For lots of messed-up reasons, my kids were deliberately raised in a fairly conservative bubble for nine years before I got custody of them and could be a real parent. The circumstances would be a whole post in itself. Fortunately, it wasn’t very effective, lots of bullshit didn’t stick. But they were sheltered from so much of the real world that I have been trying to go slowly as to not overwhelm them. As they know, my entire world view is very much unlike what they encounter with others in the area. But now with issues such as the Trump presidency, civil unrest, home legal and communications security, strategic relocation possibilities, etc I feel like I really need to step up my teaching in the area of social issues.
As far as relating concepts directly in conversation, I do fairly well. But I am interested in recommendations for books, documentaries, websites, and other media for kids in the 10-14 age range. Partly to demonstrate that civil rights and political problems actually have happened and still do, and that people can and do act to improve things. I worry that they have been so enbubbled that on some level they might be more humoring me out of respect without grasping the reality of it, since they don’t really get anything but conservative propaganda from my ex-in-laws and others in the community.
In terms of authors to read for education or for starting conversations I have two words for you: Howard Zinn. The book I would most highly reccomend for you to check is "A peoples History of the United States."
Most of his writing is available online, however I highly recommend you procure physical copies if possible:
*Key reading: everything: critical thinking: being able to discern truth from the shit thrown at the info-fan. If you teach your children anything, please teach them to seek more sources for all knowledge, for if it isn’t replicated, it ain’t real, really…read.everything.and.discern.
For fiction, it’s difficult to beat the mire of multiculturalism, feminism, and practicality embodied in Terry Pratchett’s mid-period, as well as the Tiffany Aching series. They’re kids. They need fun.
Well, it isn’t like he’ll be getting any royalties from them.
If you do buy the book, I suggest one of the various branches of Revolution Books, just to help keep them alive. My local branch just closed (just last month ), if you don’t have a local branch I’ve linked to the flagship store in NYC.
It’s trickier than that. Being in a pocket of explicit anti-intellectual sentiment, they were offered methodologies for how to remain ignorant. The values that learning is something one does only to the extent of impressing and manipulating other people to make money. The morality of doing “whatever” needed to fit in. Sort of a “suburban primitivism”.
The way I see it, it’s a matter of supplying tools which others made efforts to deprive them of. Much of this has been basic communications and critical thinking skills, as the people they were with were terrible at explaining anything. Ironically, this has largely been a consequence of their ignoramus attitudes. I can respect people having well thought out conservative views which I happen to disagree with. But these people had no traditions, introspection, or articulation to even make sense of their conservatism. THAT’S why I resented them raising my kid, because they offered naivete and ignorance and could hardly explain anything about living to save their (or my kids’) lives. Despite being somewhat educated middle-class people, their discourse is more on the Morton Downey Jr end of the spectrum than the William F. Buckley Jr end, for example.
I do make efforts to distinguish between teaching how to think, versus what to think. To show examples of what seems to work, and what does not, and let them draw their own conclusions. Obviously this process cannot be truly separate from my values, but I prioritize teaching them to thrive rather than to simply be like me. They are other people, not extensions of my ego or any doctrine.
Very well put. When I think about it, what my parents did was mostly talk to me and get me asking questions about why things are or why people do things. That of course means investing time in parenting which is, I’m told, hard work.
Probably too mature for them right now, but in a couple of years: Primo Levi.
If This is a Man / The Truce and If Not Now, When? are pretty grim (they’re Holocaust survival stories), but Moments of Reprieve and The Periodic Table aren’t. The Wrench is damned good as well, although you may need to be in the workforce a bit to properly appreciate that one.
Somewhat, but at the moment I think largely overlapping. I have started with trying to point out biases and teach basic philosophies. We have talked a bit about civil rights, economics, politics, imperialism, etc - but not in as much depth as I’d like. Fortunately, although I hate many aspects of our town, the public schools are surprisingly good here. They have been more of a help than a hindrance.
What I am thinking of now is context, so they have some foundation for processing current events. So that they can be critical, but not overwhelmed. That’s probably a lot to ask for people of any age right now. Partly I am kicking myself because I tried to do a lot with abstract foundations first, but now on the pragmatic side they are getting thrown in the deep end of the pool.
I suppose that they need to “survive as a child in a fascist state” in order to “grow up to be decent, tolerant people.” They are already rather decent and tolerant, but this has been largely a consequence of having been lucky enough to start life in this time and place. This tolerance and decency has until now gone unchallenged. But because of who I am and how I live, and my civilized yet confrontational nature, I am fairly sure to encounter static. So in the short term, knowing how to survive is the priority. In the long term, the easiest way to survive fascism is to internalize it, so tolerance and decency are factors there.
