If I had the time and resources to take up a cause, I can think of none better for me than to lobby the school boards to include relationship courses in their curriculums. And I would want such courses to not only teach kids a variety of relationship skills — such as how to negotiate with others and reach a fair compromise — but perhaps most importantly, how to recognize, avoid, or escape from an abusive partner.
Click on the link to read the rest of Paul’s post. I actually agree with almost everything he said but I have some concerns about this idea that I’d like to discuss today.
First, who would create this curriculum? The public high school I attended taught abstinence-based sex education. Because our community was so religiously fundamentalist and politically conservative the curriculum rigidly reinforced 1950s gender roles and assumed every student was heterosexual. Academically it was a fantastic school but I shudder to think what they would have taught us about relationships in general had health class been expanded to include this.
Second, how would you avoid controversy? Some families believe in strict hierarchies, others are egalitarian. Others say that their god intended men and women, adults and children to assume certain roles in the family depending on their age and gender, others don’t believe in god or don’t think god wants these things. One culture’s expectations of privacy, what love looks like or how to tell if your relationship is a good one may be quite different from another culture’s opinion. This is not to say that we can’t find common ground, only that I think creating one definition of healthy relationships that every culture and religion agrees upon can be tricky.
Third, can this help teens who have already been abused? Statistically speaking about 25% of the students will have been sexually abused, 11% physically abused, and 9% neglected by age 18 and none of these statistics include verbal or emotional abuse. [source]. For a significant percentage of the class this is something they’ve personally experienced. It’s not an abstract discussion. I do wonder if learning what a healthy relationship looks like will help them not to continue the cycleas a victim or a perpetrator. Many abused children grow up to be great parents…but some recreate what happened to them with their own kids. But I also wonder if bringing up painful memories in a non-clinical setting is a good idea…
What do you think? Does Paul have a good idea? How would you structure a class about healthy relationships?