Alex Blaze

Bad Arguments to Keep LGBT's Out of School

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 24, 2011 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: education policy, England, lessons, LGBT, money, schools, uk

An org put together LGBT lesson ideas for UK schools for next month, which is "LGBT History Month" there:

map-of-uk.gifMaths - teaching statistics through census findings about the number of homosexuals in the population, and using gay characters in scenarios for maths problems;

Design and technology - encouraging pupils to make symbols linked to the gay rights movement;

Science - studying animal species where the male takes a leading role in raising young, such as emperor penguins and sea horses, and staging class discussions on different family structures, including same-sex parents;

Geography - examining the transformation of San Francisco's Castro district in the 1960s from a working-class Irish area to the world's first "gay neighbourhood", and considering why homosexuals move from the countryside to cities;

Languages - using gay characters in role play scenarios, and teaching "LGBT vocabulary".

The lesson plans, written by teachers and backed by the Department for Education, will be available for schools to download from the Schools Out website.

For younger children, the plans will suggest using images of same sex couples and also promoting books such as "And Tango Makes Three", which is about two male penguins raising a young chick, inspired by actual events at New York's Central Park Zoo.

And you can tell from the criticism that they're standing on their last legs there:

However, Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley and a member of the Education Select Committee, said: "This is nonsense.

We have enough problems in our country, where we are too far down the national comparative league tables in these core subjects.

"Teachers should concentrate on teaching the core subjects, so we become the best at those again. I don't see how introducing LGBT themes into those subjects is going to help.

"This is not about being homophobic, because there are other schemes around the education system which support the LGBT agenda."

John O'Connell, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, added: "Parents will wonder if this is the right use of funds and time in those subjects, particularly when we keep hearing how tight budgets are."

The two arguments are that there isn't enough time and there isn't enough money for these lessons. Since the lessons are easily integrated into current work on "core subjects," it's not like it's going to take away weeks from book-learning to implement these ideas. Also, the cost, according to the Observer, is £35,000, which is .056 pence per person in the UK. It's not going to break anyone's bank.

Moreover, I'd argue that these lessons do have value, educational value in that they teach children about the world around them and social value in that they teach people how to interact with themselves and others. Reducing education to rote memorization and regurgitation in "core subjects" reduces students to mere robots. That's the nobility's dream, to make the working class into robots that work efficiently and never complain, but that's not supposed to be a government's responsibility in a modern democracy.

Plus money doesn't work the way taxpayer-type groups say it does.

Anyway, the fact that the arguments there are weak-sauce says something about the opposition to LGBT people. If this were happening in the US, I doubt papers would have much trouble reporting on rallies with parents and pastors screaming about how the children are being led to a life of sin, with a few of the big-media Religious Righters saying absolutely bonkers stuff to get even more attention, before this whole thing would be dropped, whoever was responsible would be fired, and Obama would apologize even if he didn't know it were happening.

Leave it to us to focus on substance. In the UK you have to scroll all the way down to the comments to find arguments like that.

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Thanks for this, Alex. Good stuff. I agree that aside from the LGBT angle, there's lots of value in teaching subjects via relevant examples and current events. It's unbelievable how much No Child Left Behind has led to great gobs of rote memorization in the schools, and a minimizing of science and social studies in favor of basic math and language skills. (Not that kids don't need the basic skills--but I contend they can be taught through science and social studies as well.)

(And the original Telegraph article you cite uses one of my favorite British words, quango (a semi-governmental body). Gotta use that in my next Scrabble game.

Maybe I'd have enjoyed school more if I'd seen myself reflected in the lessons more...

If we do not teach inclusion and tolerance then our society is doomed to division and strife, for that is oppression. Honesty, openness, and compassion are examples we should all partake of. Love is never wrong!