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Why the “Public Consultation” on Sex Ed is so vital

One of the least understood, but most important, ways in which policy is made in Ireland is the so-called “public consultation”.

How a public consultation works in theory and how it works in practice are two very different things, which is one of the reasons that Ministers and Civil Servants love them so much.

In theory, a public consultation works like this: The Government proposes a new law, or a new practice – for the purposes of this article, we will talk about the ongoing public consultation on the new curriculum for social, personal, and health education (SPHE) – and invites the public to comment on it to improve the policy before it is launched. In theory, every parent in the country is invited to submit their views, so that the policy can be said to be as representative as possible before it is enacted.

In practice, “public consultations” very often end up being the preserve of special interests. As regular readers will know, Ireland has a vast array of taxpayer funded NGOs, many of whom devote almost endless hours to responding to public consultations. The ordinary parent or citizen, meanwhile, with a job, and children to look after, and a hundred other things going on, usually does not even hear about the public consultation, let alone have time to respond.

This dynamic is something that those in power are very comfortable with: Many of the most radical policies that are ever enacted are enacted after “public consultations” found “widespread support” for the proposals contained in them. Often, this is connected to the fact that twenty-five or thirty NGOs had paid full time staff writing detailed submissions in support of their point of view, while the actual public were barely aware the thing was going on.

At the moment, as mentioned above, there is an ongoing public consultation on the new SPHE curriculum.

The proposal introduces new elements into the curriculum, including the teaching of gender ideology (including transgender issues), pornography, and the full spectrum of sexual orientations and identities.

The proposed course is silent on the role that the ethos of a school may play determining what will be taught or from what point of view it will be taught. It also makes no mention of the role of parents as the primary educators of their children.

There are, I promise you, a range of left-wing NGOs and lobby groups lining up to make submissions to this curriculum through the public consultation process with the aim of nodding it through, or making it even more progressive. At stake, for example, is the right of parents to withdraw their children from SPHE classes that do not align with their own values.

Often, here at Gript, after policies become law, we get emails asking how this happened, or whether it might have been stopped. The answer to those questions is usually that there was a public consultation, to which an array of progressive groups responded, and very few regular citizens did.

In that spirit, I think it is vital that parents are aware that the “public consultation” process for the new SPHE curriculum is open right now. A link to the curriculum and details of how to engage with the consultation may be found on the NCCA’s website.

A note here, by the way, on how to respond: You should make your views clear, brief, and use respectful language. If you oppose elements in the curriculum, you should state which parts you oppose, and why. If you feel parents should have the right to opt out of those parts they object to, write that. If you think that something should be included, say so. All of these things are much better than a tirade of general criticism which can – and perhaps will – be written off as just another angry “far right” contribution.

It is not a secret that there are those in Ireland who wish to remove from parents almost any role in providing sex and relationship guidance to their children. Those people, I promise you, will be writing long and detailed contributions to this “public consultation”, in order to shape the curriculum in their direction.

If this is something that you oppose – and I suspect many of my readers do – then I’d urge you to avail of the democratic opportunity presented to you, and to make your views known.

 

 

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