Back to School, America

You may have heard news of this little speech dealio that occurred yesterday afternoon. Oh you know, nothing major. Just the president of America having a little sit-down with the youth of the nation. A little pep talk, as it were. Do your best and all that jazz. Probably not the first President to ever do so.
However, he may be the first to be greeted with parents pulling their kids out of school for wanton fear that he’d warp their mushy little brains with his left wing agenda.  Really folks, do you so distrust your own parenting that you honestly think that a fifteen minute exposure to someone who’s views you disagree with will destroy their little morals forever and undo years of tireless value-instilling?
Here, take a quick gander. If you want, you can see the whole 15 minute shebang here, but for a brief taste that really speaks volumes about his “agenda”, here’s a brief segment.
I don’t get it guys. I really don’t understand what the problem is. I’m not even talking about this particular speech here. This goes beyond that, to the atmosphere of absolute media hysteria that I feel trembling up from our southern border. This is what you’re worried about?! And this is something that Josh and I have discussed at great length, another clear indication of the difference in our cultures. Why do you panic at the thought of understanding another point of view?
For example, let’s get away from politics for a second, and talk about another frequent point of difference and disagreement. Yeah, let’s do it, let’s talk religion.
Do you know where I learned about Buddhism and Islam? Theism, Antitheism, Agnosticism? In my Roman Catholic high school. Yeah, yeah, I wore the kilt. And they taught us not just the Bible, but provided access to other teachings as well. We learned not just Creation – although it was the obvious favourite – but Evolution. We learned other theories, teachings, and schools of thought. The Quran, the Torah and Talmud, the Bhagavad-Gita. The belief in nothing at all, or perhaps just a ‘maybe’, and even the basis for the belief of some that religion is outright harmful. We learned that you can take the Bible literally but that it’s not going to add up to real life (because, hello! Science!!!) And we learned that you can take moral truths from the scripture instead of basing your perception of reality on every single word. We were never taught that dinosaur bones are the work of the devil.
Let’s talk other issues. I was also taught not just about abstinence, but safe sex, abortion, adoption, sexual health, marriage, and all the sexual orientations under the rainbow. I saw brutal pro-life videos and articulated pro-choice seminars, and had open, frank discussion about the morality involved in either options. Understanding, rather than condemnation, was the name of the game. The girl who was brave enough to come to school while pregnant wore her belly as a badge that she hadn’t succumbed to guilt and fear, and was greeted with support, not shame. The same was true for the girl who decided for another option – publicly, the school had it’s opinion, but in the halls there was comfort, not mudslinging.
Let’s talk politics again. We learned not just about how our country works, but how others work. We learned the basis behind democracy, theocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy. Communism, socialism, facsism, nationalism. If we see a system as inherently good or evil, why? Nobody gets in charge ranting about the terrible things they’re going to do in a few years, so what happens? What did communism hope to accomplish? How did it fail and why? Was Hitler batshit insane from the get-go or did something go horrifically awry? How do global politics come home? What aspects of our own system have the potential for abuse and misuse?
In other words, we learned to think critically about our opinions and others, and it makes me furious that there are those who don’t just allow parroting, but encourage it. Mindless repetition. Yes, I went to a religious school, and the leanings were definitely towards the morality our parents evidently wanted us to learn. But we weren’t sheltered from the rest of the world for fear that it would negate all their teachings.  We were encouraged to learn, to form opinions based on information and analytical thought, not repetitive propaganda. How can you have faith in what you believe, be it politics, religion or otherwise, if you can’t withstand criticism? And how can you criticize others if you don’t know where they’re coming from? How do you cover the ears of your children and then expect them to learn?
This is why I don’t understand the fear, hysteria and sheltering. Not just pulling your kids out of school because they might hear a ‘controversial democrat’, but beyond that. How do you forbid evolution in schools? How do you burn books? How do you take the rules of your particular interpretation of one of so many belief systems and try to rule others with it? How do you think you’re right, just because you’ve insisted so for so long without turning that criticism inwards to see if you really measure up? How do you think any single one of you has all the answers, so much so that you give yourself the permission to rise above other human beings and condemn them? How do you fear other points of view so much?
Ladies and gentlemen, I just don’t get it.


  1. jodie said,

    September 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Go Emerald Go!

