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Friday, September 4, 2009

"Hey, you in front! Sit down, and let the man talk!"

In 1991, President George Bush (senior), a Republican, sent a televised message to kids in school "to study hard, avoid drugs and to ignore peers 'who think it’s not cool to be smart.'" The opposing party accused him of using taxpayer money for “paid political advertising.”

Really, no one can do right if they are on the other team.

As many of you know, our current President of the United States plans on addressing children about education in a televised speech to be aired at schools this coming week. Many parents who disagree with many of the elected President's politics threw hissy-fits and forced several schools, including the one for my neighborhood, to forgo showing the speech.

The overall message? Don't listen to someone with whom you disagree.

Or ... Don't listen to him! I'll tell you already that I don't know what he's gonna say, but I'm sure it's stupid!

How long are these parents intending to send this message? For the remainder of this administration's term? What if the next president isn't to their liking? What do they suppose the consequence to this repeated message will be? What might their child learn to do when they disagree with their own parent? Their teacher? Their clergy? Their spouse?

People who are upset by the idea of their kids listening to the president of their own country for one measly day are insecure. They believe that their kids have no ability to discern, that they will be brainwashed. If your kids have no ability to discern, the problem is at home, not at the White House. Or, perhaps, you have the rare magical child who remembers what you told them after being told only once. (As far as I know, President Obama will not be planning on saying, "Look at me when I'm talking to you! If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times! Do I have to tell you until I'm blue in the face??")

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to open up dialogue with their children, some parents have freaked out and avoided an opportunity to add another teaching moment about respect for authority, interest in the political system, and common courtesy.

Parents: If you disagree with someone's beliefs, at minimum teach your children to disagree respectfully. If they disagree with their teacher, you wouldn't expect them to just not show up to class. If you disagree with a traffic cop, you wouldn't be expected to not show up to court. (Well, not without accruing fines or a warrant anyway.) Keeping a speech from the leader of your country out of schools is the equivalent of "not showing up." I don't believe your intent is to create a person who immediately shuns or ignores people who hold different points of view.

"That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine."
- M. Russell Ballard -

Had Mitt Romney become president and decided to address school kids, would there have been Southern Baptist groups up in arms? The same parents who called schools today whining about Obama's address would have written off the Southern as ignorant paranoids.

Teach your kids to listen and discern, not to invoke the blanket response of ignoring the Commander in Chief or whoever else they disagree with. You would be embarrassed if your child reacted like this to anyone. What better way for your kids to learn better strategies than from your example?

"While we strive for the virtue of tolerance, other commendable qualities need not be lost. Tolerance does not require the surrender of noble purpose or of individual identity."
- Russell M Nelson -

Listening doesn't equate embracing the speaker's ideas. It doesn't even mean silent endorsement. At minimum, it is polite. At best, informative. Why the knee-jerk reaction?

"Love is an ultimate quality, and tolerance is its handmaiden. Love and tolerance are pluralistic qualities—encompassing all—and that is their strength, but it is also the source of their potential distortion. Love and tolerance are incomplete unless they are accompanied by a concern for truth and a commitment to the unity that God has commanded of his servants."
- Dallin H Oaks -

The best way to get your child's enthusiastic participation in a topic is to do it when he has heard about it elsewhere; in this case, it would have been at school. Children love to hear what their parents think about topics they've heard about at school or from friends. They want to feel confident and informed.

“We call upon all people everywhere to recommit themselves to the time-honored ideals of tolerance and mutual respect. We sincerely believe that as we acknowledge one another with consideration and compassion we will discover that we can all peacefully coexist despite our deepest differences.”
- Statement of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, Oct. 1992 -

It goes without saying (and yet, here I am saying it), your child will not always live in a community that readily understands their beliefs. Your child may not foresee the variety of value systems out there. Regardless, a well-adjusted child deals with differences courageously and compassionately.

I do not support any particular agenda or political party. I DO support behaving like adults and teaching children how to interact with others appropriately. I also support equipping children with the skills they'll need now and as they move through the diverse world.

How will they learn these skills? By segregation? Through censorship? They will learn through your careful teachings, and their knowledge will be cemented through their experiences.

