Books Not Guns
Nova Scotia's anti-violence guide finds place in Florida schools. Review by Peggy Amirault.
Originally published in Quill & Quire, May 1995
Reprinted with permission.
A violence-prevention curriculum guide developed in Nova Scotia by an anti-violence men's group, has won approval for use in that province's schools, and has been picked up by schools from as far away as the southern United States.
Beginning in September, teachers in 52 schools in Florida's Dade County will be using Healthy Relationships: A Violence Prevention Curriculum for junior high school students. Closer to home, the Ontario Ministry of Education's violence prevention secretariat purchased 200 copies of the three-volume setone for each school board in the province. Institutions for young offenders, women's shelters, family violence prevention groups, and similar associations in Canada have also invested in the guide.
Developed to help teens understand the connection between sexism and violent behaviour, the three volumes, which sell together for $56, (Editor's note: now $68.CDN/$52.US) are: Dealing with Aggression; Gender Equality and Awareness; and Forming Healthy Relationships. They are aimed at grades 7, 8, and 9, respectively.
The self-published series has hit the market just as concern among North American educators about violence in schools is at an all-time high. Sema Pollock, a coordinator in the department of substance education in Dade County's division of student services, is enthusiastic about the curriculum, saying Healthy Relationships is a "great" resource.
The men behind the unique series are Roger Davies, an adult literacy program co-ordinator in Halifax, teacher Peter Davison, a former teacher and now a consultant on sexual harrassment and violence prevention, and freelance writer Andrew Safer are all members of Men For Change, a Halifax men's group formed after the Montreal Massacre of December 6, 1989 dedicating itself to "ensuring that women, men, and children can live in a world that is free from the culture of violence."
The decision to create Healthy Relationships arose from frequent visits to classrooms, and discussions with students. "We were a small group of about eight or nine men and were trying to solve the problems of the world," said Andrew Safer. "So we decided unanimously that the best thing would be to develop something that could be used in the schools and with young people."
In early 1992 they recruited the support of Mike Law, then supervisor of physical and health education at the Halifax County-Bedford District School Board, and obtained grants from the Community Health Promotion Fund of the Nova Scotia Department of Health. The men collaborated on developing the resource materials, and Safer wrote the guide. Helen Castonguay, a health and phys ed teacher at Graham Creighton Junior High School in Halifax County, reviewed the first draft before it went to the department of education for evaluation by various teachers across the province.
Between 1992 and October, 1994, when Healthy Relationships was approved by the Nova Scotia Ministry of Education, the group encountered several hurdles. Law, a major supporter, changed jobs; their contact within the department of education retired, and the department postponed evaluation of the second draft because it was too near the end of the school year.
After their grant money ran out the men fronted the rest of the development cost, with an eye to being reimbursed later. "We don't mind making money," said Safer, "but the main objective is to produce something of value." Last April after two years in development at a cost of about $25,000, the initial print run of 200 sets rolled off the presses. A grant from the Izaak Walton Killam Children's Hospital Foundation paid for the second printing of 300 sets.
Although the guide has sold copies in every province in Canada, sales improved noticeably after Nova Scotia education minister John MacEachern's presentation last fall at a Toronto conference on "Violence in the Schools and on the Street." When Safer learned of the conference shortly before it was scheduled, he called MacEachern's office to inform the minister and his staff of the project. The minister mentioned the project in his speech.
Safer and his group have so far been marketing Healthy Relationships largely through word of mouth, attendance at conferences, reviews in newsletters, and direct mailings. They have also been making the most out of travel opportunities. Safer, for example, used a recent personal trip to Florida to meet with education officials of Dade County, which resulted in the group's first significant sale to the States. Men for Change and Healthy Relationships are also advertised on the Internet. It may be a hunt and peck marketing system but it's getting results.
At the school level, teachers seem to have welcomed material like Healthy Relationships, and have begun asking Safer and his partners if they are developing something for other grade levels, or in French.
"Schools are looking for good quality materials that don't gloss over problems and make a clear presentation of the problems," says Castonguay; adding that the guide's greatest asset is the way it gently leads the teacher through an analysis of the issues relating to young teens and violence.
Next: Educating for Change
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How to purchase Healthy Relationships Curriculum
You can reach the developers and publishers of Healthy Relationships Curriculum through any of the following means:
Phone: (902) 457-4351
Fax: (902) 457-4597
We look forward to hearing from you.
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