Outsider values

“The dispute over Parkfield’s “No Outsiders” scheme shows that some people are eager for the state to take over”

Counterpoints

In a 2008 ruling, Baroness Hale, the future president of the Supreme Court, made an important observation. “Families,” she remarked, “are the breeding ground of diversity and individuality.” Totalitarianism, on the other hand, values uniformity and conformity. “Hence the totalitarian state tries to separate the child from her family and mould her to its own design.”

The Hale Principle is worth recalling after the recent clashes between parents and the education authorities. Sometimes the parents are Jewish: at Yesodey Hatorah school in North London, Ofsted inspectors initiated — in the words of one parent — “an alien discussion with our girls of their private bodies and of intimate relationships with strangers”. Sometimes they are Muslim: last month, hundreds of parents withdrew their kids from Parkfield primary school in Birmingham, which had been teaching a “No Outsiders” programme on LGBT issues. And sometimes they are just uneasy about the state overreaching itself — like the 100,000 signatories to a petition against government plans for compulsory “relationships and sex education”.

The petition expressed a widely-held view: that some questions are so intimate that they should be left to parents and that Whitehall bureaucrats, writers of textbooks and enthusiastic teachers are not best-placed to tell young minds how to think about sex.

But the dispute over Parkfield’s “No Outsiders” scheme (which has now been temporarily suspended) shows that some people are eager for the state to take over. Aware at some level of the Hale Principle, they claim the programme is about explaining a few facts to children, not imposing an ideology. The journalist James Bloodworth argued: “Those of us who wish to see children taught about the full spectrum of human sexuality are not seeking to impose anything on anyone.”

The Corbynista Ash Sarkar, of “I’m a communist, you idiot” fame, tweeted that such courses were “about preparing children for life in a diverse society. There’s nothing inappropriate or imposing about that.” Andrew Moffat, Parkfield’s assistant head, writes in the “No Outsiders” course book: “We are not telling children what to think.”

These reassurances look absurd when placed next to the teaching content Parkfield uses. Moffat’s website advises primary school teachers to show children a photo of a “gender neutral” toilet sign. The teacher will mention that not everyone agrees with men walking into the same bathrooms as women: “Some people,” the children should be told, “don’t understand we are all different.” This isn’t an impartial explanation: it’s teaching a highly controversial view.

The “No Outsiders” course book, meanwhile, invites Year 4 pupils to design an invitation for a gay wedding. Teachers are to tell the eight-year-olds: “Some religions say that men and men should not get married. What does the law in the UK say?” Having been reminded that parliament redefined marriage in 2013, the children will be told: “At our school we say there are no outsiders. Does that include people who are gay?” The course book adds, somewhat redundantly: “Yes.”

The implication is obvious: if you oppose gay marriage, you are a bad, unwelcoming person. Many gay Christians would tell a very different story, but the programme is too preoccupied with its own ideology to notice.

What nobody ever explains is why Muslims, Jews, Christians, social conservatives, trans-sceptical radical feminists and others should be so keen on liberal morality. After 50 years of the sexual revolution, the results are in: family breakdown, 200,000 abortions a year, rocketing porn addiction, confusion about the meaning of male and female, and a sexual landscape so liberated that (according to the NSPCC) two-fifths of teenage schoolgirls in England have been pressured into sexual activity. What parent wouldn’t want to opt out of that?