4 Allegations against the FWBO
II The FWBO’s Education Work
The FWBO Files’ suggestion that the FWBO’s educational work is
child indoctrination [ The FWBO Files p.27f ], and in particular an attempt to
validate the FWBO’s distorted version of Buddhism, including its alleged propagation of homosexuality, is incredible. The FWBO Files makes no reference to the contents of the educational materials the FWBO produces through the charity, the Clear Vision Trust. Indeed there is no evidence that these have been inspected. And yet following the publication of The FWBO Files, these groundless charges appear to have been given credence in some quarters. An account of this, and responses to it, constitute Appendix 3.
Clear Vision Education was established to meet the need for educational materials on Buddhism following the 1988 Education Act. Far from containing sectarian distortions of Buddhism, all Clear Vision educational material is based on the syllabus guidelines produced by the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority in conjunction with a committee of Buddhists of various traditions (not, as it happens, including the FWBO). [ 183 ]
Further testimony to the reliability of Clear Vision’s material comes from various sources: senior Religious Education experts who have used or adjudicated upon the material, [ 184 ] the experience of various Buddhist traditions in the UK [ 185 ] and overseas, [ 186 ] who use the Clear Vision material in their own educational work; plus the evidence of the material itself, which is publicly available.
The sole evidence The FWBO Files presents is an account of a misunderstanding concerning the Agreed Syllabus of the Manchester Education Authority. People from Clear Vision took a leading role in drafting the Buddhist content, though other Buddhists were also involved, and the established procedures, which include extensive consultation and scrutiny, were adhered to. [ 187 ] Certain Buddhists subsequently objected to a line in the text on Buddhism’s attitude to sex which spoke of
avoiding over-identifying with one’s sexuality, which they appear to have interpreted as a covert attempt to promote homosexuality. This absurd conclusion says more about the atmosphere of mistrust engendered by the publication of the some of the views expressed in The FWBO Files in The Guardian than the meaning of the phrase itself. The FWBO Files insists on reading a sinister meaning into this phrase, which simply means that Buddhism teaches that there is more to life than sex (and as any dictionary will state, “sexuality” does not refer to gender preference, but to sex in general). The best gloss on the view behind the phrase is in the educational video that Clear Vision produces for children following this part of the syllabus. The video says:
Sex isn’t the most important thing in my life. The Buddha led a very simple life, free from the complications that sex brings. [ 188 ]
The Manchester Education Authority continues to be fully supportive of Clear Vision.
[ 183 ]
John Keast, RE adviser to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which advises the government on these matters, has told the FWBO Communications Office that he considers Clear Vision materials to be in accordance with these National Syllabus guidelines.
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[ 184 ]
Numerous senior figures in Religious education have vouched for its work; they have been favourably reviewed in the RE Press. Buddhism for Key Stage 2 was
Highly Commended in the Sandford St. Martin Religious Education Awards , 1997.
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[ 185 ]
Throssel Hole Zen Monastery uses and recommends Clear Vision materials in its education work; Rigpa Tibetan Buddhist Centre uses Clear Vision materials for in-service training for teachers.
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[ 186 ]
Clear Vision videos have been shown on South Korean TV; they are sold to educational establishments in Malaysia and Singapore by a Malaysian distributor; they are used in the educational work of the Buddhist Library in Singapore (a substantial institution) for introducing Buddhism to adults as well as to children. The Library is planning a Mandarin translation of the material. The Abbot, Dhammaratana, a Theravadin Bhikkhu, is a vocal supporter of Clear Vision's work. See Appendix 3.
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[ 187 ]
Clear Vision comment:
Draft outlines of the agreed syllabus were always submitted to all members of the conference of delegates from local religious groups and others before being accepted. There was no challenge from anyone as to any of the content of the syllabus. All of the agreed syllabus, for all the faiths, was voted on, and adopted by a full meeting of the conference (over 40 delegates).
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[ 188 ]
Buddhism for Key Stage 3, educational video produced by Clear Vision. Padmasri expanded this in writing to Eira Meadowcroft, RE adviser for Manchester:
Along with many other religious traditions, Buddhism would see an over emphasis on the sexual side of life to be not conducive to the spiritual life. If we over identify ourselves as a sexual being, rather than a human being, if we have sex and sexual activity at the centre of our lives, we are likely to create unhappiness for ourselves and others. The aim of the third precept — to abstain from sexual misconduct — is not only to avoid harming others, but also to be content with one’s state, whether single, married or celibate.
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