I thought Jo Brand’s battery acid joke was quite funny. But not harmful. It’s unlikely to inspire a revival in British Leyland’s business and anyway the burny stuff is quite hard to get hold of. At least, I assume so. I’m not a hundred per cent sure of that, because I know that if I look up ‘battery acid for sale as a weapon’ online I’m likely to have contravened some anti-terrorism law or other and will end up spending the rest of my life wearing orange nylon and forfeiting any right to a fair trial.
Equally, I have no intention of wasting a Macdonald’s milk shake on a right wing politician. Even Nigel Farage. Milk Shakes are too nice. Especially vanilla ones.
Which, the way things are going, is not something that can be said regarding the increasingly unpleasant Birmingham battles over what is and what is not appropriate to teach in a primary school. Especially, of course, when it comes down LGBTQ+ matters.
When Rights Conflict
As, I suspect, is the case with the overwhelming majority of teachers, I cannot support those parents in Birmingham who have got their knickers in such a twist. It’s all over a curriculum idea – called a little provocatively ‘No Outsiders’ – which seeks to promote LGBTQ+ equality through developing awareness in young children. Again, in line with the large majority of teachers and most (though I suspect less than it ought to be) other parents, I think that discrimination of any kind against any person or group is wrong.
And – I’m conscious of becoming a little controversial now – that stance necessitates granting the right of those protesting in the streets to hold their opinion. I wish they felt differently, but they do not. No outsiders, then, in Birmingham – unless they happen to hold views which might offend.
But teachers have to be careful. The reaction of certain education professionals to the news that an injunction had been placed against the protestors did appear, I am afraid to say, almost as evangelical as the angry parents themselves.
As far as we can tell – and getting any kind of unbiased, objective statement of intent in this ridiculous situation is pretty tough – the views of each side are as follows. The protestors feel that their children are being sexualised too early, and often in contravention of their religious teachings. The schools feel that they are promoting inclusion and making their students best prepared for living in the current times.
The problem is, as a liberally minded type, it seems an unquestionable right that young people learn about diversity. It is a given. But, limited liberalism is a contradiction, and people must therefore have the right to express their opposition to, fundamentally, anything. Tricky
The Third Way – A World That No Longer Exists (And Probably Never Did)
Of course, it’s easier to debate such philosophical niceties from my home in cloistered rural Buckinghamshire. And from places like this, so the third perspective gathers ground. Middle England is bemused. On the one hand, it is wrong for children to learn about sex – of any sort – but equally we can’t give in to protestors. Especially, in Brexit Britain, those of a different…but, enough said. Still, Middle England applies the same solution it offers to any insoluble dilemma. It pretends it does not exist. In this fictional world, it is still 1950, everybody is either Christian – or should be – and Britain rules the waves.
As anybody who has ever driven north of Aylesbury but south of Milton Keynes knows, Morris Minors still rule the roads, steam trains chunter along single tracked railways and children have adventures in woods, fortified by ginger pop and iced buns.
There’s no sex in Buckinghamshire. Procreation is by osmosis and adults who already have their families wear Barbours as a kind of full body condom. Therefore, LGBTQ+ issues, like other conundrums such as racism, Islamophobia, the growth of the far right and so on, do not exist. Life is simpler. Problems, we believe, exist only in the big cities. And that’s another country.
Kids should be kids. Four year olds do not need to know about sexuality. They are being exposed to a world they do not need to see. Yet. The question has to be begged that were these protesters Christian fundamentalists – Mary Whitehouses of today – might their views be presented more sympathetically and their opinions more readily tolerated?
Another thing we don’t have in Buckinghamshire is twitter. The easily offended metropolitan millennials are just as clear that four year olds are definitely old enough to learn about sexuality as the Brummy parents are convinced that they are not. To deny them that right is to deny them freedom.
It’s all become so polarized, even the middle ground is now extreme. But sorry Middle England, the problem in Birmingham is real, and the views of both sides are – for the most part – genuinely held.
And that is where the danger with this whole business lies. Thanks to the desire to shock and disgust of the right wing press, the curriculum in question here has been exaggerated and twisted. It aims not to promote LGBTQ+ choices, any more than it seeks to tell pupils they must grow up as heterosexuals. Instead, it aims to help challenge stereotypes and prejudices.
LBGTQ+ Protests – Jumping on the Bandwagon (1)
It is hard to believe that every protestor is an honest parent who, thanks to their religious and cultural beliefs, holds a genuine conviction that their kids’ schools are wrong. Inevitably, some will have attached themselves to the protest group to get publicity for wider, extreme views.
But that works both ways. The metropolitan left have also attached themselves to the furore, seeking to promote their own interests.
Jumping on the Bandwagon (2)…And Crushing the People Who Matter
In the middle of it all, sit two minority groups. One at least (and possibly both) no doubt befuddled by all the fuss. The first of these is the LGBTQ+ community who simply wish to get on with their own lives, without being held up as a symbol from which hard line liberals can seek gain. The others are the primary school kids who have to run both the barrage of protestors, but even more significantly, see their education disrupted. The least they deserve is free ginger pop and custard creams at morning break. That would be some element of compensation for their troubles.
As for those who have jumped on either side of the bandwagon, I have a solution. Let’s have a whip around and book out a large Macdonald’s. We’ll buy a load of milk shakes, all flavours. One side can have chocolate flavour, the other banana and they can have a mass milk shake fight. The winners can share the vanilla ones, the Birmingham kids can get on with their learning and the vast majority of the LGBTQ+ community can continue to live their lives as they wish, free from discrimination and fuss.
OK, the Macdonald’s will look a mess, but no worse than is normal on a Saturday night. And let’s face it, common sense and perspective have both long left the arena.
1- Should parents have the right to withdraw pupils from Relations and Sex education
2- Relationship and Sex education: To controversial or absolutely crucial?
3- Government issues new guidelines on sex and relationship education
4- UK overhauls Sex education for primary and secondary school students
5- Are the schools the next scandal?