Headteacher says shield children from graphic online images
PARENTS will now be able to protect their children against internet pornography under new Government proposals. Here head teacher at St Peters High School, Lawrence Montagu writes about how vital it is to shield our young people from such graphic images
AS head of a Roman Catholic School, I suppose people will have a perception my views on human sexuality will be somewhat conservative, if not antiquated.
However, I do not believe human sexuality is anything other than a God-given gift to mankind.
This gift is not only vital to ensure the procreation of our race, it is also essential to enable us to show a truly deep love between two individuals.
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My biggest concern with the way human sexuality is portrayed in too many films is that it fails to exhibit what should be at the very core of our sexuality, namely a deep respect for the dignity of all members of the human race. When sexuality is portrayed as being cheap, used solely for self-gratification or, even worse, as a means of physically or mentally abusing someone, it surely has to concern us all.
It is sometimes suggested Catholic schools refuse to deal with issues surrounding sexuality, and leave our young people in a state of ignorance. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, we try to educate our young people to acknowledge and value their sexuality.
We provide them with the knowledge which is appropriate to their stage of development. It is no education at all to send young people into the world ignorant of such issues; it is equally doing our young people and our society a disservice to provide them with knowledge which is inappropriate for their age.
With easy access to the internet and films, sadly young people often acquire sexual knowledge which is beyond their stage of emotional development.
This not only gives them the wrong impression of human sexuality, but can also prove a major hindrance to them in later life in developing the meaningful relationships we all hope for.
The premise of our personal relationship education at St Peter's is that it should start from a consideration of relationships.
One of the great joys of working in a mixed school is to encourage girls and boys to respect the differences of each gender.
Education in sexuality is similar to education in racism. Human beings must be seen as individuals. They should be treated with the same dignity and respect we ourselves should expect. This message is one which I believe the majority of young people readily accept. When they see films which portray casual sex where the other person is stripped of their human dignity it is easy for young people to believe this is the basis on which they are expected to engage in relationships.
The modern genre of film where violent sexuality is portrayed as being somehow acceptable is totally abhorrent. To my mind –and once again, I believe most young people would agree – such violence inflicted on an individual is unacceptable, and should not be tolerated.
To use violence to capture the imagination of an audience in a sexual context is, I believe, irresponsible and purely driven by the mercenary motives of the people who make such films. Any film producer with a moral conscience should understand the damage such material can inflict on young, developing minds.
All the more so if the film is accessible by young people in their adolescent years, who may be struggling to come to terms with their own sexual development. Society has a responsibility to protect our young people from such influences. I would also suggest graphic images of violent sex have a significant and often disproportionate impact on those members of society with problems in their emotional development.
I fully advocate freedom of speech and a free press. These features of a modern democracy are essential to our quality of life, both as individuals and as members of society. But, I do believe our young people should be legally protected from graphic images of sexual activity, which can do so much to distort their developing views of human relationships. Without our willingness to provide this protection, we risk blighting the future lives of our young people.