    Close-minded, misinformed and ignorant parents make for close-minded, misinformed and ignorant children… Those children, more often than not, will grow into close-minded, misinformed and ignorant adults, whether they’re parents or not. What a vicious cycle…

    They sure do! It breaks my heart to see kids on their parents shoulders at ridiculous rallies with signs like “English was good enough for Jesus!” Um, what?!? Because you know it happens, and you know they grow up bleating the same misinformed slogans. So sad. 😦

  2. September 9, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    […] she said. By Amanda Blog and Kiss This post by Em over at 800miles is pure genius.  I couldn’t have said it better […]

  3. Darryl said,

    September 9, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree!!! The parents who spent their time pulling their kids out of school are the very same parents who wouldn’t teach their children about sex, won’t let the school do it and expect Johnny to develop correctly.

    Like you, I learned the benefits of informed discourse, evolution, creationism, tolerance, research, religious exploration and all those aspects of a “well-rounded education” through my Roman Catholic K-8 Elementary School education. Many of my life lessons I learned from the Nuns and Franciscan Friars that have stood me in good stead till this day. And as a non-Catholic attending this school, I learned my own Religion, Southern Baptists, were not tolerant of the Roman Catholics.

    These are also the folks who would ban nativity scenes, menorah, sculptures of the ten commandments or other icons of religion from being on courthouse, schoolhouse, firehouse or any other public building courtyard. It is beginning to be a sad day. My Nuns and Friars warned us 35 years ago about this.

    So glad I’m not the only one who found their ‘religious’ upbringing to be surprisingly informative and tolerant! Josh had expressed some concern at first when I suggested we send our kids through the Roman Catholic system, because he was picturing strict nuns and no freedoms. I had to explain that the schools are generally not equipped with nuns these days, but it’s good to know that even if it were, there’s still tolerance and broad knowledge to be found. Especially interesting coming from a Southern Baptist! I’m glad you found it beneficial, that makes me feel better if we have to start our family in the south before moving back up here, bringing them from one culture to another.

  4. Josh said,

    September 9, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Yeah, the hysteria in my country seems to have really been cranked up to 11 since the campaigning for the last election started. Every day I turn around and hear another crazy story of people wigging out in “town hall” meetings, or freaking out over death panels, or pulling their kids out of school so they won’t hear a talk from the president. I don’t get it either. I really like the fact that Obama took time to sit down and actually talk straight to kids. When I was a kid none of the presidents gave a shit about young people, we weren’t old enough to vote so therefore we didn’t matter. Even if I was a hard core conservative, and fundamentally disagreed with everything Obama ever said or did, I would still want my kids to hear what he had to say in a press conference specifically for them.

    The simple fact is that whether you love him or hate him, Obama is the freaking leader of America, and what he says and does is very, very important to everyone on earth, and especially those of us living in the USA. The decisions he makes have the potential to literally affect every single human being alive, and some that aren’t alive yet. That alone is a good reason that everyone should stop and listen to him when he wants to talk. Everybody, and I’m talking to you Republicans, needs to calm the fuck down and take a deep breath. No matter what you may have been told by Fox News, the sky is NOT falling. Your kids won’t turn into gay, hippie leftists if they hear a speech. Green technology isn’t out to get you, in fact quite the opposite. And Obama is not trying to kill your grandma, so please, for the love of everything good in this world, calm down, sit down, and shut up.

    I feel exactly the same way, and I’ll never understand the mentality of those town hall meetings. Did you ever see a documentary on “Canadaville”? It was an attempt by a Canadian autogiant to build a community on the edge of a small southern town and populate it with people whose homes had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. And they were met with all kinds of horrible racism, not just against blacks, but against Canadians as well. There were so many people, good honest normal people from the town who were saying “there was plenty of crime here before, what’s our mayor talking about blaming it on these newcomers? It’s highschool kids, just like any town.” But they couldn’t be heard over the shouting of this pompous self-righteous ass. And that seems to be the way – whoever yells louder or is more stubborn at a town hall meeting gets to do things their way. It’s not an indication of democracy, it’s an indication of mob justice and the ability of a single human to wear others down with his misinformation and bible thumping. As if plugging your ears and taking your kids out of school will just make the world agree with you. By the end of the show, I was bawling my eyes out.

  5. birdpress said,

    September 9, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Wow, you were lucky! I wish I had learned that kind of stuff in school. I had a lot of teachers who used the classroom to sort of mold kids around their own opinions. Fortunately I also had a mother who encouraged me to think for myself.

