education, media

Won’t Someone Please Think About the Children!

Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Peter Griffin: I do. You Bastard.

So, a judge in BC is in trouble because he swore in open court – that in itself is not the problem, the fact that there were “young high-school students” on a field trip in the courtroom is the issue.

Because goodness knows high-school students don’t hear swearing ten times worse on a daily basis…

I’m getting a little tired of people taking the protection of children to the point of complete absurdity. Don’t get me wrong, I have a little boy as a neighbor who I love dearly, and for whom I try my best to be a fatherly figure, as there are no men in his life. We are nearly as close as father and son, and I look forward to being there for him and watching him grow up for many years to come. Your friend and mine, Kevvy, has two incredibly adorable kids, for whom I would take a bullet if necessary. I’m not in any way saying that children don’t need protecting, they’re children, and therefore don’t have the resources of physical strength or judgment that adults have, and therefore, it’s a parent’s job to keep them safe and teach them the judgment they will need. Part of teaching judgment, however, is allowing children to make their own mistakes – there is no better teacher than experience. You can say “don’t do that” as much as you want, but until they do it and experience the reason you’ve said that, the message doesn’t necessarily get across.

I’d like to thank my Dad in particular, since we’re on the topic – He rarely said “don’t” – he always said, “Here’s what happened to me, for what it’s worth. Keep it in mind as you go ahead and do stupid things anyway.” And I did, and I learned. I no longer wonder how light sockets work, if you get my drift. Many more important lessons came after that one, but thanks to his advice – not codes of behaviour, just advice – I turned out pretty good.

Parents have to let up a little, in my opinion. There are parents out there for whom a child is something to be scheduled and managed and protected as a possession. No risk, no trauma, no mistakes allowed for little Muffin. But what happens to little Muffin when she gets a little older and has no idea that actions can have negative consequences?

We’ve created a generation of narcissistic little creeps who have no idea how to interact with others. The lack of risk in their boring over-scheduled little lives has made them push the envelope on the tiny corners of the universe they feel they can control, with no conception of how inappropriate their behaviour is. Social interaction is a skill they haven’t acquired, because they have had no experience in discovering who they are through play, and conversation, and argument, and knee scrapes and so on. The world is completely and utterly devoid of meaningful experiences, so as soon as they can, they create their own.

They create them with the only template they have to work from – popular culture, which, for them, is reality. It shows them examples of the way people act towards one another, how a man is supposed to be, what a woman is supposed to look like, but it gives no context, no thought, no intelligence. They say that the media reflects what we want – I disagree. Media gives us what is most profitable, most desirable and least acquirable. The culture of media that defines our youth cheapens the meaning of the human experience and takes something very vital away from our collective sense of morality and honour – how else to explain 12-year-old girls wearing cropped t-shirts with ‘Porn Star” written on them? In the ’60s and ’70s, being a porn star was something you wouldn’t announce in public, but now, these are the new celebrities, the new role models. Celebrities are there, and the cult of celebrity has been created, to show a world we as normal individuals cannot measure up to. It’s the “we are better than you” club, and our youth will do anything to gain membership – famous and notorious are becoming synonyms for one another, and in the absence of real experience coming from failure, our children are setting themselves up to be exploited by marketers and those who would literally take their lives from them. Our youth have not had the opportunity to feel the pride of real accomplishment that often follows a failure and a re-try at something, so they have nothing about themselves to be proud of unless they measure themselves with the media yardstick they have been given. They are given goals, but those goals are financial and material, and financial success equals status.

The real problem starts when it becomes readily apparent that, having become used to having their every whim catered to, they are inevitably put out by their inability to have everything right now, and that, my friends, is what leads them to hurt others in pursuit of these material gains.

So what can we do?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a suggestion: Have enough faith in your children to let them take some risks, to let them make their own mistakes. I certainly thought at the time that my Dad’s advice was good and all, but I, like any teenager, pretty much ignored it. And I screwed up as often as not. But, as I said, I turned out ok (I guess, I’m not a dispassionate observer). It wasn’t until years later that I realized how valuable the freedom to screw up was in making me the person I am.

To paraphrase the Frost poem, I was free to take whatever road I chose, and that has made all the difference. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a child is leave ’em alone.

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