In my last post, I spoke about how I don’t share my private life (and thus my sexuality) with my students. My reason being, even as a teacher, I am entitled to privacy and in order to maintain good relationships with my pupils, a line needs to be drawn in the sand of the playground. A line that defines neatly and firmly what students can ask about me and what they can’t. Consequently, whilst I don’t actively state my queer credentials, I ensure that the queer or non-heteronormative is very much propagated (for want of a better word!) positively at my school.
But what about in other areas? Maybe from the other staff? The Senior Leadership Team? The Local Council? Government? It is the last of these that I want to take issue with here. I have to admit that on this front, the government is getting it wrong. Offensively so.
Let’s take a look at the National Teachers’ Standards, specifically to Part II. This section relates to matters which are more tangential, yet still fundamentally involved, with the classroom. One such standard is the following:
“Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by… not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
This particular standard was included after the Trojan Horse scandal and, to a point, I understand its inclusion. What it basically outlines is how the government wishes for teachers to make pupils good citizens. However, the standard enters into a rather complex dialogue here, so allow me to go (briefly) in to a few of them before coming to the main crux of the post.
Firstly, it outlines ‘British values’. Is the pathetically patriotic and redundant nationalistic vibe coming through for anyone else? Did nobody tell our friends in Conservative Party HQ that the Raj has long since died and we no longer own a fifth of the world? Nationalism is an old hat belief and the fact that we are meant to propagate it in schools is shameful.
Secondly, since when did democracy become a British value? This is SO problematic. Firstly, one can argue that we don’t live in a democracy (thanks Lizzie for the constitutional monarchy acting under that satin veil of democracy) and secondly, I think as a value we can’t call it British since the Greeks got there first? I.e. in terms of origin, democracy is to Britain what Iggy Azalea is to hip hop. But we’ll gloss over that one, government.
And now we come to my main bone of contention; the rotting marrow in the heart of the skeleton. It outlines that one should show mutual respect and tolerance for those with ‘different faiths and beliefs’. Of course. Of course we should be tolerant towards people of different religions and faiths. That is not in question. But why don’t the government outline that same tolerance towards those who identify as queer? Who, like those of different religions, may have experienced oppression or maltreatment over the course of history? Why are we marginalised when being queer is not a choice when faith, fundamentally, is? I don’t understand the justification for the inclusion of faith over sexuality.
Being queer is not a faith. Nor is it a belief. We are too often misrepresented and under-represented in the teaching profession and the implicit stance that the government takes on this is, quite simply, offensive.