“Do you remember your curricular experience of sex education? I recall the day I was first confronted with explicit images.”This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph on 31/05/2021
Do you remember your curricular experience of sex education? I recall vividly the day I and my primary school peers were offered a book and confronted with images of a sturdy male and hirsute female – both naked – as the teacher cautiously and carefully selected a reluctant victim to read the associated text. The eventual prey tried, with limited success, to read the words welded around these two denuded figures while tempestuously seeking to smother her titters, sniggers and guffaws.
I periodically revisit the question: “If the SNP were not in government, could anyone else do a better job?” For the most part, my response would be relatively lukewarm but the one area where I do feel much improved performance is compulsory is in education. When primary teachers were in training over a decade ago, Scottish education was the global leader. The standard was such that qualified teachers migrating to Scotland required an additional year of training to meet the criteria.
Scotland’s First Minister delivered a speech to teachers and educators in 2015 stating she was willing to put her “neck on the line on education.” Ms Sturgeon added: “I want to be judged on this.” Last July, however, the Scottish Government shelved its Education Bill and withdrew Scotland from international tables due to poor polling. The report card is clear – we are failing but, not to worry, we have just returned the SNP to government. It is only the academic futures of our children at stake after all.
One major recent development in sex education is the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) materials, which reflects the introduction of legislation endorsing same sex marriage in Scotland in 2014. The Scottish Catholic Education Service states: “This guidance, which applies to all schools managed by local authorities, sets out the Scottish Government’s expectations in relation to the manner in which such education is conducted.”
From primary one, children are informed some families have a mum and a dad, some have two mums, others two dads and still others are made up of two dads and two mums, covering instances of divorce and remarriage. From primary two, boys and girls are informed about body parts including the scrotum, testicles, penis and vulva using naked cartoon images and told their peers are either heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. I do not object to most of this but for children aged five and six – really?
Level two materials, deemed appropriate for children in primaries five, six and seven, offer detailed descriptions of how to have sex, use contraception and what it means to be transgender. My primary concern here relates to a slideshow of fully naked men and women, where children as young as eight are informed: “If a man and a woman are having sex, and they both want to do it, the man can put his penis inside a woman’s vagina and gently move his penis in and out. This should feel nice for both.”
Third, fourth and senior level materials, for children in secondary education from 12 to 18 years of age, covers everything from the “safe” consumption of pornography to how a girl can go about an abortion as well as detailed depictions of how to engage in, I kid you not, masturbation, oral and anal sex. If you are sitting there wondering if I am overplaying the reality here and have taken leave of my senses, you can verify all of this with a moment’s glance yourself at http://www.rshp.scot.
A fortnight ago, the Legatum Institute’s Centre for UK Prosperity reported Scotland’s educational performance is poorer than the rest of the UK. They state primary pupils in Scotland are achieving six percentage points below the UK average expected standard for literacy. The Sunday Times columnist Gillian Bowditch wrote: “Education, once Scotland’s proud boast, is now our national disgrace.” She added: “The pandemic will pass but the educational morass will remain.”
In a city which has, in recent years, topped European tables for underage teenage pregnancy, the Scottish Government appears to be trying to compensate for its regressive levels of attainment with a progressive agenda on culture. Who cares if we fail on literacy if we are leading the way in new social trends? However, in doing so, rather than protecting the innocence of future generations they are, in fact, exposing them to material that robs them of precisely what it means to be a child.