Many publications for educators have been reporting on how teachers address consent with their students. This isn’t a conversation reserved for middle school and high school teachers, either. Elementary school teachers in the primary grades are also having conversations with their students about consent for things like going over to someone’s house, borrowing a toy, or giving a hug. As much as it may make us uncomfortable, even conversations about unwanted sexual advances are taking place with young children who are aware of issues discussed in the news. Regardless of whether or not you believe the accusations, two of the nine justices with lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land have been accused of sexual misconduct. Conversations about consent are a necessity.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake is not a book about consent for younger readers. It is definitely more appropriate for high school students and the message that it imparts is quite powerful for young women and men. In this book, the protagonist Mara is shocked when she hears that her twin brother Owen has been accused of rape by his girlfriend Hannah. She is shocked, but also open minded. It seems natural that family members would struggle to believe that someone they love and have known so long would be capable of doing something so damaging to another human being. However, every man or woman who sexually assaults another person is a member of someone’s family. That does not make them innocent of violence. Mara shows us how difficult, and potentially empowering, it can be to accept that someone you trusted has done something that permanently harms another person.
This book also communicates the often misunderstood truth that loving someone and having been intimate with them in the past is not permanent consent. That is extremely important for high school students to know. It also deals with the effects of over indulging in alcohol and the impairment of judgment that can result.
Girl Made of Stars is written from Mara’s point of view and the implications of that choice would be interesting to discuss in an English class. Teachers of Health courses could use this book when talking about consent or about drinking. This book would also be powerful in a course about law and justice as it provides an honest look at how many of these cases end.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity 3: I know that all my group identities and the intersection of those identities create unique aspects of who I am and that this is true for other people too.
Identity 4: I express pride and confidence in my identity without perceiving or treating anyone else as inferior.
Diversity 10: I understand that diversity includes the impact of unequal power relations on the development of group identities and cultures.
Justice 12: I can recognize, describe, and distinguish unfairness and injustice at different levels of society.
Action 17: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.
RL.3- Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama.
RL.6- Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant.
W.1- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.