This week, on Tuesday 12 June, Cliona Saidlear, Executive Director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, spoke to the Oireachtas Education Committee in Leinster House on the subject of Sex Education Reform. She does not appear to have any educational training, but specialised in International Relations and International Politics at third level. She spoke at length on how the Department of Education must revise Relationships and Sexuality Education, and stated that there was a need for policy-makers and teachers to be led by the children’s realities – ‘we must upskill and learn from the children we are dealing with’.
What a startling suggestion! Education is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘receiving or giving systematic instruction’ and an educator is one who ‘provides instruction’. Teachers are, very simply, channels through which knowledge is transmitted. Yes, they do so much more than just teach, but their primary function is to shape children with information, knowledge and skills that will help them reach their full potential, gain fulfilment from life and live as successful citizens. In the classroom, the teacher is in charge. The children are not. Our training, maturity and life experiences make us the experts. And we not only open doors of knowledge, but we also have a preventative role, in outlining and modelling legal, acceptable and correct behaviours.
For Ms Saidlear to suggest that we be led by the children regarding sex education is bewildering. If the children lead in English, we will only study the lyrics of pop-songs, text language will replace proper English and Shakespeare, Frost and Yeats will be consigned to the rubbish heap. In German, we will watch Bayern München Youtube clips and burn our grammar books. In school in general, smartphones will be in continual use, books and copies will be left at home, the canteen will be a silent expanse of dirty dishes and sandwich wrappings after lunch, exams of any sort will be abolished and the school day will begin at 10 am. Saidlear’s suggestion undermines the very essence of education, which is to provide instruction and security and to act as a deterrent to hazardous, irresponsible and self-destructive behaviour.
Education ought to decisively establish the norms for society; if it is merely responding to current norms, then it has failed its primary purpose and is merely playing catch-up. With regards to sex education, it is the duty of educators to promote objective morality and all that is decent, pure and right. We fail our children abysmally when instead of making a clear distinction between what is right and wrong in matters of sexual conduct, we encourage them, in their childish, celebrity-crazed ignorance, to decide for themselves.