The revision of the junior cycle RSE programme is part of an overall review of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum, which includes RSE.
Last year, the NCCA called for comments from the public through surveys, submissions and focus groups, and a report on the consultation has just been published.
Over 4,300 parents, 102 teachers and 142 students responded to the online survey. Others presented their views through letters or emails.
The report acknowledges that the most common cause of concern among parents was the reference to “gender identity” in the draft, which says that pupils should “appreciate that sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are core parts of human identity and that each is experienced along a spectrum”.
Proponents of ‘gender identity’ claim that being a boy, or a girl, is only one of countless variations of gender, which itself is independent of one’s bodily reality. Our ‘gender‘ is based on self-identification, not our actual biology. We might be physically male but identify as something different.
Some parents objected that this radical philosophy should not be in the curriculum as “it may lead to questioning, confusion and even harm for some adolescents.”
These parents said “the NCCA is seeking to promote ‘gender ideology’ by refusing to acknowledge the binary nature of gender.”
The NCCA now seems to have confirmed those parents’ worst suspicions. The report claims that “these respondents are strongly of the view that we are born as either male or female and that sex is binary and immutable”, as if this is somehow a fringe belief.
This comment is quite astonishing. The report presents as a “view” what is a scientific truth. It is not an opinion but a fact that we are all born as male or female, and sex is binary and immutable. Being male or female is written in every single cell of our body and there is no way to change that. Only a very radical ideology would deny this fact, but it appears to be one the NCCA accepts, which is deeply worrying.
Another cause of concern for many parents is the reference to pornography in the draft curriculum. These parents, says the NCCA, “fear that students would be exposed to pornography as part of classroom teaching and learning.”
The parents believe that putting the topic in the RSE curriculum is not appropriate for pupils aged 12-15 and this would “result in sexualization and harm of children”.
Parents also criticised “the lack of reference to morality, moral teachings or family values and would like to see the specification reflect a school’s right to teach topics in a manner that aligns with the school’s ethos and values.” Some even stated that they would withdraw their children from all SPHE classes if the proposed updates are accepted.
The NCCA might dismiss many of these parents as over-traditionalist in their outlook and not reflective of wider public opinion, but even parents who no longer fully subscribe to Christian teaching on sexual morality are likely to be annoyed at what is being considered.