Technology is an important tool, but it will take an ecosystem of educators, students, and caregivers to make the most of it.
- The old adage that it "takes a village" has proven true for education in the time of coronavirus. What constitutes a "school" and who is considered an "educator" has changed out of necessity, but important opportunities for the future have come from these unexpected circumstances as communities have and continue to adapt.
- "The greatest human superpower is empathy," says Kaya Henderson, "the ability to deeply connect with other people and to see yourself in them and to see them in you." She argues that "a part of the reason why we are so divided in this world today is because we see people as 'other' and we don't see them as extensions of ourselves."
- While technology has become a big part of the education landscape, community is still the keystone. "I want technology to amplify and to scale excellence," Henderson says. "To amplify knowledge and to scale excellence all at the same time while paying deep attention to the human connections that are integral to education."
There are pros and cons to owning a pet as a marginalized individual.
- Since 2018, an ongoing study at the VCU School of Social Work has been analyzing the way pets impact the lives of young LGBTQ individuals.
- From animal-assisted therapy practices to having therapy dogs in schools to reduce anxiety, there are many mental health benefits to animal-human interactions.
- While the majority of current research is being focused on people who are not discriminated against or marginalized by society, this specific study could bring more clarity to how pets positively and negatively impact the lives of young LGBTQ people.
Does human-animal interaction impact a person’s experience and well-being?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYwOTk3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzIwNTMzM30.Ds_HSw-0zhZF5YeR89_wjGHIxxFX5_mEwOaJXKXvSQ4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C103%2C0%2C1&height=700" id="062fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="178f39b7a1684e0e36195bcd14d9cdef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two women standing in front of the golden gate bridge with their dog" />
From animal-assisted therapies to having dogs visit schools to bring down stress and anxiety levels, there have been many studies that look at the benefits of pet ownership.
Photo by Joshua Resnick on Shutterstock<p>Absolutely. Over the years, many studies have proven the benefits of human-animal interactions. From <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248608/#:~:text=Studies%20on%20the%20use%20of%20animals%20on%20blood%20pressure.,pressure%20and%20greater%20physical%20activity." target="_blank">animal-assisted therapy practices</a> to having <a href="https://theconversation.com/therapy-dogs-can-help-reduce-student-stress-anxiety-and-improve-school-attendance-93073" target="_blank">therapy dogs in schools to reduce anxiety</a> - there are many mental health benefits to animal-human interactions.</p><p><strong>A similar study has been done on the impact of pets in the lives of older LGBT individuals. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027597/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A different 2018 study</a> explored the role of pets in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults over the age of 50. </p><p>This particular study addressed the following questions: </p><ol><li>How does living with a pet impact perceived social support and social network size? </li><li>How do LGBT older adults describe the meaning of pets in their lives? </li></ol><p>In this study, over 59 percent of participants reported that they have pets and described them in affectionate terms, often referring to them as family. Many individuals classified their pets as "supportive" either by offering companionship or keeping them active and socializing. Many participants explained that their pets help them cope with some form of physical or mental health condition. </p><p><strong>How is this study different?</strong></p><p>The goal of this particular study is to focus on the younger LGBTQ population and to examine how human-animal interactions might impact a person's experience and well-being when faced with victimization over their sexual orientation or identity. Not only that, but this study takes a look at both the positive and negative impacts of having a pet as an LGBTQ individual. </p><p>The vast majority of current research focuses on people who are not discriminated against or marginalized by society. According to the researchers, pets may lead marginalized people to "a path of financial stress and housing instability," which are issues the LGBTQ community already struggles with.</p><p>"Pets can better people's lives," Richards <a href="https://commonwealthtimes.org/2020/09/02/study-probes-relationship-between-lgbt-youth-pets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains to Commonwealth Times</a>, "but it's also been interesting to see the ways in which pets can be stressors for people experiencing homelessness and financial insecurity."</p><p>Shelby McDonald, one of the lead associate professors on the study, has <a href="https://commonwealthtimes.org/2020/09/02/study-probes-relationship-between-lgbt-youth-pets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dedicated the last decade of her</a> life to researching the role of animals in the lives of children and has recently turned that focus toward LGBTQ youth. </p><p>As of September 2, the researchers have conducted 164 initial interviews. O'Ryan, one of the student researchers, explains: "We've collected a pretty diverse bunch, but the participants we interviewed have been largely white, cisgender, bisexual women. I wish we had the chance to interview more people of color and more people from diverse gender identities."</p><p>For more information on the study or a change to join as a participant, email firstname.lastname@example.org.</p>
The CDC's latest youth risk survey houses some scary numbers but shows that evidence-based sex education is working.
