“Education Not Indoctrination”: Parents Protest Over LGBT Lessons

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management). 

A primary school in Birmingham, England, has been in the spotlight this week after hundreds of parents withdrew their kids from classes in protest over LGBT lessons.

Parkfield Community School in Saltley recently implemented their ‘No Outsiders’ programme; designed to teach children from reception-age upwards about same-sex marriages and relationships, alongside other things to meet the requirements of the Equality Act. The programme was designed to give students five lessons per year, with books such as Mommy, Mama & Me and King & King on the reading list [Source: Guardian].

Parents at the predominantly Muslim school were outraged, and on Thursday night more than 200 protesters turned up outside the school to voice their concerns [Source: Fox News].

Some parents have made some very thought-provoking statements. Mariam Ahmed, who began the campaign and who has a four-year-old daughter at the school, made this statement:

“It’s not about being homophobic at all”

“The fact that my child in particular has come home and said to me: ‘I can wear boys clothes, I can change my name’, this and that and confusing my child at such a young age, it’s not right, it shouldn’t be done.” [Source: Sky News]

At one protest outside the school signs were held that read “Say no to promoting of homosexuality and LGBT ways of life to our children”, “Stop exploiting children’s innocence”, and “Education not indoctrination” [Source: Guardian].

In response to the protests the school has temporarily stopped the lessons.

In a letter to parents the school said “Up to the end of this term, we will not be delivering any No Outsiders lessons in our long-term year curriculum plan, as this half-term has already been blocked for religious education (RE). Equality assemblies will continue as normal and our welcoming No Outsiders ethos will be there for all.” [Source: Guardian].

This event has even caught the attention of the chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, who supported the school by saying it was vital that children know about “families that have two mummies or two daddies” [Source: Sky News].

My personal thoughts on this

I think it’s important that teachers, like myself, speak up about things we feel strongly about and things which challenge our core beliefs. If we choose not to do this, especially out of fear of reprisals, then we’ve lost our basic humanity and our courage.

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“An AMAZING Book”

I believe that this whole situation could have been mitigated if the parents were consulted prior to the programme being taught. As a high-school science teacher, for example, I have to send a letter to parents requesting their consent before I teach their children about human reproduction.

Surely the parents’ prior consent should have been sought in this case too, right?

I’ve said many times before that parents are our allies, not our enemies. Schools should work with parents, not against them. By forcefully delivering this programme to children so young, Parkfield Community School has ignored this basic principle. They should have got consent from the parents first. Perhaps they could even have sat down with parent-representatives and designed the programme with them.

In terms of the age of the kids involved in this programme: I am concerned that they were far too young to be taught this stuff. Kids need to be kids. Teach them this stuff when they’re going through puberty and might be at an age when they are questioning their own sexuality and feelings. But teaching this stuff to four-year-olds? – I really can’t see the benefit in doing that.

Am I wrong in my assertions? Should primary-age children come home from school questioning their gender/identity? Does LGBT education for four-year-olds help them or damage them? At what age should such education start?

I would be very interested to read your thoughts in the comments’section below.

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Author:

High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

5 thoughts on ““Education Not Indoctrination”: Parents Protest Over LGBT Lessons

  1. I don’t think education at any age can be a bad thing. I’m sure the LGBT community would take offense at the idea that teaching someone about homosexuality would make them homosexual.

  2. I agree with you on two points: it’s definitely a dumb thing to just implement a program like this, useful as it might be, when you can foresee problems arising from the start. Consulting the parents or even offering a mini-course to let them see content and to address concerns should have been the first step. I also think that at 4, kids won’t know what to do with this information, but I think by the time they’re out of elementary school, they’re ready to learn the world is bigger than their own backyard.

    Of course, until then I hope the school would have procedures and training for teachers to deal with situations that may arise if a student has questions or gets picked on for “not having a mommy/daddy.” Sensitivity training is a necessity.

  3. Conflating an attempt to teach children to be welcoming of others with ‘indoctrination’ is an exaggeration and ultimately harmful aside from being complete unnecessary. Perhaps the attempt to introduce the topic to students was awkward, and talking to parents could have been helpful, but as mentioned it’s important to talk about this so that students themselves and students with LGBT parents face less discrimination in schools. Encouraging openness and representation through books helps prevent bullying and consequential suicide of LGBT kids which is a real issue in many countries.

    Also, children hear things from many sources every day. They are confused about many topics because they are not familiar with them. Rather than freak out, the mother in the article could have used that as a conversation. A little girl asking if she can wear ‘boy clothes’ is hardly the same as a gender identity crisis. After all, women today do in fact wear pants and other traditionally masculine clothing, we happen to live in the 21st century. Ultimately, children are curious, and will hear about different relationships and communities one way or another. A conversation about this is not the end of the world.

    There is a way to talk about same gender relationships in an age appropriate way, even to small children. The books mentioned in the article are literally just picture books, one depicting a child with two moms doing every day things, and one a fairy tale with two princes. If it’s ok for children to watch Disney movie relationships at that age, what’s wrong with representing two men instead?

    From my perspective, the parents’ overreaction instead of willingness to work with the school on modifying the lesson shows that it actually is homophobic, and not just an objection to the methods behind the topic.

  4. whether you teach child lgbqt+ or not you are indoctrinating them. Either that lgqbt+ is one of many options to be normal or that it isn’t normal. The same thing happened with racial equality, religious freedom and women’s rights. Now many of those parents will have been indoctrinated with the later, this can be seen from their ignorance based fear. So yes you may need to educate the parents alongside or before the children. But if you don’t then those children will also grow up ignorant and fearful. Ask the parents do we want to go back to only one faith is normal and their faith is prescribed. No outsiders a good title. I’ve taught from 6 weeks old to university and yes you will encounter parents and children (even as young as 4) who express lgbqt+ relations. Do we accept them and teach others to do so, or do we hide them from our educational materials, the books about women being doctors, the many races living together.

  5. The school should not be taking it upon its self to teach students about this. It is overstepping boundaries. Four year old children do not need to be taught anything other than they should treat all people with respect. Many parents may want to be the person talking about this first. If the school jumps to this conversation without consenting the parents they are in the wrong. Schools forget that parents are the ultimate lifetime teachers of their own children and they have a right to broach many subjects as they see fit. It doesn’t make them a bigot or a homophobe to want control over what is said about this to their own children.

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