Leading Article: Mars bars wouldn't melt in their mouths

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The Independent Online
WHICH school lesson stands the test of time and remains fresh in the mind long after memories of logarithms and molecules have grown hazy? The sex education class. Few past pupils can forget the thrill of bandying that forbidden subject about the classroom, of being invited to air the smuttiness of the playground in a place filled normally with talk of conjugation, not copulation.

The challenge was to turn the poor teacher red with embarrassment; pupils were free to say the unsayable on those rare occasions when frankness was favoured above coyness. Only the most confident teacher could survive what often turned into a personal grilling about his or her own sex life.

It is not difficult to imagine the delight that the little horrors of Highfield Primary School felt in voicing queries about 'shagging' and 'blow jobs' and then rushing home to unnerve their parents as well. Children have a talent for faux naivete. The Highfield pupils must be well-pleased with themselves. Not only have they managed to shock their parents, they have sent the whole country into a spin.

The adults should wake up: the kids have made fools of them again. The po-faced John Patten and earnest critics such as David Blunkett should lighten up. Don't they remember boyish sniggering and classroom sabotage, or were they as humourless then as now?

Highfield Primary is not trying to turn out latter-day Lolitas. The truth seems rather to be that a courageous nurse, Sue Brady, dealt sensitively and carefully with the worst crudities her charges could throw at her. Being a well-trained professional vetted by the governors, she did not flinch from her duty nor become flustered as the children would probably have liked. She answered the questions in the calm, informative way expected of such a specialist.

It is not Ms Brady's fault that the term 'shagging' has been common currency among children for years. Rock 'n' roll legend, not Highfield Primary, must take responsibility for giving Mars bars their sexual cachet. And sex education cannot be blamed for the fact that Gillian Taylforth's libel case put 'blow jobs' on the national curriculum for people of all ages.

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