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Brett Kavanaugh, now United States Supreme Court justice, is the latest in a string of men publicly demonstrating that there are no good guys.
Hang onto your #notallmen comebacks. There are no good guys – and there are no bad guys.
This type of binary thinking (good vs. bad) is problematic. Whether considering the sexual abuse epidemic in the Catholic church, or the extraordinary number of stories from the #metoo movement, a common theme is that people accused of assault are rarely pure villains. Someone out there is usually willing to vouch for their character, even to summon a respectable letter from the community attesting to their wholesomeness and good deeds. To take this as evidence that they have never once behaved inappropriately, however, is a logical fallacy with potentially serious consequences.
If a child understands that the adults in their life believe a religious leader/neighbour/doctor/family member/teacher is a ‘good guy’, and we’ve taught children to internalize people as being on one side or another of a good/bad binary, how might that impact their interpretation of a sexual assault? How might that influence their likelihood of reporting the ‘good guy’, or seeking help?
As educators, we can support children to see people as nuanced, and work to dismantle this simplistic good vs. bad misconception. Doing so may also encourage a healthier self-concept by giving little ones the chance to recover from mistakes that inevitably accompany learning. Otherwise, when a child uses binary thinking to judge themself, a simple misstep may create unnecessary internal conflict. Educators who cultivate a growth mindset with students will recognize this approach.
I do not mean to equivocate minor childhood gaffes with actual crimes, and this is not to say that someone who commits sexual assault in high school (allegedly) should be excused their behaviour and rewarded with a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court of the United States. Certainly we must face consequences for our choices. But, is Brett Kavanaugh entirely evil? Plenty of supporters would say no, and I agree: nobody is completely good or completely bad.
Other teachable moments from the Kavanaugh hearings:
- Sexual assault is not normal teen behaviour – it is violent behaviour. Let’s keep saying this loud and clear, and teaching children about consent early and often.
- Binge drinking is not normal teen behaviour; less than 1 in 3 American teens report drinking at all, and only 13% report binge drinking (defined as 4-5 beers in a row). Let us not normalize underage drinking.
- If a yearbook quote can follow you to a job interview in your 50’s, so can a social media post. Take care with online footprints.
If the recent U.S. Supreme Court nomination process came up with your students, how were you able to use it as a teachable moment?
 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/results.htm