DCSIMG

Church labels sex education 'pornography'

THE Scottish Catholic Church has called for an immediate review of all sex education in Scottish schools and branded much of the teaching material now in use as "pornographic".

After examining teaching aids recommended for use in primary and secondary schools, obtained by the Evening News, the Church has called for a comprehensive review of what children are being taught in the classroom about sex.

Books and videos which are on recommended teaching lists for primary schools show images of sexual organs and couples having sex, feature videos of real childbirth, and include such topics as the clitoris.

The decisions on which of these teaching materials to use is up to individual headteachers.

John Deighan, the Church’s parliamentary officer, branded some of the material pornographic and said the content and context of most of it was unsuitable for the age group for which it was intended, lacking in any social or moral context, and unnecessary for the classroom.

The assessment comes a month after Scotland’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, clashed with the Scottish Executive over its plans for sex education, accusing it of intending to give the lessons to children as young as three.

Mr Deighan today criticised booklets produced by a group called Health Wise, which form part of the sex education material, for their unsuitable tone and an apparent attack on morality and "embarrassment" about sex, which he said protected children. Lessons which taught children as young as five words such as clitoris were "totally inappropriate".

He also criticised the "obsessive biological detail" of many of the lessons, asking why a primary school child should be shown images "more suited to a fourth-year science lesson".

Mr Deighan said: "I fail to see what educational benefit can be derived from discussing the clitoris with five-year-olds or showing children of that age detailed biological drawings of sexual organs.

"Material dealing with same-sex couples and bisexuals is also inappropriate, as I think most parents would agree, for children of that age. It will do nothing except confuse them about sex and about what normal standards of sexual practice are."

He said there needed to be an immediate re-assessment of what sex education materials were being used, especially for primary schools.

He was particularly concerned about images from videos produced by Channel Four and available for use in primary schools.

The videos showed detailed diagrams of male and female sexual organs, a live birth - which he said could be "traumatic" for young children - and cartoon images of different sexual positions which he called "pornographic".

"When children ask where babies come from, they want to hear ‘from mummy’s tummy’ or ‘from God’. They don’t want a complex science lesson with gruesome pictures, some of which could be quite traumatic at that age.

"The pictures of male and female genitalia are just unnecessary for children in primary school. What are they going to use the information for?

"It is not appropriate or necessary and I can’t think why it would be included in the lesson.

"The same goes for the different sexual positions, and I must say I think that it is frankly pornographic to include that in a lesson for seven year olds."

The material also deals frankly with masturbation, telling children what it is and debunking some of the myths about it.

Mr Deighan said the way the information was presented did not give children any moral or social context in which to put it.

"They are discussing masturbation with young children almost in a way to encourage them to try it. We discuss these issues in Catholic schools but we try to teach them that it is a bad habit to get into.

"It is the same with this material’s treatment of marriage. They are confusing children by discussing same-sex marriages, and it states at one point that there is no easy way to define the family.

"I would say that there is a way to define the family, and while many kids will not experience this, they are individuals.

"You cannot teach sexual education with a broad brush and many of the subjects covered here are not suitable for a whole class, but would be better dealt with when the subject arises in the natural course of time."

Mr Deighan said many teachers would feel embarrassed at teaching some of the material, and added that trying to remove that feeling was going against human nature and removing an important psychological safety barrier.

"Most people would be embarrassed discussing this material, especially with young children, and there is nothing wrong with that," he said.

He found the language used "extremely coarse", and said any review should look at who created the material and ask parents what they felt was suitable.

"A better vetting group needs to be set up to determine who produces the materials used in schools," he said.

"What are the credentials of these people and what right do they have to be teaching our children about sexuality and sexual behaviour?"

"From what I have seen there is no moral framework in their teaching, no sense of right and wrong.

The row over sex education flared last month after Scotland’s senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal O’Brien, launched a scathing attack on the Executive’s plans.

He claimed the Executive had plans for sex education lessons for children as young as three,

Last month Cardinal O’Brien blasted the Executive’s plans for sex education in schools, warning that teenagers would be given access to contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge, claiming that under-age children were being "almost enticed to sexual activity" and saying that plans to give sex education to pre-school children amounted to "state-sponsored sexual abuse of minors".

First Minister Jack McConnell refuted the claims, saying the Executive had no plans to hand out the morning-after pill to pupils or to give sex education lessons to very young children.

Mr Deighan, who advises Scottish bishops on sex education, said Cardinal O’Brien’s criticism reflected the views of the nation far more than the material he saw.

The Catholic Church through the Catholic Education Commission has drawn up its own guidelines on what subjects sex education should cover.

A programme with appropriate material approved by the Church has been developed and is available to denominational schools, but is not compulsory.

But the Church points out that many Catholic children attend non-denominational schools and that in some areas of the country there are no Catholic secondary schools.

Mike Judge, who is a spokesman for the Christian Institute and who also studied the material, says: "These kind of teachings are completely inappropriate for primary school children. It is very damaging to teach sex education without a suitable moral focus. We have seen that this kind of education has had little impact on the number of children having sex, the number of teenage pregnancies or the number of abortions amongst young people over the past few years."

The Evening News asked Edinburgh City Council to provide access to materials used in its schools, but it refused, referring us to the Scottish Executive’s approved list of teaching materials. The council said material used varied from school to school, and that parents were consulted before children received sex education.

But a spokesman for the Catholic Church said this was not their experience. He said: "Parents who have phoned schools and asked to examine materials generally have all sorts of barriers placed in their way. We have had hundreds of complaints about this.

"Authorities are very secretive about what is taught. We would call on all local authorities to make curriculum resources available on council websites."

A spokeswoman for the Executive said: "All schools across the country are expected to provide some form of sex education and we believe that every book, video and teaching guide on our approved list will help to keep young people informed about the changes they face, as well as giving them responsible information about what is likely to happen in their lives."

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page

 

UNMISSABLE SHOWS.
UNMISSABLE COVERAGE.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE FESTIVAL
(BEFORE YOU MISS IT)

#WOWFEST

In partnership with

Complete coverage of the festivals. Guides. Reviews. Listings. Offers

Lets Go!

No Thanks