Are the kids alright?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYwMjE4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTM1MTIyNX0.CULjr9vPfsvA4VtAh8oQ2dMyb-h978Umnh_RS9FpQ1w/img.jpg?width=980" id="97f03" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d0cafb0683366f4650e4b862d05d139" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the prevalence of condom and primary contraceptive use among high school students during their last sex act.
Having the talk<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="07beb46b7a9ac3b2862b3d61df3e6b04"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4IPrw0NYkMg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>What can be done to bolster positive trends and reverse negative ones? Continue advancing sex education and outreach programs. In the survey, the CDC notes the proven effectiveness of risk reduction education—that is, not fearmongering but comprehensive, evidence-based teaching. </p><p>Unfortunately for adults hoping to avoid <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-51385831" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">awkward conversations with banana stand-ins</a>, this means doing away with abstinence-only programs. <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17138906/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A review of the scientific literature</a> found that these programs contain "scientifically inaccurate information, distort[ed] data on topics such as condom efficacy, and [promotion] of gender stereotypes." It concluded that abstinence-only programs put teens at greater risk of unintended pregnancies and STDs. With the gap between <a href="https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs-and-policies-are-failure" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sexual maturity and marriage ever-widening</a>, such programs, no matter how well-intended, are simply unrealistic. </p><p>As Laura Grubb, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on adolescent barrier protection, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/21/health/teens-unsafe-behavior-health-risks-wellness/index.html" target="_blank">told CNN</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">It does not have to be a controversial position. There is no evidence that providing contraception to adolescents makes them more sexually active or promotes risky behavior. […] In fact, comprehensive evidence-based sexuality education results in adolescents delaying sexual behavior, using contraception at first intercourse, and having less sexual partners at a young age."</p><p>The CDC also recommends strong partnerships between communities and clinics. Teens should have access to well-trained care providers to provide the information and services they need.</p><p>Sex comes with risks, and it is impossible to reduce a teen's risk factor to zero. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking is how teenagers develop their independence and form the identities that will carry over into their adult lives. It helps them experience qualities of the world that were hidden to them as children. But without comprehensive education, the consequences of those risks may stay hidden until it's too late. And without access to proper outreach and resources, they may not have the means to mitigate those risks.</p><p>As for drugs, drinking, shoplifting, and drag racing down the L.A. river for pinks, those are topics for other surveys and articles.</p>
From reassessing the way schools are funded to changing the curriculum, there are ways to fix the inequities in education.
- Recognizing when something is overtly racist is easy, but when it comes to education in America there is often subtle and systemic racism at play that can put children at an early disadvantage. Chris Lehman of the Science Leadership Academy says that now is the time to have these important conversations and to design schools to be anti-racist.
- Lehman says that in Philadelphia, the amount of money spent on one child's K-12 education can be $170,000 less than that of another child who lives in the suburb just a block away. These racist systems and structures are in place in cities across the country but are often not addressed.
- Family income directly translates to the amount spent by the public to educate children. "That's one of the most anti-American things I can imagine," Lehman says about the racial and socioeconomic inequity. While funding is a major component, changes must also be made at the curriculum level.
Educators have proven that they can "turn the aircraft carrier" when they need to, but the system needs to match their efforts.
- For many people in the world, the idea that education is not changing at the same rate as the rest of the world became more apparent at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Grant Lichtman argues that the hierarchical systems that govern education and other organizations (military, political, business, etc.) don't work in times of rapid change, and thus need to be overhauled.
- "What has started to replace that are vastly more distributed systems of leadership," Lichtman says. This results in more timely decision making and a more collaborative environment with more room to try new things, more freedom to fail, and the opportunity to take ownership of and learn from those failures.
- Lichtman stresses that things like civil discourse and empathy should be made a priority in the curriculum. "We as educators and we as parents should be focusing enormous amounts of effort on helping our students to understand things like the nature of truth, objective reality, who to listen to, what is the difference between an expert and a person who just has a large social media feed?"