There’s a row brewing about teaching “gay rights” in schools. A Sunday Times piece claimed that faith schools would be forced to teach gay rights, and the Department for Education responded with this utterly bizarre (and since-deleted) tweet:
Nonsense to say schools ‘must teach gay rights’. We want schools to teach broad curric based on British values
The DfE has since followed up with a statement, available over at BuzzFeed. Unfortunately, that statement is also nonsensical and doesn’t establish much of anything at all.
In both cases, the separation of “gay rights” and “British values” is bizarre. As a society, rights for the entirety of the LGBTQ spectrum should be baked into our fundamental values as part of being decent people. Anything that we can do to promote tolerance within our society is a good thing, and that should start with education. The fact that the Department for Education appears to be shying away from that is troublesome, at best.
Education isn’t just regurgitating facts in the hope that you’ll pass your GCSEs. It’s about passing on the best of what we have from one generation to the next. It’s about making sure that children exit the education system as well-rounded, confident, free-thinking individuals.
The movement for gay rights has made our society a much better place. This was the week of the first openly gay CEO in the S&P 500. The last twenty years has seen LGBTQ people find a voice, and that voice used to powerful effect. It’s exactly what we should pass on in education: the notion that we have the power to be good to one another.
People aren’t born with prejudice. We’re taught it, through the actions and ideas of others. The DfE’s original statement has a point, although not the one they intended: education about LGBTQ shouldn’t be seen as forced. It should be brought into the open, promoted, even applauded as part of trying to make society a better place for all.
Yes, there will be people who don’t want gay rights to be taught in schools. One political party is against gay marriage. And, you know what, that’s okay! It’s one of the advantages of living in a democratic country. We all have the right to free speech. However, you can’t use that free speech to take people’s rights away from them.
We have the opportunity to educate the next generation that homophobia, just like racism and sexism before it, has no place in our society. Let’s make that opportunity count.