Children’s Books Are Tackling Sexual Harassment and Abuse
By Concepción de León
When Kate Messner read the testimonies of the gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar, she was struck by his behavior early on: giving the girls little gifts and back rubs, or sending them private texts.
It got her thinking. “What if we could teach kids to recognize this and speak up, and tell us when someone made them uncomfortable?” she said. “And then, what if we really listened?”
The idea informed Messner’s latest novel, “Chirp,” about a young gymnast reckoning with the inappropriate behavior of an assistant coach during a summer at her grandmother’s cricket farm.
“There’s no explicit sexual assault in the story,” because it is written for 10- to 14-year-olds, she said. “It’s all what we would look at, what experts would look at, and say, ‘That’s somebody grooming a child.’”
“Chirp” is one of several middle-grade books – typically geared toward children from 8 to 12 – published over the past year that address sexual consent, abuse and harassment, subjects previously considered off-limits for such young readers.
The writers were inspired by personal experiences with harassment or abuse, but the #MeToo movement added a sense of urgency to telling their stories.
“I had no plans to write anything about it anytime soon a year and a half ago,” said Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, the author of “Fighting Words.” But reading the barrage of reports of sexual assault and harassment in the fall of 2018, she become angrier and angrier at how little had changed since her childhood, when she had experienced abuse.
“I just sort of had had enough,” she said. She wrote 40 pages of the novel in one sitting, and though she knew it was a taboo subject, she said she felt sure this was “the hill I was willing to die on.”
Young adult books, geared toward teenagers, have long explored topics such as sexual violence, but middle-grade writers have largely steered clear because of resistant parents and publishers wary of scaring them off. Yet a range of research and data show that many children are exposed to sexual harassment or abuse.
In a 2016 study published in Children and Youth Services Review, a third of sixth graders and more than half of seventh graders reported having experienced some form of sexualized harassment, most commonly in the form of lewd comments or jokes, with girls more likely to be on the receiving end than boys. According to the anti-sexual violence group RAINN, child protective services in the United States find evidence of or substantiate sexual-abuse claims every nine minutes.
“We’re waiting until they’re in high school to have conversations around harassment and sexualized mistreatment,” said Lisa Damour, an author and clinical psychologist who specializes in the experiences of teenage and young girls, but by then, “the topic is three or four years old.”
一般來說，rape和sexual assault可以互換，但rape比較直白，語氣強烈，情緒也較濃，sexual assault則比較正式，偏向官方用語，警方、法院或是統計上經常使用。
hill to die on這個慣用語源自軍事訓練，原意是不計代價占領一處高地，衍伸義是某件事非常重要，不論多困難都要處理，通常用在反面說法，如：It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on.
Remember the MOOCs? After Near-Death, They’re Booming
By Steve Lohr
Sandeep Gupta, a technology manager in California, sees the economic storm caused by the coronavirus as a time “to try to future-proof your working life.” So he is taking an online course in artificial intelligence.
Dr. Robert Davidson, an emergency-room physician in Michigan, says the pandemic has cast “a glaring light on the shortcomings of our public health infrastructure.” So he is pursuing an online master’s degree in public health.
Children and college students aren’t the only ones turning to online education during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of adults have signed up for online classes in the past two months, too – a jolt that could signal a renaissance for big online learning networks that had struggled for years.
Coursera, in which Gupta and Davidson enrolled, added 10 million new users from mid-March to mid-May, seven times the pace of new sign-ups in the previous year. Enrollments at edX and Udacity, two smaller education sites, have jumped by similar multiples.
“Crises lead to accelerations, and this is best chance ever for online learning,” said Sebastian Thrun, a co-founder and chairman of Udacity.
Coursera, Udacity and edX sprang up nearly a decade ago as high-profile university experiments known as MOOCs, for massive open online courses. They were portrayed as tech-fueled insurgents destined to disrupt the antiquated ways of traditional higher education. But few people completed courses, grappling with the same challenges now facing students forced into distance learning because of the pandemic. Screen fatigue sets in, and attention strays.
But the online ventures adapted through trial and error, gathering lessons that could provide a road map for school districts and universities pushed online. The instructional ingredients of success, the sites found, include short videos of six minutes or less, interspersed with interactive drills and tests; online forums where students share problems and suggestions; and online mentoring and tutoring.
A few top-tier universities, such as the University of Michigan and the Georgia Institute of Technology, offer some full degree programs through the online platforms.
While those academic programs are available, the online schools have tilted toward skills-focused courses that match student demand and hiring trends.
The COVID-19 effect on online learning could broaden the range of popular subjects, education experts say. But so far, training for the tech economy is where the digital-learning money lies. With more of work and everyday life moving online – some of it permanently – that will probably not change.