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We need to talk about queer theory in schools
Wales is the latest place in which queer theory has entered schools
Last week, there was a judicial review of the Welsh government’s new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) code. Notwithstanding its uncertain prospects of success – the court shall rule in coming weeks – the appeal is an important stand against a concerning trend across the West: the presence of queer theory in schools.
We should want Welsh LGBTQ+ people to feel included, yet queer theory is a particular ideology which is unsuitable for children’s education, advocating the breaking down of sexual boundaries and some founders apologizing for paedophilia. Whilst the main RSE code is ostensibly mild, strategic documents have worrying parts. On page 37 of a preparatory document, the architects of the strategy, queer theorists EJ Renold and Esther McGeeney, assert that children aged between 0-5 are sexual beings and dismiss concerns about childhood innocence and premature sexualization.
Given this approach, the strategy deserves scrutiny. And the code raises questions. Aside from the preoccupation with gender rather than sex, the code not using terms such as ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, the strategy introduces the concept of ‘development appropriate’ sex education. This may be unproblematic in a subject such as (say) maths – a 12-year-old who solves equations like an 18-year-old should not be held back by peers - but raises concerns in sex education. If a 12-year-old has the knowledge of an 18-year-old, responsible adults should query the source of this. Justifying its approach, the strategy appeals to a tool originally designed to identify signs of abuse.
Other things are worrying. The CRUSH resources, used by the strategy’s architects to promote the strategy to teachers, recommend organizations which adopt controversial positions on child transitioning and sex education, such as Mermaids and the Proud Trust. Parents have no opt-outs from lessons. Unlike in England, there is no central guidance on RSE resources and organizations, leaving the door open for extreme material.
And we should have concerns about the interpretation of the agenda within education authorities and schools. Across the West, activist-teachers are revolutionizing sex education. Improper practices are common, such as drag queen story time, age-inappropriate lessons and secrets between teachers and students. Wales has not gone untouched, certain authorities and teachers developing such approaches and receiving official encouragement. The strategy’s architects run workshops for teachers, meaning that this agenda is integrated throughout the education system.
Given these issues, it is important that opponents raise concerns. Yet in this area, preference falsification is rife, opponents fearing the consequences endured by the few vocal dissidents. Resultingly, the champions of such approaches have a near free hand in education authorities and schools. Conditions in Wales pronounce this, the country being small and the Labour Party having a quasi-monopoly on power.
Should inappropriate people be involved in sex education in Welsh schools, how easy would it be to identify them? The strategy mentions safeguarding, but does not go far enough. We know that unsuitable people hide behind queer theory – recently in the UK, the queer theorists Karl Andersson and Jacob Breslow were involved in high-profile scandals – and better safeguards are required. When combined with the taboos around this topic, such taboos being necessary conditions for scandals such as the Catholic abuse and Rotherham affairs, the strategy is alarming.
If safeguarding is to work, society must debate those parts of sex education agendas which it finds troubling. Perhaps the fears of critics are misplaced. Yet if this is so, concerns must be dispelled following open debate; this is how liberal democracy works.
If you are worried about the Welsh RSE code, or queer theory in schools generally, consider speaking up.
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