Thursday 30 August 2018

'Gator River

What do we do when we talk about . . . sex? We were over with Gdau.I, (nearly 7),  Gdau.II (nearly 3) and their parents two weeks ago. There was a brief interlude between the time I spring fully armed out of bed and the rest of the family surfaced, and I could start the child-minding contract up-for-which we had signed. The kids are [maybe] a bit young for it to be relevant but I came across a MeFi thread about The Talk: when and how to inform your beloved youngsters about the R words: respect, responsibility, reproduction, relationships. In Ireland, in schools, this is bundled into RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) which is a subset of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and all schools are required to have a stated policy on such matters. Home Educators are on their own as regards policy and practice - but that's true for the rest of their kids' education. This essay might help. I was foxed by the acronym PIV [penis in vagina] which in some schools ["When a man loves a woman very much . . ."] is the only option which is discussed.

I think the first honest U$ dollar I earned in Graduate School in Boston was to lead a weekly discussion section for student nurses called BI105: Human sex, reproduction and development. That was fine because I'd recently gotten a degree in Genetics and could tell everyone in the room how many chromosomes were packed in the head of a spermatozoan (same for almost all people; different for dogs and cats). Back in 1979, mechanics were fine but nobody was going to trust a graduate student on the spectrum to help anyone understand respect, responsibility, relationships. Certainly nobody briefed me to be the momentary R expert in the room, and until now I've never thought to add RSE to the list of skills on my CV.

I have now discovered that there is a trope in ethics education called Alligator River in which a short multi-player story is used as a ledge to jump off into a discussion of right, wrong and the grey between. The first was a truly shocking tale from Oakland U [triggers: prostitution; assault, exploitation, victim-shaming] about people behaving badly with/to each other. If that's the one attempt a school has to talk about sexuality and relationships, then everyone will come away associating sex with violence: heck, even compassion is manifest by duffing somebody up. It is 200 words you cannot un-read. If you or the kids can't read you can listen to the story. Or you can have it treated like algebra:
Once upon a time there was a person named A.  A really loves B.  B lives across the river from A.  The river, which separates A from B is teeming with man-eating alligators.  A wants to cross the river to be with B.  Unable to make the crossing without a boat, A asks C to provide transportation across the river.  C agrees but tells A in exchange, they have to spend the night together.  A declines and goes to D, a friend of C.  A asks D to speak with C on A’s behalf.  D does not want to get involved . . .

And here's another version where the sin circles around the theft of an iPod rather than sex - altogether less emotionally charged.

But's that's not the only educational tool using the fearsome Alligator River as a launch-pad. Here's one put out by the Independent Schools Association for the Central States . What's this all about?:
In the sylvan setting of the land of Ethos runs the sinuous Alligator River (1), named for the reptiles who populate its water and banks and who dine upon any local denizens unfortunate enough to fall into their gaping maws. On one side of the river lives Sylvia: sensitive, demure, and chaste: across the river lives Hector, Sylvia's love: proud and strong, in spirit and mind. No wall of stone or statute more effectively separated this Thisbe from her Pyramis than did the Alligator River. No Hero pined more for her Leander, no Juliet longed more for her Romeo, than did Sylvia for her Hector.
WTF? Sylvan, maws, denizens, demure would fox lots of my college-age students. The Shaxsperian references would be alienating and they've spelled Pyramus wrong. It's the sort of stuff I, with my very expensive education, would write if I switched off my crap-detector didn't have access to a good copy-editor.

I have no advice to offer about RSE - you're on your own there - but I'd like to think that my children have grown up within the normal range.

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