education of children."

m.hand@ioe.ac.uk.

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