Many current events highlight the failings of parents as civic educators... Whether it's the death of an endangered zoo animal; the passing off of a rape as a frivolous, "boys will be boys" sexual encounter; to even the ways in which we interact with each other around controversial issues... the media has been inundated with stories about the inability of young adults and children to respectfully and productively participate in the world around them. What responsibility do parents have in releasing good citizens into the wild?
We think of civic education (or the lack thereof) as the sole responsibility of our already crumbling education system... But kids spend a vast majority of their time watching their parents. And although we cannot guarantee that parents can cultivate a completely tolerant, loving, compassionate, and civic minded person, we can at least try to ensure that we build mindsets in our children that can hopefully combat their primal urges of selfishness.
Teach them about the post office, the capital building, NASA, the NSA, the water treatment plants, landfills, museums and other public entities that guide our daily lives.
Teach them about why states rights and federal mandates are important tensions to thoughtfully consider when issues like Flint, Michigan arise.
Teach them to learn from the past.
Teach them how to vote on issues and not with party.
Take them with you to the poll booth
Teach them HOW our government works,
Who does what, and how it effects change.
Teach them that marching and using hashtags are nothing without micro-solutions
Teach them to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to heal the sick
Teach them that one person can make great positive or negative change.
Teach them that they can be that person. It's up to them to make that choice.
Teach them that their mayor and school board are more important than the president on the majority of the days in their lifetime
Teach them that the community they live in is a direct result of the income you make, the people you vote for, the allocation of tax dollars...
And that citizens can change that significantly with petitions, meetings and voting booths.
Engage them in debate
Have them question family values and religious beliefs
Show them what forgiveness is
Teach boys to be loving, strong men, but not in opposition to or replacement of femininity
Teach girls to be strong, loving women, but not in opposition to or replacement of masculinity
Teach them that the way we treat each other is a reflection on how much we love ourselves
Teach them that kindness is a democratic religion not the result of religious dogma.
Teach them that boundaries are necessary for all of us to survive safely
Teach them that everyone deserves to be heard but not everyone will get their way
Teach them about violence and where it leads
Teach them that fear is easier than love but decisions rooted in love are everlasting.
Teach them that the garbage man is just as important as the governor
And that both are respectable, important members of an effective society.
Teach them to listen...
Teach them to challenge their beliefs by listening to people with opposing vantage points
Teach them to bring everyone to the table
Teach them that giving rights to everyone does not take rights away from anyone.
Teach them that the media is an entertainment vehicle but not necessarily an educational platform
Teach them that we lose some stories in one-sidedness
Teach them that many histories exist at once
And that all stories have multiple truths
Don't be afraid to Google what you don't know, using judgement to discern fact from fiction
Don't be afraid to say you were wrong
Don't be afraid to look back with shame
Don't be afraid to feel for someone who looks and lives nothing like you
Don't be afraid to boldly stand up for what is best for our society even if it's not best for your family
Don't be afraid...
And when all else fails.... we all must remember that we all live here together. For now, the earth is our home.
The future is placed on the backs of our children. All of our failed policies, wars, environmental destruction, and political mistakes are their burden... All of our victories are their future ways of life. We must create individuals who are strong enough to hold society high above their heads and walk boldly together into the light without fear. But first, you must teach them.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.