Fr Chris Hayden
Parents, it seems, are not ideologically qualified to teach their children about relationships and sexuality
IT’S TIME TO START ASKING QUESTIONS
LET’S EXPLORE EXPLORATION!
Small children love to explore. Ask the mother who discovers that her little girl has been washing her hair in the toilet! Or think of those wonderfully handy clips that allow adults to open cupboards, while blocking access to little hands. Or simply consider the common phrase about eyes in the back of one’s head! Yes, small children love to explore.
But by the age of four, they’re all grown up, and ready to consider their place in the world, right? WRONG. Wonderful progress may well have been made, but the parents of four-year-olds continue to limit their freedom. They certainly don’t allow the little ones to explore without supervision.
Yet not all grown-ups see things this way. According to some serious-minded people, by the time children reach four years of age, they should be ‘given information’ about ‘the right to explore gender identities.’ No: ‘four’ is not a typo. And yes: this sounds insane. But according to the World Health Organization, this is just how it should be (See World Health Organization’s ‘Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe: A framework for policy makers, educational and health authorities and specialists’ (2010), https://www.bzga-whocc.de/fileadmin/user_upload/WHO_BZgA_Standards_English.pdf, p. 39.
A DEEPLY FLAWED UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY
Let’s be clear: this is not an abstraction, an exaggeration, or wild speculation. It’s about today’s children. Our children. A serious document, published by the World Health Organization with the intention of exercising a direct and concrete influence on education throughout Europe, wants little children to be shaped by a radically altered and deeply contested understanding of human sexuality.
And let’s not take refuge in the notion that the writers of the document are tucked away in some office abroad, where they can do no harm. Their ideas are being enthusiastically received here in Ireland. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anyone voicing public approval of the plan to indoctrinate four-year-olds, but don’t be fooled: silence does not indicate disapproval.
Rather than asking critical questions, which is precisely their business, some journalists go to desperate lengths to give ideology a free pass. A ‘FactCheck’ article in thejournal.ie pointed out that the ‘exact wording’ of the WHO document is ‘give information about,’ as opposed to ‘teach' (https://www.thejournal.ie/sex-education-bill-masturbation-dail-4637774-May2019/). How many teachers make use of that fine distinction? How many pupils?
IRELAND’S EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT
Our primary school system has many fine, dedicated teachers. However, Ireland’s largest teachers’ union, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) seems to be buying uncritically into the ideology being promoted by the WHO. While it does not explicitly endorse the age of four as the point by which children should be ‘given information’ regarding ‘the right to explore gender identities,’ the INTO is training its members to teach gender ideology to children.
An information video for teachers depicts children asking: ‘So boys can change into girls?’ ‘And girls can change into boys?’ To which the teacher answers ‘yes.’ The teacher, addressing fellow teachers, states: ‘A few weeks later, I introduced the pupils to non-binary identity.’ (See https://www.into.ie/help-advice/equality/lgbt-teachers-rights/good-teaching-learning-practice-videos/)
What is happening here? First, the genuine wish to show compassion and kindness to all is being hijacked by ideology. Second, a deeply controversial understanding of gender, widely disputed by neurologists and psychologists, is being presented as gospel. Third, this is taking place without any consultation with the wider educational community. Most notably absent are parents.
POLITICAL PROMOTION OF A SEXUAL IDEOLOGY
A recent Oireachtas report on Relationships and Sexuality Education (https://data.oireachtas.ie/ie/oireachtas/committee/dail/32/joint_committee_on_education_and_skills/reports/2019/2019-01-29_report-on-relationships-and-sexuality-education_en.pdf) states: ‘12 years of age is the most common age for young people to realise that they might identify as LGBTQI+.’ The report makes no mention of research indicating that sexual identity does not fully consolidate until much later, and it recommends that in the ‘gender studies strand’ being taught to children, the language be changed to reflect a much younger age for the consolidation of gender identity.
According to the report, the language of male and female should be altered, to ‘refer to the spectrum of gender identities.’
