The Flourish program deprives children of their bodily autonomy
A comment came to me last weekend when I mentioned a local high school my three kids might like to attend.
At first, I was pissed off. Then I hung on. It is important for me to know how I am heard and read, that I am seen as anti-religious when I ask for objective sex education or suggest that children should feel included in Irish classes.
I am not anti-religion. I grew up in a religious house. My parents watch mass online every day. My mother is practicing walking around the house, muttering the Angelus under her breath. But their faith is personal; it does not pass judgment on the choices or identities of others. They don’t complain when I, my husband and my kids don’t join them.
So no, I’m not anti-religion. If 97% of our schools were non-denominational, I would have a lot less to say about them. It’s the lack of choice, the lack of respect for choice that bothers me.
Because a lack of choice, a program that children hardly can avoid, is indoctrination.
I am anti-indoctrination.
On behalf of time-constrained parents, I spent a few hours this past weekend browsing Flourish resources for relationship and sex education in Catholic schools.
To be fair, I have encountered an unmistakable effort to reflect a modern and inclusive Ireland in material. For example, Flourish asks children to draw pictures of other families and reminds them that “love is in the heart of all families”. There is certainly a tone of acceptance if not equality.
But there is a central tear in the material. Remember that the Catholic Church still considers homosexual sex to be a sin. In 2016, Pope Francis described gender theory as part of a “world war” against marriage. The church also considers abortion to be a sin. These values are in direct contradiction with what we voted for as a constitutional democracy.
And these values are at the heart of the program.
Bloom denies children their bodily autonomy. They are taught to believe that their bodies are developing according to God’s “plan”. There is no room for a child who questions their biological sex or gender assignment.
Girls’ period is how their body “prepares for motherhood”.
Children learn to see abortion in Catholic terms.
“From the moment they are tiny cells in their mother’s womb, they need to be mindful and they are born completely helpless. They need trusted adults to make sure they grow up to be strong, healthy children and, eventually, strong adults.
Resources clarify the Church’s judgment on human relationships. The ideal, that is, sex in a committed heterosexual marriage, is high and comes first.
“In order to have a wonderful child, a couple must make a commitment to stay together and do the best they can for their child. A married couple, as part of their wedding vows, promise to welcome children into their life. They receive God’s blessing on their commitment to one another. Amen.’
There is no specific blessing for single parents, separated and divorced parents, or parents who have never been together to begin with. How many children can this affect in an average Irish classroom?
The praised example of a child born into a committed relationship is followed by exceptions to this rule.
“Keep in mind that children may bring up the fact that babies can enter families through adoption, surrogacy, foster care and same-sex couples. Emphasize that babies are a gift from God in all circumstances and that God is the center of love in all families. ‘
Same change of tone. Acceptance but not equality. These children are separated, presented as different and arguably not ideal. Teachers need to be “alert” to these situations. We are asked to be compassionate, to remember that they are always a “gift from God in all circumstances”.
There is no mention of children who do not believe themselves to be children of God – children who have no choice but to be there, who even when they withdraw, cannot avoid this narrative establishing a hierarchy of human identity.
Parents at Lacken Co Wicklow National School stepped in and the program was pulled from their school. 1,600 parents have signed a petition against Flourish on Change.org.
Where are all the others? Busy hanging rainbow flags in schools and outside government buildings? Busy bragging about their progressive country?
Do Irish Parents Care? Or do they just hear someone complaining about religion again?