Ignorance is Bliss?

As of April 2007, all Bristol (UK) schools are legally required to deal with homophobic harassment as part of the school curriculum. To comply with this requirement, some schools in the Bristol area brought in books dealing with homosexuality, including a story about a king that could not find the right princess so he finally settled with a prince (sounds like a cute story to me). However, a recent outcry by parents has temporarily suspended this portion of the curriculum while the city council and the parents reach a compromise. The parents come largely from the Muslim community.

On hearing the term "Muslim parents," the immediate assumption is that a largely conservative community (again, an assumption) wants to circumvent any implication that homosexuality is acceptable. When explaining their problem with the curriculum, the community development officer of the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society prefaced his comments with "“In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable..." However, he went on to explain that the parents had no say in the curriculum and on top of everything, their children are coming home asking questions about same-sex relationships when the parents haven't even broached the possibility of hetero relations.

Now here is my question: Do you think that the primary school age is too early to deal with different forms of sexuality or is this an irrelevant concern? As a child growing up in Kansas, I was one of the few kids "of color" in my school. Part of our 1st grade curriculum was to talk about the civil rights movement. As 6 year olds, most of us were too young to notice any differences, let alone race (this is a perfect example of race as a social construct). But suddenly we're told that "back in the day, lighter people didn't like darker people, and finally a dark leader (MLK) was shot." Whatever they did, it backfired, and suddenly in recess, all the kids were divided as "dark and light." Being the darkest person in class, I was the obvious inferior. So my past experience tells me not to create social divisions in minds where none exist....How do y'all feel about this?

Anti-homophobia books removed from schools


samsaricanu said...

Wow, I didn't even think about the implication of creating a division in children's minds. It's a point worth noting.

But not introducing the concept of diversity to children is problematic in itself. What are the implications of only have white Barbie dolls on sale? What sort of message does that send to girls (and some boys) of color?

In the same vein, reading books pertaining only to heterosexuality propagates the notion that anything else is abnormal.

Perhaps it's time for the word "gay" to enter elementary schools via books and not bullies. Parents will be up in arms, they always are -- this sort of change won't happen overnight, but it has already started.

Anonymous said...

well you also have to consider that these kids are growing up in a world where heterosexual relations are the norm. Their thought patterns on society will form around that.

morgan said...

But, as evidenced by the race example, if you leave it to society, or to parents for that matter, to be the sole sculptors of children's minds, we are going to be propagating the existing problems, rather than reversing them. I was lucky to have parents who talked to me both about race and sexuality before learning who MLK was in school. It's been proven over and over; the only way to establish new and better norms in a society is through the educational system, and the earlier, the better.
You could also look at it from the health standpoint; if kids and their families are ready for sex to be in the school curriculum, it is reasonable that they are ready to handle the entire scope of sex and sexuality. It will benefit all for kids to know what is healthy, and that being heterosexual is not the only way to be 'normal.'

Maya said...

I think its better to introduce the fact that diversity exists and that differences are OK early on in a child's development. If a child understands the fact that both hetero and homosexual relationships are "normal" then discrimination will not occur as readily. Perhaps, especially with younger children, it is better to focus on the fact diversity is good rather than focusing on past tension. Then, later on, the tension/history should be taught.

Anonymous said...

i think that the big problem here is that when these parents think "homosexuality", then the first thing that comes to mind is sex, sexual promiscuity, and perversion. these parents do not see these books as exposing their kids to differnt ppl (such as books about diff races, religions, etc), but instead see these books as exposing these kids to the actions that are inappropriate for these kids to learn about at this age. part of the problem is the homosexual community itself. we need to stop defining ourselves based on sexual practices. being queer is not just about sex, and we need to show that.

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I think theorists including Calvin Thomas and Judith Butler have suggested that homophobia can be rooted in an individual's fear of being identified as gay. Homophobia in men is correlated with insecurity about masculinity

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