Research informs us that bullying, substance use, early sexual activity, obesity and or other real life issues are present in a high percentage of U.S. schools. Effective prevention must be in response to the prevalence of specific real life issues students confront. The CI approach asks teachers to identify and assess the prevalence and impact of these issues on their students' lives. There are numerous ways to determine the extent of the issues including:
  • Observation (what do you see that tells you there is a problem?)
  • Talking with students, parents, school personnel,
  • Reviewing the number and distribution of school disciplinary cases,
  • Conducting classroom or school-wide surveys,
  • Reviewing results of available community or school based surveys of drug and alcohol use and other school and community problems, or
  • Collecting prevalence data from community based agencies, hospitals, health and police departments.

We live in a society where individuals are held responsible for their own behavior, but individuals exist in communities and wider cultures that strongly influence them. The Real Life Issues CI method calls for understanding these social influences and seeing their effects on students. Both social influences and individual decision making may be addressed through the Real Life Issues curriculum.

The problems of adolescent alcohol and tobacco use illustrate the importance of social influences at the national level. National alcohol advertising has long been directed at youth in the effort to create brand loyalty. One cannot fully understand the problem of binge drinking by high school seniors without examining the advertising campaigns of the alcohol industry which associate drinking with the glamour of professional athletes and other celebrities. The cigarette industry through its history has also targeted youth.

Problems and attitudes of young people are also strongly affected by community norms.
  • Communities with high levels of adult drinking are very likely to have high drinking levels among youth;
  • Prevailing community attitudes toward women and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/questioning (LGBTQ) or other minority populations may exert either a strong positive or negative influence on youth behavior;
  • An unchecked community emphasis on individualism, achievement, and competition might lead to higher incidence of bullying and social ostracism.
Teachers need to be aware of the strength and impact of these or other influences on their students. In designing Real Life Issues curriculum and strategies to encourage student prevention and resilience these social influences may be addressed. For example:
  • as part of a social science class students may critically examine the role of alcohol advertising directed at youth and develop a school wide anti-alcohol media campaign and
  • Real Life Issues curriculum can also provide opportunities for students to consider the negative effects of heavy drinking, violence, bullying, social ostracism, sexually transmitted diseases and other real life issues in their own community and encourage healthy choices.

Understanding real life issues that students confront also includes understanding how social injustices in the society have impacted diverse populations by virtue of their identities. There are many examples of unjust treatment based on differences that apply to diverse populations:

  • Students with exceptionalities are often stigmatized because of their disabilities,
  • Gay and lesbian students are bullied and victims of violence at far higher rates than other students because of their sexual orientation,
  • Sexual assault of female students (most often after heavy drinking) occurs in the context of the continuing unequal treatment of women in the society,
  • People of color experience consequences of the historic and continuing effects of racism, including the frequent stigma of reduced expectations for learning, or
  • Low income children experience ostracism and shame on the basis of the low socio-economic position they are born into.
Unjust treatment of diverse groups is demoralizing and interferes with learning. Curriculum Infusion provides the opportunity for teachers, counselors and administrators to examine classroom and school environments and take leadership in providing environments of care and just treatment for all students. It also provides the opportunity to develop curriculum that acknowledges the realities of injustice as prevention, student resilience, and positive decision making are encouraged.

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