We have had 18 months of a Conservative-run government. And what can we say of it? Economic collapse, the eurozone crisis, the loss of the NHS, the London Riots, the degrading of the public sector, the highest unemployment numbers...call Gordon Brown's premiership troubled, this is a completely new level of parliamentary failure! And now we can add homophobia to the mix, as the rat-faced sycophant who has blindly been put in the position of Education Secretary has ushered in the return of Section 28, a piece of infamous legislation which banned the "promotion" (ie: speaking) of LGBT issues in schools.
The "Sex and Relationship Education Guidance" (July 2000) tells us "pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage...the government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage...ensure there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances." These are some pretty obvious guidelines: marriage, heterosexual relationships out of wedlock, single-parent families, and LGBT relationships are all to be taught in schools because stable relationships are recognised as "key building blocks of society".
However in the Funding Agreements for free schools and academies outlined in July 2011 tell us only this, "ensure children at the academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children." The dark hand of conservatism slaps the face of equality yet again...for although this may seem as if it is a pretty moderately conservative piece of legislation, it infringes on two principles that should be unmoving in our society: (i) equality for the LGBT community; and (ii) an unbiased education for all children.
Recently, I met my Conservative Party MP, Rehman Chishti, to discuss this dangerous piece of legislation with him. I asked him a simple thought experiment, "Is it not unjustified for faith schools and free schools to preach heteronormative and pro-marriage agenda; when it is apparently not justifiable for other free schools to preach a homonormative, anti-marriage agenda? Does this not go against the concept of free schools?" I was left without a coherent answer, the closest that I got being merely that faith schools have a right to instil the values of their religion onto their children.
But this got me thinking; should faith and free schools be allowed to instil values and principles into children? Does this not go against a varied and unbiased curriculum? Does it not disable the students who go to these bigoted institutions? Any rational human being would agree with the idea that schools are not places of religion or ideology, they are not places to force faith onto children, but where children go to learn in an environment where their education is lead by facts, not by opinions.
Terry Sanderson, the President of the National Secular Society, said, "It opens the door for religious schools to teach a really narrow version of what constitutes an acceptable relationship". Because, yes, if gay marriage comes to be legislated as Nick Clegg keeps on telling us then many secular schools will of course teach both LGBT and heterosexual marriage as positives, but how many Catholic and other religious schools be so inclined to do so? Legislation needs to be specific for it to be valid, and since this is completely open to interpretation, the zealots and fanatics will ensure the return to Section 28-induced discrimination of the 80s and 90s.
But even then, this only answers half of the problem. Why should marriages of any nature be more important than stable relationships? A stable unmarried couple is surely a much better parenting team than an unstable married couple on the brink of collapse. And surely a single parent or an LGBT couple that can care for their child and provide for them are just as "good" as a married couple. Surely all of this (or preferably, none of this) should stay in schools.
There is, indeed, a simple answer to all of this between all the rhetoric and the debate: teach nothing. Teach sometimes marriage works, teach sometimes marriage doesn't. Teach sometimes single parents are stable family homes, teach sometimes LGBT couples are stable parents. Replace Religious Studies with Philosophy so that children are not taught pseudo-theology but how to critically think. Ban religious schools so that minority groups are not stigmatised and all children can gain an unbiased and equal education.
Let us not descend into the past with this ideological suicide note, but let us improve our education system. Let Mr. Gove not be the homophobe he so obviously is, but expose the flaw in all free schools. It is surprising that so far Labour has said so little on this document. Let us expose the coalition for the regressive, vile ministry that they really are.