Sunday, 8 November 2009

When rights do not apply

On Thursday the Catholic Education Service responded to the government's proposals for Sex and Relationship Education. Notably they were responding to the proposal that Sex and Relationship Education be obligatory after the age of 15. In this respect they were disappointed 'that legal encumbrances mean that a blanket right of withdrawal can no longer apply', yet they welcomed the fact that the government was going to respect the rights of parents to withdraw their children from these classes up to the age of fifteen.

Did I miss something there? Is it the case that if the government honours your rights, that is all well and good, but if it dishonours them, it can be blamed on 'legal encumbrances'? What is a legal encumbrance anyway? A piece of fruit? A lawyer slumbering in the corridors of the Old Bailey perhaps?

And here is another thing. If parents are the primary educators, then unless they are proven abusers, their rights over their children cannot reach a point of inapplicability. When a right like that no longer applies in some political dispensation, then we should call such inapplicability what it is: a violation of rights.

Still, if that wasn't bad enough, consider this. Who - just who - exercises the right to withdraw their children from Sex and Relationship Education? It isn't the kind of parents whose children run amuck, share generously their STDs and keep the abortion services in work in these difficult times. It isn't, in other words, the kinds of parents whose failures as educators might spur any government into trying to make up for their lacunae. It is the kind of parents who object in principle to the morally relativistic or indifferentist dynamics of government-provided Sex and Relationship Education. It is those who object to the medicalization of abortion, as if it were not a moral issue. It is those who do not go doey-eyed over government proposals or proclaim the creed of 'attending to nurse' ('for fear of finding something worse').

So if the Catholic Education Service is not there to protect the position of such people, what is it there to do? The only Catholic thing about this response to the SRE proposals is the wafts of incense it seems to be sending in the direction of government pieties.

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