Most parents are only a hair’s breadth away from storming local Board of Management meetings in a wave of progressive protest at the ‘stranglehold’ of religious ethos on the teaching of sex-ed at primary and secondary school level.
That is not true, of course.
But that still hasn’t stopped a majority of politicians, particularly those on the left, from hyperventilating on the issue in recent years or from seeking to position themselves as the semi-messianic voices of ‘oppressed’ parents and radical sex-ed advocacy organisations.
But the reality is different
During the ten-year period from 2011 to November 2021, a mere 60 ‘communications’ have been received by the Department of Education which feature complaints involving “a perceived restriction on the teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education as a result of the ethos (or characteristic spirit) of schools.”
60 ‘communications’ on ‘perceived’ restrictions because of ethos. In a decade.
Not quite the ideological storming of the barricades that we have been led to believe is happening, is it?
This information was revealed as part of a series of replies to parliamentary questions from the Rural Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan. Deputy Nolan also happens to be a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
As things stand at present, The Education Act 1998 provides “that boards of management of schools shall manage schools on behalf of patrons while upholding the characteristic spirit of the school as determined by the cultural, educational, moral, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions which inform and are characteristic of the objectives and conduct of the school.”
It is now clear, that most ordinary parents have no problem whatsoever with this.
In fact, if anything is an actual issue for parents it is the attempt to do away with this vital provision that allows for the teaching of a compassionate and well-grounded age-appropriate curriculum based on a faith informed vision of human dignity.
All of this reflects the insight put forward last week by Carol Nolan’s colleague in the Rural Independent Group, Michael Collins, during a debate on the Social Democrats rehashed version of a People Before Profit/Solidarity Bill on ‘objective and impartial’ sex education.
Here is what Deputy Collins said:
“We are forever discussing issues in this Dáil that are never raised with me as issues in my constituency. When it comes to the education of our children, this debate is a prime example of that. We are discussing this Bill instead of discussing the lack of special need assistants and teachers in our classrooms and how will schools fill their oil tanks. Schools have to face those challenges on a daily basis. I am on a school board of management and I know difficult it is to get funding to address these issues.”
The Cork-South West TD went on:
“We should be discussing how funding will be secured to fix a school roof where State funding has not been given. Instead, we waste our time discussing the Social Democrats’ agenda seeking that young people and children can access sexual education. The Social Democrats similar to its sister party, the Labour Party, has gone on to attack religion in our schools with a whole load of blah blah blah, as similarly happened during COP26, where it is all talk and has no solutions.”
Now, thanks to the work of genuinely in-touch constituency TD’s like Carol Nolan, we know that these are also the priorities of most parents.
A similar issue was reflected this week when it emerged that a paltry 4% of Trinity College students engaged in the entirely self-regarding ‘referendum’ on boycotting the Irish Times because of its apparently transphobic editorial stance.
Which is to say, that away from the megaphone politicking and advocacy on these and similar issues, most parents just want their child to be educated with common-sense and dignity even if that involves (horror of horrors) learning about such things from a Catholic or denominational perspective.
The push to marginalise faith schools, to ‘get them out’ or to liberalise and fundamentally reshape the sex-ed curriculum from junior infants up, is not coming from parents.
It is being driven by the radical ideological positions favoured by most Irish political parties and versions of international law as interpreted by the left. We now have strong indicative evidence to support that.