Healthy Relationships
Curriculum Reviews
  Ending Men's Violence (EMV) Network News
Review by Richard Orton,
Sexual Assault Program Specialist, Texas Department of Health
EMV Network News, Austin, Texas, Winter 1995.
Reprinted with permission of the author.

"Our society is at war with itself. For many, violence has become the path of least resistance when it comes to solving problems, as public school teachers and administrators well know."

So begins the foreword to Healthy Relationships: A Violence-Prevention Curriculum, developed by Men For Change in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. Men For Change formed in the aftermath of the murders of 14 female engineering students at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989. This teaching guide is dedicated to the women who died that day.

The curriculum is divided at each grade level into four or five "Sessions" on a particular topic (e.g. "Exploring Emotions", "Exposing Gender Stereotypes", "When Relationships Go Wrong") which, in turn, are divided in three to five, 40 minute "Activities". To do all sixteen activities in the 7th grade curriculum would require sixteen 40 minute periods, not terribly realistic for most sexual assault programs, but not really necessary either. Many of the activities could be integrated into the regular health curriculum by a properly trained health teacher.

Healthy Relationships introduces seventh grade students to self awareness and communication skills. Activities focus on increasing emotional literacy, recognizing and dealing effectively with anger, exploring the choices one has in conflict situations, and learning communication skills.

Eighth grade students look at the relationship between gender role stereotypes and violent behavior, using examples from magazines, newspapers, TV, films, comics, and songs. Activities focus on media awareness, the impact of television, how sexism leads to violence, the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes, the damaging influence of violent role models, and the celebration of ones own talents and gifts.

Ninth grade students focus on how to build healthy relationships through "extended group work", using of four (2 girls, 2 boys ideally) "to provide opportunities to learn from each other about the experience of being male and female vis-a-vis cultural gender roles." The groups are called "Gender Justice Action Groups." Activities explore how male-female relationships are poisoned by unrealistic expectations and sexist attitudes, teach constructive communication skills, and encourage students to work toward achieving gender justice both in their own relationships and within the school community.

One of the strengths of this curriculum is that it addresses the root causes of both sexual assault and battering. Combined shelter and sexual assault programs would probably find all their educational issues covered. Sexual assault programs and shelters existing separately in a single community could share responsibility for presenting different parts of one comprehensive curriculum. And, as mentioned earlier, a properly trained school health teacher could facilitate the activities, too. Approaching this subject matter in the context of "healthy relationships" rather that "date rape prevention" or "dating violence prevention" might make getting into some schools easier. It also bridges gaps between shelters, sexual assault programs, and school health curricula. At a time when violence prevention is the "topic of the day," comprehensive curricula such as Healthy Relationships deserve serious attention.

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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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