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Age appropriate? May 3, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Reading this from the Guardian recently the thought struck me, what is age appropriate?

Headteachers have been accused by parents of brainwashing their children after disagreements about teaching on topics such as homosexuality as part of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE).
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is calling on the government to make PSHE a statutory part of the curriculum to protect teachers from claims that they are following a personal agenda, which can result in a breakdown in the relationship between school and community. The situation is particularly fraught in primary schools because of disagreements about what topics should be covered at what age, though once parents are told the details of the age-appropriate material being used, they are usually reassured.

And here’s an example of same:

“If you deal with topics relating to homosexuality in a lesson and a parent from whatever background disagrees with that, they say, ‘I do not want my children taught about these issues.’

“The trouble is, these are controversial topics which our society doesn’t wholly agree on and teachers are having to be quite brave sometimes in doing that and we should have their back when they do that.”

That’s very true, but the odd thing is that, for example, the culture itself means that children are often well aware of these topics, ‘controversial’ or not, from an early age. It could hardly be otherwise – take this state where last year the same sex marriage referendum meant that the public space was filled with discussions that only the most sheltered would not have heard.

I’d be a bit worried if an eight-year old didn’t have some sense of these matters (though having an eight year old, in truth watching, say Friends, where so much of it just sails over her head my major concern is whether the existence of non-existence of Santa Claus is given away. Let’s just say they’ve come very close on one occasion). What do others think?


1. 6to5against - May 3, 2016

I deal with this as a teacher. In the past I would have pussyfooted around it a bit. Acknowledging that many (or at least some) kids would come from families that follow orthodox teachings, be they RC, or otherwise, I would still try to push a line of respect and tolerance.

But since last year, I’ve thought to hell with that. We now have an official state position on this matter. I just assert equality as the norm and dare anybody challenge me on that. Nobody has.

Interestingly, attempting to push an anti-homophobic-bullying line in recent years, I’ve discovered its an open door. Kids are overwhelmingly positive on the issue. On a small but important detail, the use of ‘gay’ as a pejorative term (for pretty much anything) has almost disappeared here in the course of, I would guess, 5 – 10 years.

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sonofstan - May 3, 2016

Where’s ‘here’?
I ask because last year, ticking an box, we brought the equality and diversity officer in to talk to a class (2nd year uni). As you say pushing an open door, but when she got to using ‘gay’ as shorthand for a bit naff/ weak/ lame, they refused to take her seriously. and two students, who prefaced their remarks by saying they were themselves gay told her had no issue with that usage.


6to5against - May 3, 2016

‘here’ is secondary school in the Dublin region.

I overstated my case though. ‘gay’ as a pejorative has certainly become far less common – and I haven’t heard it in at least a year myself. As always, though, somethings survive underground. A gay student complained to me recently that it was still being used, and used in his presence and over his objections.

When I brought it up with a group, I have to say I had no pushback from them when I asserted that it was inappropriate. But again, who knows what’s happening underground…


Tomboktu - May 3, 2016

Is ‘in the absence of the teacher’ the new ‘underground’ now! 🙂


2. Ed - May 3, 2016

On the subject of Santa Claus: you know that Frank O’Connor story about the kid waking up on Christmas morning and swapping the presents because he thinks Santa has got things mixed up, then being given out to by his parents and realizing that it’s all a scam? I’ll always remember being in Sixth Class in primary school when our teacher got us to read that; not unreasonably, he assumed we were all cynical hard chaws by that stage who knew the ways of the world, but didn’t allow for one of the girls who was a fair bit more naive than anyone else. The penny dropped for her towards the end of the story and she ran out of the classroom in tears. Even as a group of heartless eleven year-olds, we all winced in sympathy, for her and for the poor teacher. Bloody minefield isn’t it?


WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2016

It really is Ed. Dublin northside primary school c. 1978 had very similar experience in sixth class where some weren’t aware of the way the world works.


3. Ivorthorne - May 3, 2016

There are information and then there are values. I fully respect the rights of parents to promote the values they want to their own children. That should not mean that schools are not in a position to tell those children about other view points or plain factual information.

There are same-sex couples. There are people who identify with a gender different to the one people thought they were at birth. These are facts and they are facts that children will be confronted with when they walk down the street or meet the parents of their peers in the school car park. It’s hardly giving 8 year olds advice on flavored condoms, where to find partners for group sex or the benefits of dildos over vibrators.


Ivorthorne - May 3, 2016

For the record, there are not information.


WorldbyStorm - May 3, 2016

Very fair point IT. In a way that’s where age appropriate comes in. Few would think it appropriate that 8 yr olds should get advice on flavoured condoms.

When I went to school we got sex education in 1st class. It was pretty good. There was a information of a functional nature given in a 40 minute block. It was a mixed school so then they divided the class up into male and female and a teacher took each group and for an hour and a half answered any questions that people had. Once past the initial (for some) embarrassment it was actually kind of educative both about misconceptions and in terms of allowing people to learn stuff.

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