I had the pleasure of being the substitute teacher for one of our sessions of Kindergarten-1st grade Our Whole Lives (OWL) this last Sunday. It was a lesson that I’ve taught several times before, about how to enjoy and care for your own body and keep it safe and healthy. It also tells the story of a young girl who is being sexually molested by an older cousin, asks the kids for ideas of what she could do, and introduces the “No, Go, Tell!” rules. To conclude, every one of the kids thinks of three people they trust and that they would tell if anyone was hurting them, and they write those three names in their journals.
This is important work to do with kids, but me teaching this one lesson every other year to 10 children at a time is just the start of that. I think we need to take the lessons of OWL into our everyday interactions with children, youth, and other adults.
After the Steubenville rape trial, there are a lot of people talking about rape and consent and our “rape culture”. A good sample of this is here. Although I have found it overwhelming at times in the last few weeks to read all this, and I’m very sorry for the young people involved to have their tragedy become a National Talking Point, it really is time that we as a culture talk about this seriously. With the horrible stories from India and the recent documentary The Invisible War about sexual assault in our military (which I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch), we seem to be finally talking about this.
I agree with those who say that our culture has unhealthy messages about sex and sexuality, and I’m really glad we are finally moving beyond the conversation of “safety and responsibility” – a conversation that puts far too much of the burden for maintaining that safety onto girls and women.
Our Whole Lives, in contrast, is built around “The 3 R’s”:
Responsibility is important, but it can’t solve this by itself. It’s time for us to really talk about Respect – how everyone deserves it and how you act respectfully toward other human beings. And we need to talk about Relationships, in all their myriad forms, and how to be caring, responsible, and respectful within relationships.
It’s time for us all to keep The 3 R’s in mind in our own lives, the modeling we show to the next generations, and the explicit messages we communicate to others. Our culture can change, I really believe that. We can help it change.