    That’s what worries me, that teachers throw their own opinions on kids instead of just giving them a library card and the ability to read for themselves, you know? Even these days it’s just point-and-click on the internet, but we should at least limit ourselves to teaching kids how to recognize legitimate sources from opinion, and then walk away to form their own opinions instead of limiting what they’re allowed to see.

  6. David said,

    September 10, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Brilliant post Emerald, truly. And brilliant comment Josh. It’s so sad to see the polarization that still grows here in the USA between so-called liberals and conservatives. So-called because the conservative agenda conserves nothing and the liberal agenda liberates nothing. It’s still inspiring to see how the president deftly walks this tightrope. Still hopeful that somehow we can come together in thoughtful discussion, rather than in devastating tragedy (9/11), let’s appeal to our better angels in the spirit of the principles upon which the USA was founded. We have come so far and learned so much at such great cost. If we cannot do it, then who will?

    This is something Josh and I stay up pondering. Because it’s not a matter of which side is right, it’s a matter of how one side who got say 56 million votes can then turn around and completely naysay the viewpoint of a party that got 42 million votes. That’s still millions and millions of people!!! The partisan system is beyond me. We’re by no means perfect up here in Canada, but at least more than one party is represented in the House, especially with a minority government. I don’t want the left-wingers to be totally in charge, but I sure do like when they have enough votes that they can speak up in debates and make people explain their actions. Far more in the way of accountability, I find.

  7. sfauthor said,

    September 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?

    Thank you for the link, I’ll be sure to check it out. Actually, the version I have was given to me by an old man in a picture frame store. He had stacks of books lying around, and when he saw me reading through them, he considered it his duty to give me a copy and make sure that I would read it instead of just letting it sit on a shelf. That is, by far, the best example I have seen of how to share religious insight. Not by asking for money at two am or condemning me with stones because you don’t agree with me, but by freely and openly giving me your side of the story. I was so moved, and I still have the copy on my shelf.

  8. duffboy said,

    September 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    And this is where the fellow U.S. citizen provides many arguments for people around the world who just won’t understand them. I sure as hell don’t understand them, and I live in a country much more in fear of other points of view, than the US.

    Trust me, I don’t understand it either. But at least I’ve been able to break my own stigmas of believing that every American speaks FoxNews, when really there are just as many people going WTF?!? as there are up here.

  9. Will said,

    September 11, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Truley wonderfully well said!

    Hey, you’re friends with Amanda too? What a small world we live in. America-Canada-Amsterdam.

    Americanadam! Now there’s some cross culture, love it! 😉

  10. joanharvest said,

    September 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    YES, you have taken the words right out of my typing finger.
    I always exposed my kids to lots of different schools of thought whether I ageed with them or not. I hope to do the same with Lilah. I didn’t vote for Obama but I ceretainly would want my kids to know what our government is doing so they can form their own opinions.

    Hopefully while Lilah is watching CNN and FOX news I can get back to blogging.

    See, now that is an excellent viewpoint. If you didn’t vote for him, fine. Who am I to tell you who to vote for, I’m not even American! But you at least recognize that people (kids especially) have the right to listen to everything out there and form opinions on their own.

  11. Andrea said,

    September 13, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Wow, great post! Found you from Amanda Blog & Kiss…think I’ll RSS your blog now, (love your writing style). 🙂

    The only thing I can say is that this sort of thing has been going on for a long time and I’m not sure if that point of view will work its way out of society in our lifetime. One can only hope….And with bloggers like you, maybe we’ll see some sanity sometime soon!

    It does feel like it’s been going on forever. I keep crossing my fingers that maybe one day people will go “oh wait a minute…that doesn’t work…” But will they ever? Who knows!

  12. Romi said,

    September 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Well said Em! Sometimes it’s shocking to think that it’s 2009 and we still have to grapple with a topic like this…seriously!!!

    It is. One of these days I’m going to give myself a concussion bashing my head against the wall…

  13. IdeaJump! said,

    September 16, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    APPLAUSE! yes to what David says, too.

    Thank you, and I applaud him too, as well as pretty much everyone who commented here. Actually, I’m quite surprised at the lack of snarky comments, it seems not a single reader disagreed with me enough to say so. Guess that means I’m right, huh? 😉

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