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Why Teach OWL?
Jacques and Kirk are two middle-aged men, each with children in middle school and high school. As teachers of the OWL class at First Universalist Church Minneapolis, these men see their responsibility to educate the youth at the church as one of great importance in building responsible youth of today.
Jacques went to a Catholic high school, so his sex education was Catholic sex ed. He describes this as “a Jesuit priest devoted 15 minutes from a section of the morality class I took as a freshman in high school and he rigidly defined sex as exclusively procreative and exclusively for married people and exclusively [heterosexual]. So that’s the formal [sex education] I got”.1
he rigidly defined sex as exclusively procreative and exclusively for married people and exclusively [heterosexual]
When Jacques was in college, he was “very concerned and troubled by the prevalence of sexual assault on campus at that time” and he decided he “wanted to do something about it”. To do this, he started a group with some of his friends called Men Against Rape and Sexism, and “started thinking really deeply” about why sexual assault is so prevalent on college campuses and why the “vast majority of the time it is biological males as perpetrators and females as victims”. So he decided to look at the “cultural attitudes that promote those sorts of behaviors”, so he decided to go “into dormitories and frat houses” and talk to men about the culture surrounding sexual assault. After college, Jacques put his work on sexual assault to the side, but it was still something that was important to him. 2
After college, Jacques started going to Unity Unitarian in St. Paul and was recruited into teaching religious education, and then later “recruited” into being a teacher for OWL. He likes teaching OWL because he feels as though he’s “getting them [kids] at an earlier age. This is more proactive than reactive”. He was frustrated with talking to college students because “at the point they enter college they have lots of ideas that have been taking seed and rooting for a while, so they’re [the kids in OWL] are much more of a blank slate to work with”. He feels like teaching OWL is a “good chance- a way to give back”, to “do whatever [he] can to make this world a better spot”.3
This is more proactive than reactive.
Kirk’s story is similar, but a little different. Kirk was raised Episcopalian, and his grandfather was a Baptist preacher. During his time in undergraduate, he did peer sexuality counseling, but then stopped doing work with sex education until he came to First Universalist. His older son had been in the program the year before he started, and at the end of the year the church was looking for male teachers, and someone suggested his name. His wife also worked in religious education at First Universalist, so it was an easy transition to begin working for the OWL program. 4