Months of building tension in Birmingham have pushed the topic of ‘LGBT Education’ into the forefront of British politics.
Ever since the ‘No Outsiders’ program – which seeks to educate young children on the diversity of British society through picture books - was introduced in Birmingham schools, parents in the predominantly Muslim community have responded with protests and condemnation. Even Esther McVey has been swept up in the controversy, after stating her belief that parents ‘know best’ and should be making the decisions about when children learn about same-sex relationships.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear – I don’t consider Esther McVey homophobic for expressing this view, nor I brand anybody who has ideological grievances with the ‘No Outsiders’ program to be a bigot. I completely understand the conservative viewpoint – parents having the final say on how their children is raised is a staple of small-state conservatism and I respect that.
However, I believe a conservative argument can be made in favour of the ‘No Outsiders’ program.
That might seem surprising, considering conservatism is irredeemably homophobic in the eyes of many. But I believe there is much to gain from something like the ‘No Outsiders’ program.
Firstly, let’s set the record straight on what ‘No Outsiders’ teaches kids.
It is not sex education, nor does it delve into sexual topics. If that were the case, I’d be protesting alongside the parents. Young children shouldn’t be bombarded with sexual imagery.
But that isn’t what ‘No Outsiders’ is. The program is age-appropriate and isn’t solely focused on gay families – religions, foreign cultures, disabilities and other family structures also get a look in, with the help of picture books such as ‘Blue Chameleon’ and ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’. So frankly, complaints that the ‘No Outsiders’ program is forcing sexuality onto children are unfounded.
The ‘No Outsiders’ program can potentially go a long towards creating a more socially cohesive country. Not only will children learn to view gay people from a place of understanding, they will be equipped to view people of different faiths, people of different ethnicities and people with disabilities with tolerance.
A conservative wants a country that is orderly and law-abiding. The ‘No Outsiders’ program will by no means eliminate crime, but it could go a long way in reducing the numbers of hate crimes that are carried out in the streets of Britain.
I understand the counter-arguments some on the right have to ‘No Outsiders’ and I acknowledge that there are areas where compromises may need to be made – perhaps the age at which children start learning about these themes could be raised?
But ultimately I believe the ‘No Outsiders’ represents a force for good, and could do a great deal to heal the divisions present in our country, and help shape a future where there’s more understanding and less judgement.