Tuesday, October 14, 2008


"Every day is Earth Day!"

Teachers have a tremendous burden and responsibility in schools. They are presented with children and told to educate them with what they need to know and prepare them to be adults and face society. As I noted yesterday, ignorance in a Democracy can be harmful to far more people than simply the unlearned person. In a system where everyone can have at least some say in the running of society and government, those who know little can do much damage.

At the same time, teachers are assisted by the fact that children learn rapidly and tend to trust adults and authorities. They will believe what they are told by a teacher almost always and trust them to know what they are talking about. Sometimes, even often, they will trust their teacher more than their parents. Take these aggressive tykes, as reported in the New York Times by Lisa W. Foderaro:
Sometimes, Jennifer Ross feels she cannot make a move at home without inviting the scorn of her daughters, 10-year-old Grace and 7-year-old Eliza. The Acura MDX she drives? A flagrant polluter. The bath at night to help her relax? A wasteful indulgence. The reusable shopping bags she forgot, again? Tsk, tsk.

“I have very, very environmentally conscious children — more so than me, I’m embarrassed to say,” said Ms. Ross, a social worker in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. “They’re on my case about getting a hybrid car. They want me to replace all the light bulbs in the house with energy-saving bulbs.”

Ms. Ross’s children are part of what experts say is a growing army of “eco-kids” — steeped in environmentalism at school, in houses of worship, through scouting and even via popular culture — who try to hold their parents accountable at home. Amid their pride in their children’s zeal for all things green, the grown-ups sometimes end up feeling like scofflaws under the watchful eye of the pint-size eco-police, whose demands grow ever greater, and more expensive.

They pore over garbage bins in search of errant recyclables. They lobby for solar panels. And, in a generational about-face, they turn off the lights after their parents leave empty rooms.
The children have been carefully taught that the world's survival relies on personal responsibility, that the world is doomed without their efforts. Heads filled with apocalyptic prophecies from Al Gore and others, the children are told constantly by teachers not only that the earth is in great danger from foolish adults but that they can fix it with proper behavior.

Compounded with a culture that strongly implies in advertising, entertainment, and fiction that children are preternaturally wise and understanding while parents - particularly fathers - are stumbling, childish clods, kids feel compelled to correct their parents.

So we get kids telling parents what to do. The left realized long ago that if you got kids to believe something you have leverage to get parents to do what you want. This has become more effective and useful in recent generations (more on that in a moment) so that teaching is even more strident in the tone and direction. Sure, teach them math, but then you get to the good stuff: social engineering. Many teachers believe that they have a responsibility not simply to educate, but to shape children into ideal citizens for an ideal future.
“Kids have really turned into the little conscience sitting in the back seat,” said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group that recently worked with Nickelodeon on a series of public service announcements and other programming called “Big Green Help.”
Ms Bovey is implying that this somehow happened ex nihilo but the NYT story helps point out how it has come about: continuous indoctrination.

Now, it's good to care for your environment, it is smart to use as little energy as possible (at the very least, that's more economical). It is always best to be a good steward of the world we live in. There's no doubt that parents could use some reminding of things they mess up on or are too lazy to accomplish properly. It has always been true that children will learn things that parents don't know or have forgotten - I took Algebra but after more than 20 years have passed I'd be hard pressed to help someone with their homework.

The concern is, however, that teachers feel compelled to manipulate parents and society through this device rather than simply teach. Their job is very clearly laid out and obvious to the meanest intellect: inform students of the basics they will need to graduate and face life. Will they need to know the latest way to recycle or what is the most cost efficient light bulb? In a time when teachers complain they don't have time to cover what they need to and budgets are strained to the point of dropping elements of education such as sports or music, adding in this kind of thing seems like not just a poor use of resources, but a defiant contradiction of their stated concerns.

I went to grade school in the 70s, and they called it "ecology" then. We learned about recycling and picking up trash and so on; it just wasn't a major portion of our education. We saw one movie on the topic, heard some about it and during the day teachers would tell us to pick up stuff we dropped and put it in the trash. It was mentioned but not a notable part of education, and yet we learned and the world got a bit cleaner.

The difference is between an approach that adds in some useful knowledge and a push to shape children and thus the future, to engineer society toward a certain end. Some teachers may actually believe Gore's hysterical nonsense and feel a burden to do this because it is our only chance. Yet even on those terms, abandoning other teaching or squeezing it and the limited resources they have to do so is irresponsible, to say the least. For some teachers it seems to be a religious zeal, a compulsion to share their faith and the salvation that we can earn by "green" behavior.

MisrepresentationThe tough part for teachers is that even if they aren't inclined to do this kind of teaching, they are pressured very strongly by many schools and handed heavily loaded books and teaching material that is packed with this sort of leftist eco-indoctrination. They go to conferences and teaching classes that are taught by hard left ideologues. They are surrounded by teachers who see life from a very specific left viewpoint. So they are in a sea of constant pressure to teach the same way and it can be very difficult - evenhazardous to one's job - to do otherwise.

