“Marcus is learning for the first time that life isn’t really like it is in the movies he watches and books he reads.”
I read these words in an email from a concerned parent whose child had just finished writing a reaction paper to the exploration portion of our Social Justice study. Their child had used the word “degraded” to describe how they felt about all they had learned. I had a really hard time absorbing the meaning of that sentence; granted, I read this during the wee hours of the morning when I was struggling with insomnia and therefore checking my work email.
As a parent, I understand the need to keep our children living in their “child’s world,” that desire to somehow envelop their innocence in our protective love and hope that the cold pricklies of the world will somehow stay forever distant from their warm little bodies. I could relate to that obvious parental drive as I read these words, but what I couldn’t then reconcile was my need as a teacher to provide their well-loved child with the reality of the world.
My students are not infants, or toddlers, or even for much longer considered children. They are entering that no-man’s land we label “young adult,” and what does that mean? What are their responsibilities? Certainly to be good citizens, and to understand how to take care of their fellow man. Can you teach someone how to be all-accepting and open minded, to be a “good person,” without showing them the opposite? Can you teach light without showing darkness?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor do I think there are any real answers to be had. I do balance my lessons of discrimination with stories of successful social justice movements and I was struck by this particular student’s skewed perception and apparent fixation on the negative.
When my five year-old daughter is his age, she’ll have less of a bubble to be popped because I am intentional about honesty; she knows there are people who don’t like other people for no other reason than ignorance. Is that too much for her five year-old brain? Maybe. Does it stop her from blindly hating? My answer is yes.