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Words to Live By PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jenni Person, BT Contributor   
January 2018

Censorship highlights the urgent work of parents

Ibigstock--178491994n December it was widely reported that the federal government issued a list of banned words to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Just as we in the State of Florida had been censored by our governor, with the banning of the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official documents, many in our nation were stunned by the implications of the silencing of these particular ideas.

Thus, to balance the silencing, this column is employing them as a framework for addressing the urgent issues surrounding the raising a generation of kids born into this moment in history.

Vulnerable: Between the broadening visibility of systemic racism, the travel/immigration ban, the end of the DACA, the #MeToo Moment, and the chipping away at the Affordable Care Act, we must be sure our kids understand and recognize vulnerability around them and around the world. This is empathy. And with luck, empathy leads to action and change.

It is also important for them to understand another aspect of vulnerability, which is to allow themselves the kind of emotional vulnerability it takes to foster true cooperation and compromise in their important relationships. Yet that lesson must be balanced with teaching them how to not leave themselves vulnerable to danger of all kinds.

Entitlement: Our kids, a generation with the profile and potential to usher in a huge paradigm shift, have to know that every human being is entitled to human dignity, opportunity, and justice. But no one individual or population is more entitled to that than another. We need them to operate from this understanding when they are the voters, the labor force, the politicians, the educators, and the parents.

Diversity: Sometimes I feel like my kids don’t simply understand inclusion, they expect it, they breathe it, and couldn’t survive without it, like air. They notice and call out homogeny; their expectation is that everyone is at the table, regardless of culture, class, ability, age, gender, or sexual orientation.

Transgender: Speaking of gender and sexual orientation, this generation is so fluid, so beyond binary ideas about gender and gender-defined roles. We have to let them do that. We must assure their safety in that, and allow them to take the lead in this important cultural shift toward equality. We need equality. We need the blurring of all kinds of boundaries and definitions in order to foster true equality.

Evidence-based: We must encourage critical thinking. This means we must surround them with the evidence from which to form their thoughts. I like to think they witness evidence across disciplines and with every sense. It’s about everything they read and everything they experience. The more they experience, the bigger their palette of evidence.

So we must take our kids out of their comfort zones and expose them to evidence beyond their own backyards. When they’re old enough to read, we must share articles and discourse and the political process. It’s our job to teach them to ask questions, to seek evidence and truth and substance. And we must assure that it’s always authentic and always there for them.

Science-based: Science is real, it really is. And I, for one, am glad that it is, and glad that science can guide us in understanding our kids’ health needs and the world around us, including the environment and our responsibility to it. As for the role of science experimentation in our own kids’ lives and education, I am apparently in a minority, as I expect my kids to do their own science projects. I am always left wondering what kids learn when their parents do their projects for them. It just seems like a string of negative lessons to me, from cheating to dependence to product over process. And when these projects are for science fairs, with rankings and winners, it becomes parents competing against parents…or worse, parents competing with kids. What does that teach kids?

If a kid left the assignment for the last minute, shouldn’t the kid’s lesson be what happens when you leave such a project for the last minute? The message otherwise, it seems, is that your parents will forever protect you from consequences. Maybe to avoid the perpetuation of a population that doesn’t believe that science is real, kids need to do their own science projects.

Fetus: No matter how we became parents, our kids became our kids by first being fetuses at some point. Fetuses made us parents. Fetuses made us think like parents -- the anticipation and choices that accompany expecting. Unfortunately, there are too many people in our culture who are more concerned about the rights of those fetuses than they are the rights of them once they become babies and children. But not us, we love them unconditionally at every stage, including “the terrible twos,” which happens when they are about 14-17, from what I understand.

 

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