Yet the teachers alone cannot be criticized. Consider the quoted sentence above: "in a generational about-face, they turn off the lights after their parents leave empty rooms." My dad wouldn't ever leave a light on in a room, he had to pay for the lights. I personally shut off lights when I won't be back soon. Comedians talk about how they used to get tired of dad constantly yelling at them to shut off the light then realizing that now they are grown and have kids they are doing the same thing. So what's with these parents?

We have three choices here: the paper is making up these events for dramatic effect, or that the kids or parents are misrepresenting the events to this reporter, or finally that the story is true and the parents are just irresponsible. Now, while the other two are possible, I'm inclined to believe the third choice: these are parents who don't do what they are supposed to and are bad examples to their children.

It is not inconceivable to me that some families are so wealthy that leaving all the lights on all day long doesn't cause a particular problem financially when the bill comes in the mail. It is even possible that they leave the lights on for reasons their kids can't work out (stepped out to get a drink, for example). But the truth is, at least some parents are so self-focused and immature that they never really grew up and became adults. Sure, they look like adults and they act like adults, they even may have many characteristics of maturity in the rest of their life, but they never have learned to be responsible. These are the kind of parents who had kids because they thought it would be fun and don't raise them much because it's too much work and besides it cuts into "me time" too much.

They might even be the kind of parents who ostensibly put their "whole life" into their children by driving them to every event, buying them all the "best" things, sending them to the best schools and camps - but not doing anything personally to teach and raise their children. This is the kind of adult that lives as if they are fifteen years old and the world is owed them. The kid cries when you stop giving him coca cola, so give him another bottle. They make too much noise and bug you when the TV is off, so throw in a video or turn it to the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. So I left the lights on, so sue me! These are parents who haven't grown up, they are shells around children who still are so self focused and concerned with pleasure, comfort, and happiness they haven't come to realize that life is about more than that, and parenting is about sacrifice, responsibility, and duty.

This kind of parent isn't willing to contradict their kids because it's too much work, they get all mad and then you have to explain and its just too much hassle. Easier to just do what the kid says, when they are around - just like with my old man back when I was living at home, man.

There's another problem parent though, the vassal parent. This is the kind of parent whose entire waking existence is centered around the happiness and future of their child. They read 50 books on raising children when she was pregnant, playing Beethoven to the child and eating special foods that would make them smart when they were born. They buy the best toys to teach the child, they always get the child what they need - or insist they want - so that they will grow up happy. My mom never did this for me and I'm going to give my baby whatever he/she needs! This kind of parent is little more than a slave to the child; they see discipline as tyranny, they want to be their child's best buddy.

This kind of parent is the aforementioned teacher's best friend: that parent will do whatever their kid says without the slightest attempt to teach or lead them. If Johnny says we should buy Al Gore's carbon credits, well then we'll buy ten! If that's a bad light bulb, why then I'll apologize to Johnny and rush out to buy different ones. If Sally complains that we should hang the clothes on a line even though not all clothes dry particularly well that way (and birds poop on them, and it rains a lot here, and some guy ripped off my shirt last time), well then we'll sell the clothes drier.

This kind of parent doesn't lead, doesn't teach, doesn't show authority. They don't want to be parents they want to be buddies and facilitators to their child's every slightest whim. They don't teach children respect, they teach them arrogance, selfishness, narcissism, and leave them utterly prepared for a world which not only doesn't want to help them but doesn't even care about them.

Teach your children wellParents and teachers have a responsibility to raise children carefully, wisely, and thoughtfully. Kids need to learn to obey before they can learn to command, because by learning to obey a proper and wise authority, they learn what command and leadership is from example and experience. Teachers help this, but parents are the primary source. Teachers should always defer to parents except in basic education (writing, reading, arithmetic, etc). If dad says 2+2 is 7, dad's wrong. If dad says God created the earth, it's not up to the teacher to say otherwise, merely present the information and scientific data. Parents, however, have a duty to teach their children reading and writing and so on as well as the teachers. The teacher is a specialized professional you hired to assist on a job, not to do your job. They are consultants, not replacements.

Morality, ethics, worldview, and so on are the exclusive responsibility of parents. That's their job and their delight, to raise their children as they see and understand the world. The children may and probably will change, but until they leave the home, that's the parent's job - and then to advise and suggest even after they are gone. Parents who abandon this responsibility to teachers are not doing their job properly and can barely be called parents at any level. When a teacher tries to take this over, they're not doing their job correctly, and thus the work they are supposed to do suffers.

Yet when your worldview and political perspective demands that the future be shaped to fit your ideals and that those who disagree aren't merely different or wrong, but stupid, destructive, unsophisticated, and even unevolved then you might feel compelled to take the responsibility to teach children. After all, how can the utopian future of peace, brotherhood, love, tolerance (except for those you disagree with politically and philosophically) and social justice come about if you leave it up to stupid, backward Godbothering red staters?
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1 comment:

Eric said...

Funny and true story about my daughter's 2nd grade teacher: According to my daughter, the kids in her class were pressing the teacher about who she was going to vote for. The teacher said, "I think they are both good people, but I will probably vote for Barack Obama because I think he'll do more to help teachers."

One of the little boys in the class said something to the effect of, "Well, my dad says Obama is stupid." And the teacher replied, "If I wasn't a teacher, I might agree with him."

At least she's honest!