I wonder sometimes whether so much of the internal turmoil I’ve felt in the past few years is directly related to the current political climate. I’m a people pleaser by nature and a fixer, and often those two things cause problems. I find that there is an internal struggle to ensure that those around me are happy, both with me and the world around them, and to ensure that people are educated so that they can make intelligent decisions that may impact someone else.
A friend posted a conversation going on in another group today concerning all the advertisers who are pulling their ads from a talk show on a debatably legitimate news network. One of the more recent companies is one that several of us use regularly, and I’m proud of them for pulling their dollars from a talk show that refuses to acknowledge that young people might very well know something about what’s going on in the world. The discussion in the group ranged from “Please no politics here!” to “Good for them!” to “Children know nothing and should sit down and shut up, allow the grown-ups to determine how our world should be–we know better than they do what’s right and what’s wrong!”
This is something as a teacher, particularly one of gifted children, I struggle with often. When I was in the classroom the first year my school was open, I remember being shocked that children were willing to argue with their teachers about actual content and often their thinking was quite solid, rooted firmly in a happy mixture of fact and emotion. Some colleagues were offended by it, but I was fascinated and wanted to understand their thought process… I’d worked previously in a low-income area and the children in my classes argued with me, but it was more along the lines of “You don’t know shit, Miss–you white!” because in their eyes, I couldn’t understand the things they were encountering at age 10.
Gifted children have this strange, but wonderful, innate sense of justice. I’ve yet to encounter one that just goes with the flow and never questions anything. Some wrestle with that sense of justice internally, asking broad questions of the adults in their worlds. Others wrestle with it publicly, calling others out for breaking the social contract and going into detail about why whatever they’re doing is just plain wrong. And still others take action, creating clubs and organizations to combat the injustice they see in their school communities. We’ve recently started to acknowledge those gifted leaders through formal identification, and that pleases me to no end, because it’s not something that can be captured with a test–it’s organic and a legitimate piece of who these kids are.
To stay that children cannot possibly understand what is going on in our society is wrong on so many levels. Children today are living in a much different world than we did growing up. They have access to almost unlimited information and most of their parents have raised them to ask questions about what they see and hear. Those parental responses are what shape the way they handle things, how they process them, and in many cases, what they choose to do about it.
Most people, today anyway, are fairly vocal about what they think, particularly on the internet where there’s a delay in the judgment from others. They have opinions that they’ve formed over time, with information provided by their parents and other people they’ve encountered, a variety of news networks, magazines, and other media (that they choose, so that filter matters), and life experiences that shape how they feel about particular things. Some are lucky enough to have a broad range of experiences that help them understand situations they may not have experienced themselves, while others have only ever existed in their tiny microcosm of society, and so only know what they’ve experienced. It’s a fascinating social experiment, isn’t it?
The kids who are speaking out about changes to how we purchase, keep, and regulate guns understand fully the injustice they’re fighting, many with firsthand knowledge of being shot at. Most adults have never had a gun in their school or classroom or workplace, never had one pointing at them, and never had to recover from watching others around them get shot. I’d say that these kids have a far better understanding of what’s needed to ensure those things stop happening than the majority of Americans.
The difference is that the people speaking out against the kids and their requests of our government have often never experienced a shooting of any kind at all or experienced shooting only through the lens of trying to take out a five-point buck or a stack of beer cans on a stump at 500 yards with a military grade weapon for fun, yet they are so married to the idea of owning a whole arsenal of guns because a two line amendment to a 200-year-old document says they have the right to “bear arms” that they can’t see the devil standing right in front of them…
Growing up, my parents were very anti-rabble-rouser and demanded I keep any opinions I may have on controversial topics to myself. My father ranted often about MLK and civil rights leaders who marched to ensure that people were treated fairly. He had no real reason to hate people of color, and didn’t believe that they were “less than” necessarily, but couldn’t wrap his head around people demanding that things change in this way. We fought a lot about people who wanted to make a difference and chose to both say and do something, rallying those around them to join them in the call for change. He couldn’t understand that there are lots of ways to work for change that’s needed.
I’m not the type to organize a march or a rally–I stand on the fringes, at the back of the pack, content in knowing that my presence matters even if I don’t say much. I’m not the sort to stand on stage and demand to be heard, choosing instead to use words on the page to share what I think. I am, however, exactly the sort who will support kids as they advocate for changes that have a very good chance of benefitting the greater good. I’m exactly the sort who will ask kids to talk out their thinking, not so I can destroy their ideas if I disagree, but so that they have the opportunity to see the consequences they might otherwise not be able to if they went from idea to action. I’m exactly the type who will teach kids from an early age to question things when something feels “off” about a situation, and not to give up when an adult tells them to sit down and shut up.