Ed West

Kids love fairy tales. This doesn’t mean they must be taught about transgender politics

Kids love fairy tales. This doesn't mean they must be taught about transgender politics
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If the NUT didn’t exist it would be necessary for a latter-day Michael Wharton to invent it. This week the teaching union is having its congress where, among other things, it’s pushing for the government to install an anti-Section 28; a rule stating that schools are required to teach positive examples of same-sex relationships as part of sex education.

I always thought Section 28 was a bad idea because it was not Westminster’s job to tell individual schools and teachers what to think. I imagined that schools would know how best to guide their pupils through these difficult years of confusion. But for some people the principle behind Section 28 was wonderful; they’re all in favour of this sort of ideological domineering – they just want to be the ones doing the oppressing.

In other news the teaching union, always shy to latch onto a fashionable political idea, is getting behind transgender politics, tweeting this brilliantly argued leaflet, ‘Why Trans teachers matter’, which contains this flawless point:

Can children cope with the idea of people changing gender? Will it upset them? Children’s literature is full of transformation stories. If a mouse can become a footman and a frog can become a man without traumatising young minds then men and women crossing gender roles is a tame idea by comparison.

Christine Burns, Author of ‘Making Equality Work’ and ‘Pressing Matters’

The tiny, tiny drawback to this argument being that a frog can’t actually become a man outside of fairy tales, and children know that fairy tales aren’t real. For example my eldest was stunned to learn that princesses existed in real life; ‘you mean, not in princess land?’ Like most children she’s aware that there is a fantasy oldy-worldy fairy tale land and a real world, and the latter is more prosaic but safer. In contrast the fact that in real life girls could actually marry girls provoked a shrug, like I’d tried explaining the Norwegian political system to her.

Personally I’m not worried about lessons that will upset children; I just don’t want them to be taught things that are driven by political fashion rather than empirical evidence. I was told lots of things at school that factually weren’t true – I remember a class on how the Native Americans were peaceful until the Mayflower arrived – and I’d hoped we’d moved on since the 1980s and the days of ILEA.

In fact we’ve got sillier, thanks in part to the internet and the new social justice warrior crusade against reality. But if the SJW argument is now ‘if something happens in fairy tales, why can’t it happen in real life?’ then you have to wonder where it goes from here.

Perhaps they could update the story, so that at the end the frog is still a frog but tells the princess it 'sincerely identifies' as a man, and when she refuses to accept this lots of trolls shout ‘hater!’ and pelt her with stones.

None of this NUT business would matter so much if education was just a business like any other, one where consumers and producers were able to sell the best product in the most efficient way. Alas that golden world remains very much in the realm of fairy tales for now.

Written byEd West

Ed West is the author of The Diversity Illusion, 1215 and All That and is writing a series of books on medieval history

Topics in this articleSocietyeducationlgbtqtransgender