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19th Jul 2022

No, pornography is not about to become a Junior Cert subject

Dave Hanratty

The classroom isn’t about to become x-rated but important changes could be on the way.

Calm down. Pornography isn’t about to suddenly become a subject at Junior Certificate level, nor is it set to be forensically examined by teenagers in some kind of wildly inappropriate school-based context.

Following reports on Monday morning that pornography will be “studied” as part of a forthcoming Junior Cert revamp, some clarity might be necessary for any panicked parents out there.

Yes, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has opened a consultation regarding the potential for an updated Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme in a bid to reform the current education system in Ireland.

And yes, there is a renewed focus on educating youthful minds about healthier relationships, consent and appropriate behaviour, very much set against the backdrop of an increasingly accessible digital and social media-influenced space.

However, the single mention of the word ‘pornography’ in the entire NCCA proposal – which is still at draft level – arrives in a section marked “Students should be able to:” which then lists 10 different areas, including:

“Investigate the influence of digital media (in particular, the influence of pornography) on young people’s understandings, expectations and social norms in relation to sexual expression”.

Image via National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

Sounds reasonable enough, and not too far removed from a recent, in-depth conversation had with Richie Sadlier on the matter of consent education in Ireland, especially where young Irish men are concerned.

Responding to the NCCA’s consultation, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) welcomed the move, describing it as “a significant step forward” for young people availing of education in Ireland.

“It is a reality that children and young people are online, they are encountering a wide range of information, including mis-information,” said DRCC CEO Noeline Blackwell.

“Their digital access means that they can find and are often targeted for pornography and abuse of intimate images. It is also a reality that this is not being addressed widely in schools. If children and young people are not given the tools and the language to deal with these issues, they will not be able to navigate them appropriately and may be harmed or cause harm.

“We need to resource them to develop skills to manage themselves and their interactions with others in a safe, healthy way. A fuller understanding of consent, based on open communication, equality and consideration for others, will build empathy in young people and contribute to healthier relationships.”

You can peruse the NCCA document, should you wish, right here.