For me, scarier than a one-time speech from a political figure with an "agenda" are parents who handicap their children's abilities to resolve differences. Scarier than that is a mob mentality in my own backyard.

"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates in obeying honoring and sustaining the law."
Articles of Faith, 12

Regardless of your stance or feelings on the leader of your country, wouldn't this be a fantastic opportunity to watch the President's message (whether at your kids' school or online) and then discuss your family's beliefs? Would this not be a safe environment to teach your children HOW to discern as opposed to simply WHAT to think?

Teach your kids how to process thought and they will grow up to be adults who are less prone to jump to conclusions. They will have an easier time making friends. They will develop better communication and compassion. If you merely teach them what to think, they will be unsure of themselves when you aren't around. Or when your opinions change.

People we dislike and even people we love will say and believe things that we do not agree with. How and when will children learn how to respond and discern in these situations if what they hear is continually censored?

“Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. …

“… We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility.”

- Gordon B. Hinckley -


Heather said...

I am so glad you brought this up. I have a sister who teaches in sandy and she is the ONLY teacher in her school that wants to show and talk about this with her 4th graders. How sad is it that we are teaching our children its ok to not be open minded and accepting of differences? As far as i have heard its about setting goals, graduating from high school and the importance of college. When is that a bad thing to hear?

Kristen said...

I hear you. Not because you convinced me or because I trust him, but because he was elected and he's doing part of his job. I hope he doesn't cross the very fine line. I'm glad that I know about it ahead of time so I can talk to my son before and afterward.

I am so scared about this situation - not because of Obama, but from the hate coming out of my friends' mouths. "I just want to throw something at the TV every time I see him." What? I agree with zero of his policies, but hatred? Violence?

I'd rather have my kids hear a bunch of blah blah from a president I don't like, than to hear their friends' parents talk about how much they hate someone.

I've kept it to myself until now. I hope I'm not fence sitting or worse, jumped to the wrong side of the fence. =o)

Keri Ann said...

Adhis, you siad it perfectly! I had this discussion tonight and we brought up that article of faith. Seriously people, teach your kids to listen to others take it all in and discern for themselves what is right and wrong. At some point they will have to without you.

If you do not mind I would like to post a link from my blog and possibly facebook to your post. If it is not o.k. let me know and I will delete it. But you said it much better than I could.


Jackie (updated profile) said...

You go girl. No one could have said it better. We should not teach our kids to tune out someone just because we may disagree with something they may or may not say. I'm posting this link in my facebook.

Englishfam said...

Thank you Adhis, I was beginning to think I was crazy for feeling the same way! The whole thing is so ridiculous to me. We aren't showing a speech from our president in school? Seriously? I am not a democrat by any means, but I feel like this is just common sense.

a not so desperate housewife said...

great post! they're not showing it at mountainville acadamey either. the administration is going to watch it first and THEN if THEY decide it's ok they'll offer some sort of forum for kids and parents to watch it together...but only if you want to come. i have a feeling we might be the only ones there :)

i think it's kind of ironic that our neighbor who gained her citizenship relatively recently is so articulate about tolerance, inclusion, and open-mindedness...

Sheree said...

Agree with you completely. I did not vote for Obama, but my kids will listen to their president.

Nathalie Smith said...

Hear,hear! can't believe there is even an issue!!!! What do they think they are going to say? "Santa and Jesus are black?" Ha,Ha,Ha!

Jackie (updated profile) said...

Nathalie, seriously I think that is what people are afraid of. Are you implying though that Santa is not black? I always thought he was, he gave me a Michael Jackson jacket one year, so I just assumed.

Joyful Mother of Children said...

I wish I could share your sentiments...

From what I understand this video is part of what will be shown next Tuesday in public schools.

I agree that we cannot shelter our children from the world and that we need to teach them to discern for themselves. But our children are young and very impressionable and as parents it is our responsibility to ensure they are not misled. Maybe a discussion could be had by families after viewing this, but many will not. Why can't this be watched on primetime with the family like a state of the union address? But, this is just my opinion.

Nathalie Smith said...

