Welcome to another #talkingpointtuesday. I’ve been thinking lately about how much our viewpoint matters when we’re talking about relationships and sex. As professionals – or as parents – we can’t hide completely from our own beliefs and values. Some of our practice, therefore, has to look at examining our own systems of belief and how they could prevent us from delivering key messages around topics in as clear a way as possible. Note I didn’t say objective. I’ve long since stopped believing that anything we do as humans can ever be truly objective.
But what about the beliefs and biases of others? There are two main things we need to take into account when considering how others’ beliefs might shape our teaching of RSE. The first is to help the people we work with to consider where their beliefs might be impairing their development. For example, for a LGBT+ teenager worried about the consequences of an unalterable identity (hello, teenage trauma!), a nudge to the fact that the Catholic church is not where the world starts and ends could offer tools for self-acceptance. Equally, young people who have been shaped by their culture to hold particular beliefs around pleasure could benefit greatly from being supported to explore those beliefs. Our beliefs can change, but as facilitators we should approach this from a place of openness and compassion – and recognise that shedding the skin of a childhood belief can be painful.
The other facet of beliefs and biases that we need to take into account is those upheld by the education system. In recent weeks I’ve been struck by an approaching ‘resources war’ in the UK, as organisations who feel that the LGBT+ inclusive curriculum offers harmful messages to children and young people and seeks to counteract it with their own. Many teachers will be in a position of having to create new resources when the curriculum launches fully in their schools, and there is a danger that, with all these competing resources, young people could be exposed to both conflicting messages and resources that have at their heart a motive other than the development of skills, knowledge and understanding.
This is an invitation to evaluate any messages which you think you might still hold biases over and to think about how you can deliver those topics in an open, non-judgemental way, and a reminder to quality assure any resources you plan on using in the classroom. RSE should help clear up confusion, not create it.