In practice, this means the radical dissolution of the concepts of male and female, all in the interest of supposed inclusiveness. Yes: the lived experience of children is to be excluded in the name of exclusiveness. This is not a game. It is not a minor tweaking of the educational curriculum. It is an untested, undebated shaking of children’s social and psychological foundations; it is an experiment that ignores the concerns of many scientists, who range right along the spectrum from ‘liberal’ to ‘conservative.’
When we are confronted with a set of ideas claiming total authority; when disagreement among scientists and other experts is ignored; when those ideas are presented as the only possibility for reasonable people; when dissent is regarded as not just irrational but hateful, then we can be sure that we are dealing with an ideology, a rigid belief system that does not tolerate opposition.
Let us be under no illusion: we are currently witnessing the rise of a sexual ideology targeted at children.
WHY THE SILENCE? WHERE IS THE DEBATE?
Any time we are given the assurance that controversial teaching will be done by qualified people, in an age-appropriate way, we ought to feel very unassured indeed! How does anyone become qualified to speak to small children about gender identity, a concept about which there is no general agreement, even among grown-up psychologists? Are the little ones to be involved in the academic debate?
And shouldn’t we, in any case, be publicly and widely debating the changes being planned and implemented in our children’s education? Of course there should be debate, but there is little or none, because these changes are being planned and implemented quietly, secretively, beneath the radar, by ‘experts’ who know more than uncredentialled parents.
We can hardly debate what we haven’t been made aware of, and parents might ask themselves:
‘When have I been asked if I want my children to be instructed in ideas of sexuality that are far beyond their capacity to grasp, and that are not based on any new findings in the human sciences?
· Have in-depth Dáil debates on the subject taken place?
· Have journalists and broadcasters asked probing questions?
· Have school boards of management called meetings to inform parents of these proposals and developments, and to invite their feedback?
A TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE
Questions abound. Or at least they should abound. The people at the forefront of current developments, whether they are theorists, legislators or educators, should be grilled by concerned parents, teachers, psychologists, religious leaders, journalists and politicians. But instead, silence. Silence, because parents are being side-lined, kept in the dark. Silence, because silence is the strategy of choice when it comes to introducing change that will be resisted if it becomes known.
But the time to speak up has come. We should speak up plainly, simply, charitably and without fear of consequences. And we should do so because what is at issue is not a set of ideas but the wellbeing of children. We do not need to have a great deal of information in order to make our voices heard: on the contrary, we need to be demanding information. We need to ask influencers of various kinds – above all our politicians, but also commentators and those involved in education – where they stand and why. Asking concerned, thoughtful questions may well be, in these matters, the very best way to speak up.
SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK POLITICIANS
You might ask your TD, in a letter, an email, a phone call or a visit to a constituency office: ‘Do you think that in our schools, four-year-olds should be given information on their ‘right to explore gender identities’? Or you might send your TD a transcript of the INTO video mentioned above, and ask him or her to comment on specific aspects of it. In any case, the point of engaging with politicians should be to make it impossible for them to sit on the fence. Understandably, they wish to avoid ‘hot topics,’ but they were not elected to a position of ease, and they should, through respectful communication, be obliged to commit themselves, one way or another. The refusal to engage with opposing views can be motivated by fear, but it is also an ideological tactic which should be unmasked and combatted.
There is a battle underway, a battle for the minds and hearts of children. We can choose not to rock the boat, not to risk being derided or dismissed as conservative cranks. Or we can speak up, push back and take a stand for innocent children and for good sense.
DON’T BE FOOLED BY APPEALS TO SCIENCE AND THE CRITICISM OF ETHOS
Let’s not be rolled over by appeals to expertise and science, or allow our concerns to be dismissed as merely ‘ethos based.’ There is, to repeat, nothing close to scientific unanimity regarding gender. And for all its decrying of ethos, it would be hard to find a more ethos-based set of ideas than the sexual ideology currently making its way into our educational system. Ethos, after all, is a matter of the values being espoused and promoted, and there is simply no such thing as a value-free approach to sex education. Whenever we hear commentators criticising ‘ethos-based’ approaches to education, we can be sure they are concerned to impose their own ethos.