I didn't see anything wrong with that video. It is trying to tell young people to pledge to be a better person, and as for being a servant to the president, we should be of service to all fellow men and you can very well tell your children what they meant by that. But 99% sure they wouldn't even remember that part anyways.

Joyful Mother of Children said...

Even when I was in the Navy and took the oath, we didn't say "I make a pledge to Bill Clinton"...we made a pledge to our country and it's freedoms and to "PROTECT the president of the United States". Pushing agendas with our children is, in my mind, conniving. And, I am NOT racist...and to claim that people are racist because they disagree with someone's agenda is just a cop-out. I'm just standing up for what is left of our democracy before Socialism takes full-force. You know I love you Nathalie... :)

Adhis said...

(The oath I took in the military was worded differently, but I won’t address semantics and details here.)

More parents are up in arms over this one scheduled speech than over the content their children receive DAILY via television and music.

As far as the theme of the “I Pledge” video, I believe it was derived from Senator John McCain’s concession speech, in which he said:

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

McCain continued:

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

LDS spiritual leaders also encourage us to offer our president (or corresponding national leader) our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, not divide.

My point still stands. We can either teach children to disagree respectfully or we can teach them to disagree ignorantly.

When a child sees this video (or any video or any magazine or any… you get my point), how can it be used to open a productive and uplifting dialogue within the family?

Joyful Mother of Children said...

Yes, the oath was worded differently and I should not have put it in quotations, however, my point stands that we should not pledge ourselves to any one man, with the exception of Jesus Christ.

I agree with above statements about enraged parents. Anger is not the way anything should be handled and you will always have select individuals on either side of an issue that jump to words or acts of aggression because they are emotionally moved. I agree with you that children should be taught to disagree respectfully. Every American has the freedom of speech, thought and opinion. Public schools are not an appropriate medium for a public official's agenda. If the president wants to strictly encourage getting an education, staying in school, being a good and caring person, etc., that's great, I have no problems. I don't believe former President Bush should have used this forum either in 1991. I'm only concerned that this is not the only message being relayed. Topics discussed that promote liberal agendas (and there were quite a few in the video) should not be presented in a school setting.

Because I homeschool, my children will not be receiving the message in a school, but the transcript will be available for preview tomorrow and we will as a family be discussing the topics presented.

I think parents that have genuine concerns about this speech in the schools should not be judged as radicals but should be given the same respect and understanding so many other LIBERAL groups in this country receive.

As for McCain, I never supported him and quite frankly he never represented me or my beliefs. It is not that I don't feel we should unify in this country, we definitely should. We need to unify as a democracy, to stand behind this country as defined by our forefathers. Obama wants change, and that change includes moving towards a socialistic government. What does that mean for our future? Are you willing to meet in the middle if that middle means throwing away our freedoms?

Adhis said...

Here is the speech the President of the United States will be giving tomorrow, according to the White House.

What a shame so many children will never hear it.

chelon:) said...

thank you ...thank you... thank you! very well put :)

*my kids will have the opportunity to hear it tomorrow in school. i will definitely be grilling them on what they thought!

Carrie said...

I'm kind of dissappointed that my kids will not hear the speech tomorrow. There are so many children in this country that don't have parents willing to guide them in any direction - good or bad. If listening to a speech from their president could encourage them to make positive change in their lives I think that's great. He is a great example of overcoming poverty and obstacles in life. His position and influence is unique. What he has to say is very powerful, and I believe can have a positive effect on those who hear it. I have read the transcripts and don't see anything wrong with what is being asked of our children. My daughter has asked me several times if Obama is a "good" president. I've told her that even though he doesn't do things the way I would like him to, he is doing his best and he was elected to be our president. If I don't like him it is my responsibility to vote and let my voice be heard in other ways. I wish I could have put that as eloquently as Adhis, but that's my 2 cents.

Joyful Mother of Children said...

The speech is great and I'm thankful that he did not cross the line. Hopefully there are kids that will listen and take getting an education to heart. I'm especially grateful for the end of his speech where he included God.

Adhis said...

Carrie, very well said, my dear.

sharibug said...

To share with you again from Adhis.
“Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. …

“… We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility.”

- Gordon B. Hinckley -