report in the Telegraph led to much frenzy on twitter and in
the blogosphere about the "reintroduction of Section 28."
Absolutely aghast that such an atrocious and unjust dictum could
come back into force, I simply had to look it up for myself.
Sure enough, when I looked at The
Model Free School Funding Agreement, the similarities between
these new stipulations and the former Section 28 were glaring:
"The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by
the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure
that children at the Academy are protected from inappropriate
teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its
important for family life and for bringing up children."
If it wasn't so sinister, I'd perhaps be able to appreciate the
laughable irony of this directive falling under Clause 28 in the
Model Free School Funding Agreement.
The concept of
free schools is bad enough: removing the power of local
authorities and allowing for any private organisation or group (be
they religious or otherwise prejudiced) to crowbar in whatever
biased education, or one lacking in cultural/religious diversity,
they feel suits their agenda best. But to insist that these schools
promote the institution of marriage, rather than safe responsible
sex or the importance of appreciating and accepting alternative
family models is absolutely disgraceful.
When DIVA contacted Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT, she sent
back the simple furious response: "We are appalled and wonder what
Cameron has made of it given his support for LGB rights."
Her co-chair Tony Fenwick expressed similar sentiments: "If the
government minister wants to reintroduce Section 28 through covert
means, that is outrageous."
Not only is it shameful that the government insists on promoting
the value of marriage when it isn't even a right afforded to all
its citizens - despite David Cameron's smarmy pseudo-sincere
pledges to LGB people - but it also does disservice to many other
family models in the UK.
Perhaps we should remind Minister for Education Mr Gove and his
ConDem cohorts that the term marriage does not include civil
partnerships, same sex relationships, single parents - or event a
stable heterosexual couple who choose not to marry for their own
personal reasons. (Though the cynic in me is quite sure that he
needs no reminder of this fact.)
Whether it's a clever and insidious ploy to generate
conservative community interest or encourage religious groups to
have a hand in the free schooling initiative, or whether it's
simply a heinous oversight has yet to be seen.
One thing is certain however, and that is, if these stipulations
are enforced and that free schools will be at risk of losing their
funding if they do not comply with them, then we are giving our
children up to be taught a ludicrous and moronic Victorian ideal of
family, which excludes, subjugates and denigrates vast sections of
contemporary British society.
It is a gross injustice to defecate on the love of same-sex
couples, or the efforts of a single parent. It is an even grosser
injustice to tell the children of those families that their parents
have somehow failed them, that their family is somehow not good
enough; that their lives are not "normal".
Feminist blogger and Twitter user @Sianuskha
tweeted: "Having grown up with gay parents under Section 28 I can
confirm that pushing marriage alienates and isolates kids from
other types of families."
Just imagine how much bullying this dictum would perpetuate, how
much self-hatred, or resentment towards parents that would create
Like it or not, Mr Gove, these families exist and will continue
to exist until the end of time (unless you continue on this path
and revoke our hard won rights of equality - though, perhaps
that is your intention), and you have to deal with it. But then,
perhaps you would like a society where some children are bullied
and some families are somehow less equal than others.
But surely a more sensible way to go about it would be to
educate children about how all families are different, about how
actually, a person with a penis is not always essential to raising
a child, about how one need not wear a white dress and walk down an
aisle and sign some trite contract and claim all the relevant tax
benefits - about how it's just as okay to marry, as it is to
not get married at all.
Needless to say there are countless
examples of same-sex couples, single parents, or indeed couples
who have - horrifically! - not been committed to each other in
hallowed states of matrimony, and who have raised perfectly
When will people understand that homosexuality is not the
problem - rather it's homophobia that blights decent people's
lives? It's only when we stop looking at marriage as a "normal" way
of life, that we can begin to wipe out many families' and peoples'
reservations about same-sex relationships or single parents. It's
about time that we learn that the kids ARE alright. It's the
grown-ups who are all messed up.