IVIR. L. MOORE .states ,1-Y1 (March 17) that the article by B. A. Harrington did not suggest class lessons in sex education in our primary schools. This is untrue. In the fifth column, the article says: "Work on Baptism as rebirth
. . can lead to a discussion of new life in a baby. There is the possibility here of in corporating the B.B.C. filmstrip, 'Where do babies come from?' " Is Mr. Moore suggesting that teachers give the lessons on Baptism and show the B.B.C. filmstrip to each child individually?
A similar assurance that the booklet "Sex Education and the Primary Child" does not suggest class lessons in sex education is utterly false. On page 9, in "Notes on Sex Education . . . based on Syllabus," the booklet states: "Opportunities should be found in each year for a deepening and broadening of the child's sexual knowledge." Since the contents, of the syllabus are taught through class lessons, the assurance is worthless.
In reference to children 5-8 years, the booklet states : "It is almost certain that a mother of one of the children in the class will be pregnant and the teacher will take the opportunity for talking about this (how the baby gut there)." For children 8-11 years: "This seems to be the stage which presents most problems and embarrassment — how to tell the children about the act of intercourse . . . Through a thorough investigation of the themes, the class teacher should aim to cover all the factual knowledge, and to have answered all the questions, as suggested in C.M.A.C. Notes." The parents, working-class and professional, to whom 1 have shown the "Suggested Answers," have been disgusted to learn that this material is intended for transmission to their children in the classroom situation. So are parochial priests to whom I have shown the document. The emphatic statements by Mr. Moore that class lessons using this material were never intended by the people on whose behalf he writes (which I have disproved), are a tacit but telling admission that North Merseyside Catholic teachers were justified in objecting to giving such lessons in their classrooms.
With regard to Mr. Moore's accusation of "an oblique attack on the authority of the Archbishop," may I state briefly how the Report on "North Merseyside Catholic Teachers' views concerning Sex Education, of which my letter (February 25) was a very short summary, came to be compiled. In February, 1970, because of the controversy over the B.B.C. broadcasts and an impending discussion on the subject at Archdiocesan level, a request went from our C.T.A. to Catholic schools fur "recommendations and/or comments."
These were fully discussed at a meeting of school representatives on March 9 and general conclusions were agreed upon for presentation to the Archdiocesan meeting on May 5. 1970, which was called "to explore the desirability and practicability of a course of sex education," mainly with reference to the junior school.
The outcome of this Archdiocesan meeting was that there was no genera! agreement whatever among the teachers present that a course in sex education was either desirable or practicable. Nor was there further consultation with the general body of Catholic teachers on the subject. The next communication was receipt of the booklet, "Sex Education and the Primary Child," in schools in December, 1970.
At our local C.T.A. meeting on February 8, 1971, we were informed that the booklet was to be discussed at the next meeting of the Archdiocesan C.T.A. on February 27. As President, 1 felt that the subject was far too important for me and the other two representatives to go along to this meeting and express merely personal opinions of our own. Accordingly, it was agreed to ask for opinions from all the primary schools in the area. In my letter 1 stated ; "I need to know the views of you and your staff concerning this document" and these views were received from 33 Primary schools
As already stated (February 25), 30 schools disagreed with giving detailed information to classes or groups of children about the physiological facts of sex and sexual intercourse, using medical terms. It was not merely "some of (my) teacher friends," as L. Moore puts it, who disagreed.
What Mr. Moore may not realise is that a large body of devoted Catholic teachers have considered the question of class lessons in sex education as a serious matter of conscience. Being in such close and constant contact with the children they teach, primary school teachers have a sensitive awareness of the effects their words have upon these young children (as have the parents). The majority of those taking part in our survey in North Merseyside made a conscientious judgment that it would be harmful to have public discussion in the classroom of all the details of this subject.
In conscience, they felt that the truly Catholic view is that sex is a delicate personal and private matter and the method of instruction should have these same characteristics. In other words, the place for detailed sex education to be given is in the home. It was also generally agreed that we should help to provide parents with the information they need to enable and encourage them to carry out this task.
Such help is increasingly being given to parents, a fact that was acknowledged by the Archbishop, in a letter dated September 4, 1971, which was read at Mass, in which he expressed his pleasure at the number of schools arranging talks for parents "to enable them to carry out their responsibilities . . in the delicate matter of sex education."
In view of all that has been explained above, and the fact that we were told at the Archdiocesan meeting on May 5, 1970: "It is the wish of the Archbishop that parents, priests and teachers work-out a solution to this problem together, in a spirit of openness," I hope it is now clear to your readers that there is no question of anyone making an "attack on the authority of the Archbishop."
It is merely a matter of our sincere and conscientious concern that sex education is given to our children in the right way and that no harm is done to the conscience of any child whilst in our care (cf. Matt, 18,6).
S. B. Pope Bootle, Lancs.