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Trainees believe homosexuality can be taught

Many trainee primary teachers believe that discussing homosexuality in class will lead pupils to experiment with their sexual orientation.

They claim that knowledge alone can persuade children they are homosexual, according to research. One said: "I know people say that you are either gay or you are not, but I have seen it become fashionable among young, straight girls."

They also spoke of a homosexual agenda, denying that a similar heterosexual agenda exists. A student wrote: "It is their choice, and those of us who are not that way inclined should not have to hear all about their choices."

The comments were posted anonymously on an online discussion board by students on primary teaching and childhood-studies courses, as well as those on non-teaching courses.

They form part of a paper, presented by Renee Hayes and Elizabeth Atkinson of Sunderland university, at a conference on sex and sexuality at London university's institute of education this week. The researchers found that many of the trainees were opposed to discussion of homosexuality in schools. They said: "There remains an uneasiness in relation to homosexuality which marks it as very different from other aspects of identity.

"Merely knowing about homosexuality is said to actively encourage homosexual behaviour, yet an overwhelming majority of encounters with heterosexuality is seen to have no effect."

Students were also concerned about the reaction of parents to homosexuality in the curriculum. Parents were assumed to be straight and unsupportive of homosexual rights. None of the trainees suggested parents might complain at the lack of representation of homosexuality in the curriculum.

Pupils were also cited as a reason to avoid talking about the subject. One primary trainee said: "I don't feel that discussing sexual orientation with younger children would achieve any desired effect. The fact that the subject is funny to children would take over any discussion." Others argued that gay teachers and pupils would also prefer not to discuss the subject:

"Only those with a deathwish could be open about being gay."

The sound of silence: talking about sexual orientation and schooling, by Renee Hayes and Elizabeth Atkinson. Email: elizabeth.atkinson@sunderland.ac.uk

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