This is really the crux of it. The appropriate media for toddlers and young children by definition is going to be simplistic and promote black-and-white thinking. As they mature, they can start to comprehend more complex ideas. But it takes a long time. The brain of a 6 year old, or even a 14 year old, simply isn’t as well developed as the brain of a 20 or 25 year old. Introducing theoretical concepts too soon in childhood development means they won’t understand and might even rebel out of frustration.
I have the feeling there will be at least one Alex Keaton in that family.
I think you’re on the right track with focusing on critical thinking skills and pointing them towards places and resources where they can educate themselves. My only word of caution is that most children need a certain amount fun to their study, which is where most school systems begin to fail them. Adults like you and I might be able to slog through something relatively boring as long as we sufficiently want the eventual knowledge it can bring. Kids often, though I won’t say always, lack this long-view discipline; I don’t think it’s because of intelligence but because most people who do learn that learn it by living for a while.
I would also caution against pushing awareness of social and political issues. I basically ignored politics and social issues until I was eligible to vote, and only then took some cursory interest because my dad made it clear that if I didn’t vote and take it seriously, that I’d be letting down generations of veteran family members and the country (not the government, he’s always been clear on that) to which I owe my prosperity. Even then, it was another seven or eight years before I paid attention to politics out of anything other than guilt and duty. The surest way to drive a kid away from interest in something is to make it compulsory.
That sounds quite unrealistic to me. I don’t remember who said it, but I firmly believe that: “The first political act is walking down the street.” That having any personal values and interaction with other people is an innately political process. There are ways out of it on the fringe, but anybody who is a citizen, has a job, uses money, or makes any contract is making a choice to involve themselves in social and political issues. You might opine that this reflects my own personal philosophy, and perhaps it does, but I think it is also quite fundamental and axiomatic to human life. So it is only “compulsive” in the same sense that breathing can be said to be compulsive. It often puzzles me how so many people seem to be conflicted about this. I am sympathetic to those who prefer to avoid politics, but the reality of it is far more easily said than done.
For better or worse, existing as an intellectual radical and activist, I really do not have the option of not providing cultural context to events which have and will continue to affect us. For ethnic, religious, sexual, and political reasons my existence is already quite marginal. I wasn’t going to go into too much detail about this, but social and political issues are the main reasons why I had to fight to see my children for nine years, over which time my extended family told them lies about me to excuse me being frequently kept away. When I first met my spouse in NYC years ago, I was quite explicit about my anarcho-communist worldview, and that any family I had would by necessity not be statist or financial in any conventional ways. It has never been a membership or superficial overlay upon a “normal” way of life, but instead a fundamentally different way of living. I experienced quite a lot of static from my teens to present day because education and basic socialization are intimately political processes. My own parents were worse than useless in helping me with this, and I feel a need to do better as a parent myself. Also, it is a security issue which affects my kids’ lives and mine on a daily basis.
That is not to say that this all can’t be fun, I think it often is.
That is true. But for many people the political realities beyond their proximate environment are nauseating at best. While it’s all inextricably connected, the demoralizing scope of national or global politics often require more stoicism than the things we can more directly effect in our daily lives. Because you asked this at the present time, I assumed you were asking with a eye specifically to what’s transpiring on the national and world stages at the moment. If I jumped to an unwarranted conclusion, I apologize for that.
This is a pretty flawed analogy, but imagine introducing to math a kid who had been indoctrinated by others to hate mathematics. You wouldn’t start with topics in algebraic geometry. You’d start by showing them how to use shapes and numbers to acomplish things in their own everyday lives. While I’m adamant that we should never underestimate our children, there is IMO something to be said for not plonking a ton of adult analysis on them. Maybe a better analogy is a library. If you take a kid to a library with a required reading list, there’s a good chance that they’ll chafe at the artificial limitation it imposes. On the other hand, you understandably want to give them some guidance to start them off and provide some momentum in the face of so many choices. All I can say to that is, show them some of the ideas and thinkers you were interested in when you were their age, even if those seem childish to you now.
I hope that helps. I wish I could give you better advice but, as I mentioned, by the time I was interested in politics, I was reading things like George Woodcock and the Anti-Federalist Papers and the Nolan Chart, things that I wouldn’t have enjoyed as a teenager.