I Don’t Want to Teach My Kids. I Want to Educate Them

One of the thoughts I’ve consistently had over the last few years has been “at least my kid’s too little to realize what’s going on.” During the pandemic stay at home orders, they knew they weren’t going to school or daycare anymore but didn’t really ask why, or really even care. The reason for the change was “so we don’t get sick”, and they were ok with that. It wasn’t until school was opened back up that our 4 year-old became mildly aware of “the covid” as she calls it. Always with a “the”, very formal, like she’s referring to the pope of sicknesses.

But my kids are satisfied by the simple logic of germs get you sick, and you don’t want to be sick, so don’t get germs. Yep, so simple even a 2 year-old understands the usefulness of social distancing and a mask. Literal child’s play compared to trying to explain what has been happening socially, politically, and governmentally. My hope is that we will be well on the way to solving our national issues by the time my kids are old enough to know what’s going on, and they will learn about recent events in history books. I can’t imagine having teenagers right now who can find their own information and form their own opinions. Not that I don’t want my kids to seek out knowledge and come to their own opinions independently, but I want that process to be part of their education. Not something they are taught.

I believe there is a difference between being taught something and getting an education. Watching the siege of the Capital, I saw a lot of people who were taught a lot of things. Hate is taught. Fear is taught. Though it may seem like an oxymoron, ignorance is taught. For ignorance is not that absence of information, it is the absence of knowledge. The absence of education.

Years from now when my kids hear about this time in history, I want them educated on what happened. I want them to understand the facts. I want them to understand how government – and by that I mean the actual act of governing, not politics – works in the experiment of democracy that is America. I don’t want them taught to believe, I want them educated to know.

Watching the worst America has to offer storm the Capital, I was struck by the thought that these people actually believe in what they are doing and think they are doing the right thing. I used to get mad at these people. I’d get mad when I saw them rally around their perceived “rights”. I’d get mad when something they spewed would show up on my Facebook feed. I got made that they were making things worse for everybody. Then, as kismet would have it, I read something earlier this week that couldn’t be more appropriate.

If others are doing right, you have no call to feel sore; if wrong, it is not willful, but comes of ignorance.

Marcus Aurelius

The hate, the fear, the gullibility, the misinformed beliefs that have pushed people to the lunatic fringe and caused them to do wrong, is not willful. Nobody hates on purpose. They are taught to. Nobody suddenly wakes up one day and decides crazy conspiracy theories are real. They are taught to believe it. Ignorance has been taught, and handed down from generation to generation without any real effort at all. Teaching your kids stuff is easy – show them a few times and they’ve got it. Or even worse, do nothing and just see what they absorb. Educating your kids takes work. Unfortunately not every parent is up for the job.

Right now my kids are little, and they don’t have an ounce of hate in their bodies (feelings about naps excluded.) They truly don’t know why anybody would be treated differently because they are a man, woman, white, black, gay, straight, or anything else. They watch Pocahontas and don’t understand why people are mean to Native Americans, or even why people are scared of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. We thought showing them the Sesame Street special on racism would be a good thing to expose them to help educate them, and they could not have been less interested. They didn’t get it. It made no sense to them why they were talking about black people and white people and not just singing about shapes and numbers. The haven’t been taught that anybody is any different. I hope they never do. I will try my best to educate them better than that.

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