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Consent in the classroom.

I’ve been thinking about all of these sexual harassment cases in the media, and it occurred to me that these men were, at some point, little boys. So when did it begin? At which point in their boyhood, teenhood, or adulthood did they begin to receive the message that it was acceptable to breach the boundaries of another person’s privacy and dehumanize them? Does it begin in childhood? And if so, who is responsible for teaching children about consent? Parents? Teachers? If parents don’t know to teach it at home, do teachers take it upon themselves to do so? Should schools include it in their curricula? If we go to the trouble to teach children manners and boundaries in terms of kindness and respect, then does consent not fall under those categories, as well?

There are sexual harassment initiatives which are usually aimed at teenage girls or women, but perhaps the most effective initiative that anyone and everyone should take is to create a culture of consent from a young age. Doing so would help to connect the dots - we would no longer have to worry about the deeply ingrained misogyny and gender bias that is so harmful. People in Western countries like to think that they are highly educated and advanced, more so than people in Asian and African countries. However, recent events raise a question. How much more advanced is a civilization in which girls and women cannot be guaranteed safety at home, in public, at work, and in schools because their gender automatically makes them potential victims? Certainly, sexual harassment doesn’t happen to girls and women alone, and in fact, it is the same societal prison that habitually victimizes them that creates false identities for boys and men to aspire to.

What is our responsibility as educators? Do we shrug and say that we cannot solve all of the world’s problems within our little classrooms? Do we carry on as usual or understand that with all of the changes in the world - technological advances, more culturally diverse classrooms - it is our responsibility to create curricula that advance our society beyond one that never grows beyond an age old pattern of disempowerment? Teaching may be a work of heart, but no one wants to be the well-intentioned teacher, mother, or father or realizes that the person they nurtured as a child or student grew up to be a respected member of society who also happens to be a predator.