How is Heterosexuality encouraged in primary schools?
Primary school is for the most part an ‘asexual’ environment. Children at a young age do not experience sexual attraction. Young children are “innocent” and in need of protection from sex and sexuality (Watkins, 2000). It is argued by Adrienne Rich that heterosexuality is a political institution of violence and that there is nothing innate or free in its compulsory practice (Rich, 1983). This theory is attacked by Debbie Epstein, Professor of Education at Goldsmith’s College, London, England, who has been researching issues relating to sexuality and education since 1990 .
Epstein who primarily focuses on sexuality in primary schools, disputes Rich by saying that primary schools are sites for the production and enforcement of heterosexuality and stable marriages for the purpose of procreation, love and security. Her view on “compulsory heterosexuality” is extended to educational institutions and identify places where sexuality is silenced but heterosexuality is permitted and even encouraged. An example would be imaginative play in elementary school where children idealize and act out a heterosexual family life – a boy acting as a father/man, a girl a mother/woman. There are those children however, where the normative heterosexual model does not fit in their home environment.
Teachers have fears with teaching sex education as to what their limitations of what can and cannot be taught and/or discussed. Epstein feels that a broader version of sexual education incorporated with the informal cultures and pre-existing understandings of sex and sexuality among the students would be the way to go in place of the existing sex education curriculum that is ripe with moral judgment and devoid of emotion and context (Lesnick, 2003). The pressures of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ are primary concerns in children who are seeking the construction of their gender identities. The perceptions and experiences of violence in children’s homes can portray their idea of gender and their roles (Renold, 2005).
On May 24, 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act came into force. The act was to refrain local authorities from promoting homosexuality. On July 20, 2000, the Conservative Party voted to have its own version of Section 28 which stated that the schools should not promote the teaching of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship, but should promote the teaching of marriage as the key building block of society. In Scotland, Section 28 known also as Section 2a was repealed, but the ballot papers proved to keep the section (Moran, 2001). Thus the question of prejudice against homosexuals became an issue accusing that there was homophobic abuse in schools because teachers were inhibited by law banning the promotion of homosexuality. Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools in England concluded that Section 28 had not caused a problem, although his investigation was not very thorough. Epstein, after interviewing students and teachers, concluded that an atmosphere of “confusion and fear” arose because the teachers did not know how to comply with it. Therefore, teachers woul