Johann Hari of the Independent makes the compelling argument that teaching school children about homosexuality will save lives:
A detailed study by the Schools Health Education Unit found that in Britain today, 70 percent of gay children get bullied, 41 percent get beaten up, and 17 percent get told at some point in their childhood that they are going to be killed.
I’ll tell you the story of just one of them. Jonathan Reynolds was a 15-year old boy from Bridgend in South Wales who was accused – accurately or not, we’ll never know – of being gay. He was yelled at for being a “faggot” and a “poof”. So one day, he sat a GSCE exam – later graded as an A - and went to the train tracks near his school and lay on them. He texted his sister: “Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me, see I do have feeling too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me. This is because of them, I am human just like them. None of you blame yourself, mum, dad, Sam and the rest of the family. This is not because of you.” And then the train killed him.
Had the children in his school been taught that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality, that it was as 'natural' as being straight, Jonathan Reynold may well be alive today. I remember vicious homophobia at my secondary school in London - those suspected of being gay were abused mercilessly, and I cannot begin to imagine what their lives must have been like at that fragile point in their development. Had we been taught by authority figures that it was not only wrong to bully people of different sexual orientation, but stupid too, I'm sure the lives of many students would have been greatly improved.
There are statistics that back this assertion too. Writes Hari:
We know that these lessons work in making gay kids much safer. The Schools Health Education Unit found that homophobic violence was dramatically lower in schools that taught about homosexuality. Good schools like Stoke Newington Secondary that followed this program were assessed to have “virtually eliminated homophobic bullying.” That has a very powerful educational purpose: when gay kids feel safe, they can learn.
While religious fundamentalists and homophobes (the two often being complementary) will no doubt put up an enormous fuss about 'indoctrinating' children, ensuring the emotional and physical well being of a sizeable minority (around 3-10%) is far, far more important.