In two previous posts (see linked below) while I have been disappointed and very critical of the minister's decision to seemingly capitulate to the religious right as he himself is a man of the cloth due to the questions that explore homosexuality, anal sex, HIV testing and disclosure and a problematic guided imagery exercise that asks the students in a controlled setting I might add (as I understand it) to imagine themselves gay and everyone else straight or hetersexual and the associated stigmas the student may feel in the reverse roles.
Lifestyle Text Withdrawal Backlash - Calls And Letters, Attack Ministry, Minister
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's Education Ministry is taking a beating from local and international rights groups who are upset that it pulled the controversial health and family life education (HFLE) text issued to grades 7-9 students.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites last week confirmed the attacks, but opted not to disclose the names of the groups and individuals leading them.
"We have been inundated by calls and letters because of the position the ministry took. Up to today (Wednesday), I received a broadside from a group of gay, lesbian and transsexual people in New Jersey in the United States, who wanted to know why I was in favour of hate crimes," Thwaites told The Sunday Gleaner.
According to Thwaites, the New Jersey group wanted to know when he could report to it the full information on non-discriminatory material available to all students in Jamaica.
"It has been surprising to me, because our position is that, in principle we support the instruction of children towards healthy, faithful heterosexual relations, with tolerance and with understanding and non-discrimination towards others who adopt a different and alternative lifestyle," the minister said.
According to Thwaites, the position taken by the ministry was consistent with the position taken by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
"But, apparently, there are many of those who want something much more than that and who feel that we must instruct children in all aspects of sexuality; homosexuality, heterosexuality at the earliest stages, without any caution or restraint, and we reject that," he said.
In September, the education ministry pulled the text after a parent pointed out the controversial content. Angry parents at the time demanded to know who approved the text even after it was withdrawn.
The firestorm was ignited when it was discovered that the text, among other things, required grades seven to nine students to give responses to questions on their involvement in homosexual and heterosexual activity. Some stakeholders including parents and teachers questioned the process by which the Ministry of Education approved its teaching guides.
Thwaites accepted that officials at the ministry did not offer the rigid scrutiny the text should have undergone before it was signed off.
"We blinked," he admitted.
Faced with questions in Parliament from the opposition spokesperson on education, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Thwaites argued that, "no minister of education of whatever political stripe would have knowingly allowed material as obnoxious as that contained in the HFLE curriculum to have been published, and it does appear that there were previous instances, and there were warnings, and it was a clear intention of some who have very clear predispositions regarding sexual conduct ... who got away on this one."