EXPERTS VERSUS MERE PARENTS
Shouldn’t we just defer to the experts, rather than raising objections and creating a fuss? Not when the ‘experts’ are anonymous, unaccountable individuals, seeking to impose their will, with as little public attention or parental scrutiny as possible.
The increasing tendency to side-line uncredentialled parents in favour of ‘experts’ should make us sit up and take notice.
An Irish Government-sponsored research paper intended to inform curriculum development in sex education, (Seline Keating et al., ‘Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Primary and Post-Primary Irish Schools.’ Available at: https://ncca.ie/media/3782/relationships-and-sexuality-education-rse-in-primary-and-post-primary-irish-schools-a-research-paper.pdf), expresses concern at ‘evidence of a traditional, heteronormative and stereotypical approach in the home context.’ Parents, it seems, are just not ideologically qualified to teach their children about relationships and sexuality. Their cruel and dated stereotypes are to be corrected in the classroom.
And it’s not just what parents teach their children: it’s how they approach questions of value, responsibility. The same research paper is implicitly critical of parents who are concerned at the consequences of certain sexual behaviours. Sex is reduced to a source of satisfaction here and now, and talk of consequences might only spoil matters by introducing a bigger picture than present satisfaction.
DON’T BE FOOLED BY WOOLY LANGUAGE OR APPEALS TO COMPLEXITY
In these matters, a lot of documentation and commentary is as slippery as an eel. While the overall thrust of a given policy document may be clear, the ideas are often conveyed in a way that leaves plenty of room for denial and qualification. But when apparently loose and wooly ideas keep leading to the same outcomes, to the same set of clear, concrete, consistent, focussed actions and changes, we should be on the alert. Rather than allowing anyone, whether planner, politician or commentator, to take refuge in a forest of allegedly complex ideas, we should insist that they state clearly what their desired outcomes are.
BEWARE OF THE HIJACKING OF COMPASSION
Have you ever noticed how compassion gets hijacked in certain debates? Those who opposed legislation for abortion were portrayed as lacking in compassion, while those who sought to ‘liberalise’ the law were compassionate. The raft of changes in sex education is, we might say, being floated in on a raft of compassion. But the idea that the proposed changes are necessary in order to ensure compassion, kindness and tolerance is simply false. Ordinary people in ordinary situations (including ordinary teachers in ordinary classrooms) have a deep capacity for kindness and empathy, along with solid common sense. This ordinary, common human capacity is just that: ordinary and common.
But, to listen to the commentary pressing for radical changes in sex education, we could be forgiven the impression that we faced a choice between, on the one hand, schools as places of psychopathic cruelty, and on the other hand, a complete, unquestioning implementation of the new sexual ideology. That is not the choice we face. Indeed, if we were such cruel individuals and such a cruel society, things would not be changed much by new ideas enforced by new legal penalties.
Then there is the striking contrast between the soft-spoken compassion with which radical changes are promoted, and the strident, brittle intolerance of dissent. The gloves, to be blunt, are coming off. However much compassion they may show, in practice, towards those in other situations, parents who value traditional understandings of marriage, sexuality and family, and who want their children to share those understandings, are finding Ireland to be an increasingly cold and inhospitable place – a place in which genuine pluralism, tolerance and compassion are to be steamrolled by the new ideology.
THE TAX THAT BROUGHT DOWN A GOVERNMENT
In 1982, the coalition government formed by the Fine Gael and Labour parties was brought down because of the introduction of a tax on children’s shoes. What shall we say about the current ideological tax being levied on little children’s minds and hearts?
WHO WILL PROTEST?
· Who will demand that politicians state where they stand on these issues and why?
· Must we be so fatalistic as to conclude that the way forward for little children has been mapped out, and that there is nothing to be done?
· Shall parents be undermined by the State?
· Shall little children be entrusted to bureaucrats armed with documents written by faceless ideologues?
This is, as we’ve seen, a time to ask questions. And it is a time to demand answers. There is too much at stake for anything less to be tolerated. Little children are now in the crosshairs of the sexual revolution. Let us not leave them undefended