One of the major lessons from the C&SC program is to move away from ameliorative approaches in addressing social issues, and instead focusing on preventative measures. I think that this concept has been particularly appealing to me because of my experience working with children. There are a number of social issues that could be more successfully addressed through working with children rather than adults. One example I discussed in class was the issue of color-blind racism. In Multicultural Communities we discussed the ways in which color-blind racism plays out in social and political structures, and how it is taught to and learned by children. If it can be unconsciously taught to children, surely its alternative can be deliberately taught to children.
The idea of addressing complex social issues by working with children stayed with me, and I found an opportunity to explore it more thoroughly through this project. The concept was born out of a conversation around the original, Consent: Not Actually That Complicated. That blog post was adapted into a short video that gained even more attention. A friend and I shared an appreciation for the simple analogy presented, and lamented that it was not appropriate for school-aged children. The primary issues we found were vulgar language and that it still referenced sex. I decided that those were relatively easy to address.
We are both quite concerned with the rape culture seen in the United States and around the world. As educators we both understand how easily influenced children are, and how what we normalize as children is more likely to stick with us through the lifespan. We immediately began brainstorming how to make a conversation about consent more accessible to teachers and parents alike. One perceived barrier is that consent is often thought of only in sexual terms. Unfortunately this can lead to adults being too uncomfortable to discuss consent with children and teens. The fact is that there is nothing inherently sexual about consent, it just happens to be the synonym of permission that we choose to use when discussing sex.
I did a fair amount of research to see how professionals and parents were discussing the topic. Everything that I found seemed tailored to the individual. Many parents are choosing to teach their children about bodily autonomy by allowing them to make decisions about their bodies. This may mean not hugging family members unless they want to, or the parent ceasing to brush the child’s hair when the child asks them to. These all seemed like valuable practices, but not easily applied on a larger scale. With that, I kept coming back to Tea and Consent. The analogy seemed to fit so perfectly. Eating and drinking involves your body, it is something that everyone does, and nothing about it is inherently sexual. I decided that I wanted to keep that framework, and simply rework the telling of it to make it age appropriate. I first contacted the original author, and received permission to move forward with my plans.
In order to achieve the accessibility I was looking for, I swapped tea for ice cream and removed all vulgarity. All of the language was brought down to a lower reading level. For example, rather than referring to unconscious people the story talks about people who are sleeping. During my editing, I would choose a friend with children to read through it and provide feedback. Once I was satisfied with the script, I sent it off to Ana for illustrating. Above all else, what was most important to us was for this resource to be easily downloaded or printed depending on the needs of the adult.