According to Cora

coryphee- (n) a leading dancer in a corps de ballet

Sex Ed in Kindergarten

As an educator-in-training, I encounter situations constantly where adults disrespect children’s bodily autonomy, especially in younger years.

“Say you’re sorry, then give him a hug…”
“High five! No, I said high five, you need to follow directions…”
“Hold my hand now…”

While I understand that the intent behind it isn’t negative, and holding hands while crossing the road is obviously a safety precaution, the end result is overwhelmingly disturbing to me. When children aren’t allowed to say “no”, they become adults who can’t say “no”. I know that was the case for me; it’s always hard for me to advocate for my own personal space in situations where people aren’t sensitive to it, because I was taught for so long to “follow directions” and “be polite”. It becomes ingrained in us as members of a culture that touching is a given, that pronouns are a given, that we must obey others’ demands of our space and our bodies, however innocuous. It becomes less innocuous when that mentality turns into assuming that “not saying no” is the same thing as a yes.

In a kindergarten classroom today, the teacher has a routine greeting where the kids go around the room and say to one another “hello hello hello [name], how are you?” and the designated response is “I’m fine, I’m fine, and I hope you are too.” Children’s genuine feelings and states of mind are ignored in favor of a mindless chant, and “I’m fine, how are you?” becomes the automatic response of adults when asked “How are you?”

That’s the precursor to not being able to say no. If we aren’t given space or opportunity to say whether we’re uncomfortable, nervous, upset, or otherwise “negatively”, then we lose authenticity. Authenticity is itself honest, and consent MUST be honest to truly be consent.

When I was working with a group of preschoolers as a student teacher, we practiced situations where we would want to say no. I asked the teacher to model with me a situation where someone asked me for a hug and I politely declined, then had to reiterate more forcefully with, “I said no.” We modeled turning down a high five, asking for a hug or high five and not being upset when someone declined, and other similar situations, and then the kindergarteners got to practice deciding whether they actually wanted a hug or not. Whenever I see students touching one another, however innocent, I check in to make sure they had explicit permission, encouraging students to advocate for each other¬†and¬†for themselves.

People say that anything younger than middle school or junior high is too young to begin sex ed. I laugh at them, because consent is the first and most important part of sex ed, and it’s appropriate for all age groups but is hardly ever explicitly addressed. I so hope that my generation and the next generation of teachers decide to change that. For now, I’m just starting wherever I can.

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