Saturday, February 5, 2005

Teach Your Children Well

Just because children need to be educated doesn’t mean they are stupid or naive. Anyone who has worked in education or just raised kids knows all too well that most of the time you really have to be quick to keep ahead of how quickly kids learn things and figure out what’s really going on. Education is not about acquiring information, it’s about mastering the processes of life, and wisdom is not measured by degrees.

So what kind of lessons are kids picking up from the recent fights over SpongeBob SquarePants and Buster Bunny? They’re probably thinking that it’s okay to stigmatize a group of people for no good reason other than how their lives are judged by others. They’re seeing the President of the United States encourage the lawmakers of this land to set aside the basic human rights of gay Americans so that a group of insecure bigots will send him and his political cronies more money. They’re learning that some children should be ashamed of their parents because they both happen to be women or men. And, in the simple black and white logic of children, if it’s okay to do it to gays, it must be okay to do it to other people, too. What about that black kid over there? Or the girl with the funny accent?

The learning process is continuous. That’s good. We can learn – or unlearn – things as we go through life, and whoever came up with the line about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks never had an old dog… or for that matter, a mom in her sixties who learned how to use a computer. But those are skills. The important learning takes place when knowledge is applied to life. Children need to learn not just how things work but why things are, and that while there are a few absolutes in life such as murder is bad and nothing works “as seen on TV,” life is about change, growth and learning, and accepting them is the greatest lesson learned.

There’s a word for that. It’s called “evolution.” And there are those who will resist it even as they themselves change. At some point they’re going to wonder why everyone else has moved away from them. But as Henry Drummond observed in Inherit the Wind, “All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have changed – by standing still.”