Let’s keep this simple. If you think inviting an author of sexually explicit material that also has a sprinkling of blasphemy to a Catholic school is a good idea, then do not become a governor at that school and do not teach there. If you are a parent who has a child there I suggest you go to Mass, familiarise yourself with the catechism and recap on the seven Christian virtues.
A big dispute has erupted because someone at St John Fisher school in Purley believed that it would be a spiffing idea to invite Simon James Green to read to a group of 12 and 13-year-old students.
Mr Green’s books are sexually explicit – they are not “50 Shades of Grey” explicit – but no Catholic child should be reading them.
They are also poor-quality dross – we are not talking “The Line of Beauty”, or even “Brokeback Mountain” and of course it is not “The Picture of Dorian Gray” because that was written by a dead white man and we all know you can’t have anything written by dead, white men in schools anymore. Dorian Gray is actually a good work of literature – the kids might actually learn something about themselves if they read it, but no, instead we have “Noah Can’t Even”.
So, the Diocese of Southwark unsurprisingly got wind of this and cancelled the visit, as is their duty to do so. They also removed the governors and instated others. All of this has led to an ongoing dispute, with some teachers striking because, of course, nothing serves the interests of children more than having their classes cancelled. You can read more about this here.
Mr Green also wrote a book “Noah Could Never” in 2018 which contains a disgraceful, blasphemous change to Our Lord’s Prayer that I will not set out here – but you can read in full here.
It was obvious this World Book Day presentation could not go ahead and so it was cancelled. Then the outrage machine got going. As usual the main stream media have run this as a “Catholic school bans gay author” story. In reality it is a “Catholic school refuses to expose their student to sexually explicit and blasphemous material” story, but that doesn’t get as many clicks.
Let’s be clear: Catholic schools have a duty to imbue their students with a love for the truth, beauty and for God. This author does not do this therefore he has no reason to be at that school. Catholics schools should be cultivating Christian virtues in their students – those virtues being chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. There is nothing kind about exposing children to sexually explicit material, and parents and educators should be diligent in guarding the innocence of their charges.
As a result of the media hit job, Ofsted imposed a snap inspection on the school. Again, the results of the inspection were spun in the worst possible light by the media but here are some take-homes. Ofsted says: “this is a caring community, where all pupils are welcomed and included in the “Fisher Family’. The work of leaders and staff is guided by shared values, centred on dignity and respect for the individual. These values provide a unifying thread for all aspects of school life, and in particular, the personal development curriculum.”
Also, “Pupils described the school as one where, ‘everyone just fits in’, irrespective of faith, background or sexuality. They said that leaders and staff make clear that, ‘it is okay to just be you’. Pupils are rightly proud that this is the case.”
And “Leaders and staff make sure that pupils have plentiful opportunities to consider the views and experiences of others. This includes discussing sensitive issues related to social justice, such as racist or intolerant attitudes. Pupils said that this helps them to recognise prejudice as well as develop the confidence to call out discriminatory behaviours or opinions. While rare, any bullying or incidents of derogatory language are managed effectively. Pupils know that such behaviours are not tolerated. They learn about how their choice of language can affect others, including when it would be considered discriminatory or could cause offence.”
Finally, “Relationships and sex education is comprehensive and meets the expectations set out in government guidance. Pupils are taught the importance of respect for all, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This is complemented by other aspects of the curriculum: for example, pupils learn about how British values shape modern society.” The link to the inspection report can be found here
So, The John Fisher School in Purley is not a school where anyone is bullied because of their sexuality. All pupils are valued and taught respect for all. Despite this, some people at the school are allowing its reputation to be trashed by an all-too willing media that don’t have to be asked twice when it comes to providing negative coverage of a Catholic school.
The Catholic tradition is rich in literature that celebrates beauty, truth and redemption. Students at Catholic schools should be reading CS Lewis and GK Chesterton. They do not need to be exposed to some low-rent nonsense that is both sexually explicit and blasphemous. Shame on those who thought this visit was a good idea.
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