Faux Liberalism

Currently in the media, following an NSPCC report, sex education is being discussed by Nick Clegg the deputy PM and other coalition members including Michael Gove. Michael Gove, according to Nick Clegg is pushing against a sex education curriculum advocated by a single body. Instead the Education Secretary believes that schools should be at liberty to decide what to teach school children about sex. This approach has simple problems easy to spot from a mile away, such as some schools, as detailed by the backbencher earlier in the year, still using Section 28 language to define their sex education policy. Other problems include faith schools who may find aspects of sexuality such as homosexuality, pornography and even masturbation a grave sin and one which violates natural law as they see it. When I said aspects of sexuality I may as well have said all of sexuality.

The core problem is that instead of giving objectively sound sex education which educates not just on the biology of reproduction but also sexual ethics, we are in a state of hell ridden limbo grounded in a misrepresentation of libertarianism where schools seem to be free to teach what they wish on the subject without giving all the facts or enough time to the subject.  Teenage pregnancy has been significantly reduced. Indeed only 0.6% of teenage girls are pregnant according to official figures and according to the Office for National Statistics that is the lowest rate since records began in 1969. Conceptions are even down by around 32% compared to 1969. I argue this is not a testament to policy but a testament to modern media, especially the internet where these resources simply were not available in 1969.

This belief in free choice isn’t outlined in the rest of government policy however. One example of this is the online porn filter Mr Cameron and Claire Perry are so infused about. While Gove’s department has been widely reported as standing in the way of supporting the ludicrous proposal, it says a lot about this government’s lack of coherence on the idea of liberalism. Many have argued the porn filter doesn’t infringe on a right to choice, and that is correct in the crudest sense of the proposed idea as all you have to do is ring up your ISP and ask them to allow you to watch adult material at your leisure, which is as embarrassing as the discussion of sex arising with your elders. However, much like with the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance and replacing it with a fund where the college receives 1/3rd the amount of EMA, it is a flawed idea which embarrasses the person so much to make the claim that many do not bother. It creates a societal boundary where people become afraid to access what they have a right to because they fear they will be judged by others.

Just like with the conservatives’ counterparts in America they cite liberalism as an essential aspect which is non-negotiable in their economic policies. Yet when it comes to personal freedom in other aspects such as pornography or marijuana use they seem to turn as pale as flour and believe that positive freedom (freedom given by the government) is the way forward. This ‘freedom’ is making the drugs illegal and raising taxes on alcohol to try and regulate our behavior through hitting drinkers in the pocket. This faux liberalism combines the worst elements of conservatism and of liberalism, creating a toxic mix of irrational policy making (giving sex education policy away to individual schools which could create a danger for children’s health at schools of an orthodox catholic viewpoint of sexuality ) and reigning in on people’s economic and social freedoms by creating a situation of social embarrassment and judgement for those wanting to exercise their rights to claim and watch legal material. This is a bastardisation of liberalism and it needs to stop.