School texts contain images of paedophilia, bestiality and torture, FF TD claims

Books on English curriculum a ‘cause of concern’, former minister Willie O’Dea says

Former minister Willie O’Dea said he had not studied the issue “in great detail” but was reassured that such material was contained in the texts. Photograph: Frank Miller

Former minister Willie O’Dea said he had not studied the issue “in great detail” but was reassured that such material was contained in the texts. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

A senior Fianna Fáil TD had questioned the suitability of some books and films on the curriculum for English in both Junior and Leaving Certificate exams, claiming they contain descriptions and images of paedophilia, bestiality and torture.

Former minister Willie O’Dea said the issue was a “cause of concern” which needed to be examined carefully.

In a parliamentary question to the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, Mr O’Dea asked his party colleague if she was aware of the content of material which has been prescribed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for English courses.

“Many of the texts and films on the NCCA prescribed list for the English curriculum in secondary schools here contain explicit, graphic sexual content including sex between older adults and minors, bestiality and violence including torture,” said Mr O’Dea.

“They focus on death in a macabre, gratuitous way.”

The Limerick TD questioned if it would be appropriate that such books and films should be removed from the curriculum.

He pointed out that several texts on the NCCA list had previously been banned from the curriculum in the UK and the United States.

Contacted over the weekend, Mr O’Dea said he had asked the question as a result of being approached by a number of his constituents who were concerned about material on the English curriculum for State exams.

The TD admitted he had not studied the issue “in great detail” but was reassured that such material was contained in the texts.

Asked for his personal view, Mr O’Dea replied: “It is a cause for concern certainly as young minds are easily impressionable.”

Graphic content

Among several novels which contain some graphic content are Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis on the Leaving Certificate course and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, The Savage by David Almond and The Outsiders by SE Hinton on the Junior Certificate curriculum. Other works studied include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Emma Donoghue’s Room.

Ms Foley said the curriculum was considered to be for all learners “regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or orientation” but the decision on which texts were used rested with individual schools.

“They can choose whichever text best suits the context of their teaching and their students,” the Minister said.

The text list working groups for each subject convened by the NCCA are comprised of teachers, third-level lecturers, staff from relevant support agencies and experts in children’s and young adult literature.

Ms Foley said the generation of text lists was “a highly deliberative and time-intensive process”.

The Minister said the list for both the Junior and Leaving Certificate curriculum would be reviewed in the coming months. The NCCA is also currently undertaking research on international best practice with regard to text selection.