A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Combating Sexual Abuse

Walk down the halls of any American high school and you can observe to a reasonable degree of certainty the boys who will grow into abusers of women. Over the years I taught, I took dozens of girls aside to let them know that the publically physical behavior of the boys they were attached to was not only not indicative of real affection but was also an ominous sign of a pattern of behavior that tends to grow worse over time. I would try to get girls to understand that physical abuse is not an appropriate price to pay for male attention and the social status that tends to accrue to high school girls who have it.

While our nation is focused on the sexual misbehavior of some of the powerful males in our society, it’s appropriate to think seriously about what we do in our schools to acculturate boys to constrain their impulses and respect the right of girls to be free from undesired, sexually aggressive male behavior. While the misbehavior of the famous and powerful is deeply troubling, it can tend to mask the broad prevalence of violence against women in our society and our failure to as yet come up with an approach to stem it. Surely, if we can observe the budding of this behavior in the boys in our public schools, we are ethically obliged to think through a program to combat it.

I know that some of my readers are fuming at my suggestion of adding one more job to the teaching day. That’s not what I’m about. I’m well aware that the expectations for what teachers are to accomplish in a workday far exceed what time will allow. Rather that suggesting an extra job, I believe the socialization of children central to the mission of public schools. Surely part of that socialization process needs to be the inculcation of appropriate norms of male/female interactions.

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