What We Teach Our Children

I started off life, like most 5-year-olds, as a socialist.  Over time I morphed into a liberal, and then arrived at my most recent state of fairly moderate.  As there is no moderate party, I tend to default back to my liberal views when having to make a choice, but I have definitely become more conservative as I age.  Then, suddenly, and without warning, I became a parent and everything changed again.

When I think about the lessons that I want to teach to my children, they seem to be pretty standard: Share, Play Nice, Treat Every Person With Respect, etc.  But when I look at the real world, these don’t seem to actually be the values of our society in practice.  Sure, maybe in theory, but aren’t the real values that we practice: Don’t Share (Unless you have way way too much more than you can possibly use, and even then, only share a little), Play Nice When People Are Watching (the only crime is getting caught, right?), Some People Deserve Respect (but we should mock, abuse, or ignore those with whom we don’t agree), etc.?  I’m not saying that you personally live your life like this (I try not to), but as a society, this is the message I am getting.

On it’s surface, good old American capitalism would seem to be the most fair system of all, and we all learned that fairness is important in kindergarten.  You get what you work for, right?  If it’s yours, you get to keep it, and if you have the best idea, or the best product, or the best anything, then you will succeed and prosper.  But…what if you don’t have the best idea?  What if you have a good idea that is second best?  We don’t talk about that much in our praise of capitalism, and if we do, then we say that those people can get a new idea, or else work for the guy with the best idea and everyone wins.  In theory, the man on top has been taught by his kindergarten teacher to share, play nice, and respect all human life, but in practice, capitalism becomes a very scary game for a lot of people.

I suppose one could argue that kindergarten is just a bunch of socialist propaganda.  All that taking turns, and sharing crap?  Why would we teach our children that?!  Damn liberals.  But why do we teach them that?  These ideas aren’t facts that are absolute, or fantasies that they can indulge in because they are young.  We are teaching our kids morality, and the way we currently teach it tells them that all people are worthy of love and respect.  Kindergarten is anti-greed, anti-hoarding, anti-partisan politics, anti-prejudice, anti-violence, and pro-happiness.  And the more I think about it, so am I.

I am not going to teach my children anything I don’t personally believe in, and I hope you aren’t either.  The more I think about how I want my children to live, learn, and behave, the closer back to socialism I move.  Not pure socialism of course, because that isn’t fair either, and I don’t really want to live in a commune and let everyone use my stuff, but certainly not pure unbridled capitalism.  I want my children to grow up in a world where everyone shares what they have with everyone else, to a point, but they still have an individual responsibility and incentive to strive for success.  I would never punish my children for failure, as long as they were trying hard.  Why should we punish each other?  Why are people trying to eliminate all the safety nets?  Because they are expensive?  Because people abuse the system?  (Give me an example of a system that people don’t abuse, and I’ll build you a utopia)  Because it basically amounts to forced sharing by our kindergarten teachers government?

The scenario that I keep coming back to is this: if a kid walked into a classroom with a huge tub of cookies, what would common sense and shared social values dictate happen?  Should the kid be allowed to sit and eat all the cookies?  No.  Should the cookies be divided up equally among everyone?  No.  Everyone should get some cookies, and the kid that brought them should get more.  And once everyone has had enough cookies, the extras go home with the kid as well.  That’s what we teach our children.

Are these childhood lessons just an ideal to strive towards, or something attainable?  Are they a fairytale we tell them to protect them from the cruel reality of the world?  Are they hippie commie BS, and we really ought to be teaching our kids to take whatever they can get and if the weak dumb kids can’t make it, well, fair’s fair?  I don’t know what they are, but I do think that, as a society, we ought to believe what we tell our children.  Or else stop telling it to them.

Posted in Parenting, Rant.

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