20 Feb Relationship Education – there’s a better way.
As featured in the recent Education edition of the Catholic Herald
Apparently there is a TV show on Netflix entitled: “Sex Education.” According to the BBC, it was reportedly watched by 40 million households in the first few weeks.
The hype surrounding it is indicative of where popular culture is. Anything with the word “sex” in it is going to get a disproportionate amount of attention. Nothing new there. People often accuse the Church of being obsessed with sex, as if that were all Her moral teaching was about. The Church’s vision for authentic human sexuality (not just the sexual act) is a very important kernel upon which questions about life and love rests. As St. John Paul taught, the male/female relationship is the ‘deepest substratum of human ethics and culture.’ Thus, he proclaimed; ‘human life is by its nature “co-educational” and its dignity as well as its balance depends at every moment of history and in every place of geographical longitude and latitude, on “who” she will be for him and he for her.’ (General Audience October 8th 1980)
I am always struck by this ‘co-educational’ aspect of moral formation, because it means whatever our state in life — married [with or without children], single, ordained or consecrated religious — we are all called to human flourishing through life-enriching relationships. Schools across England from this September will have to deliver what the Department for Education now calls “RSHE” — Relationships, Sex and Health Education.
Even though the DfE has been at pains to say there is no legal obligation upon primary schools to teach sex education, there has been a great deal of focus in the media, both mainstream and social, on the impact, both negative and positive, this is going to have on young children. Negatively speaking, there is no escaping the fact that many parents are nervous. There have already been some high profile cases about the adverse and even emotionally damaging effect that some of the materials being aggressively promoted to schools are having. Social media is full of comments from parents who been deeply distressed by some of the explicit images and language that their children have been exposed to and how that has emotionally traumatised their child, to say nothing of the spiritual harm it can do.
There is also the menacing influence of gender ideology creeping in to schools and the colossal power and influence that trans-activist groups have over public bodies. Pope Francis has been most emphatic about the dangers of this. In a speech to a gathering of the International Child Protection Bureau in April 2014, he denounced such experimental education programmes, warning that that “children are not guinea pigs.”
One has only to consider how the new password protected toolkit for teachers issued by the Crown Prosecution Service [under the Ministry of Justice] but drafted by the gay rights agency Stonewall and infamous trans lobbying charity Mermaids, will “guide” teachers on how to “police” what goes on in the classroom for alleged hate crimes against transgender persons. Will this spell danger for pupils who openly declare their conviction [based on science as well as faith] that as far as ‘gender’ is concerned, there is only the biological objective reality of the sex of male and female? Who knows? The new statutory regulations from the DfE are supposed to protect schools with a religious character to teach and present issues around relationships and sexuality that are in conformity with their doctrines and the moral, religious convictions of the families whom they serve. That being the case, what can be done from a positive perspective?
A Fertile Heart – Receiving and Giving Creative Love, is a new resource for Catholic and other faith schools to assist them in the provision of RSHE.
The “Vision” is simple: To provide an inspiring and dynamic programme for the spiritual, moral, emotional and intellectual development of young people, that enables them to fully appreciate and understand what makes life-enriching relationships.
The “Mission” is creative: Teaching young people that true freedom is so much more than just the mere freedom to choose, but the real and authentic freedom to choose well.
The “Purpose” is clear: to enable educators and parents to transmit the profound truths of the human person to children in a comprehensible, attractive and convincing way so that their desire to live by these truths grows daily. In this great endeavour, we are all of us, partners in a shared task.
A Fertile Heart is a faith inspired programme of study that offers schools, especially those with a strong Christian identity, a new way of approaching RHSE that invites teachers and pupils to explore together the big questions of life; — what does it means to be human; why does sexual difference matter and what lies at the heart of authentic personal dignity? The content reinforces universal values of personal development, growth in character, mutual respect, love and patience and thus compliments good Religious education as well as parochial catechesis of the young for the sacraments of initiation. It aims to contribute to the challenge laid before us by Pope Francis that there be an “Education in Hope” (Amoris Laetitia) within which a sound response to the need for wholesome sexuality education can take shape.
In our current climate of new demands being made on our schools, we hope that Fertile Heart can have parity of esteem with other recommended resources. Soon online resources will range from training and orientation videos to lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations with carefully crafted guidance notes to help teachers, including those who are not specialists in RSHE or religious education, to unpack the vision with material that is more accessible. It has been developed over a three-year period with educators, schools, and moral theologians. Several bishops have given positive feedback and endorsements. The Foreword for the course books has been given by Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff himself.
There is no denying that the whole area of RSHE is fraught with enormous challenges and tensions in the wake of relentless pressure of state imposition of progressively libertarian social policies. So if you think you can be an advocate and supporter of the project then we want to hear from you. If you wish to support it financially, we need to hear from you.
It is our objective that profits made by “A Fertile Heart” will be invested back into continually improving the resources and to widen their availability not just in the UK but far beyond, wherever it is felt to be practically useful and edifying.
We also have a longer-term vision of establishing a charitable trust to benefit credible causes connected with authentic Christian formation and evangelisation. Yes, times are tough and challenging for seriously minded Catholic parents and educators but let us take courage from the words of St. Thomas More who wrote, “You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.”
Edmund Adamus is Education Consultant for www.fertileheart.org.uk a new moral formation curriculum designed by Panda Press Publishing.