Keeping conversations moving

With the Clementi case in the news, the shooting at a high school in Ohio, and the latest episode of Glee highlighting how bullying leads to catastrophe, I asked myself what it takes to actually bring positive social change into the lives of kids today.

You see, the adults have no idea how to react to a digitally connected world. I’m sure horrible things happened before MySpace, but I don’t know if they were nearly as viral or long lasting. On top of that, I think kids are just getting meaner. We are, so as not to hurt their feelings, being too nice to our kids. Their reaction is to be mean in return. It’s a bit bizarre and disheartening.

I’m glad that shows like Glee try to take on issues such as coming out of the closet, the lack of arts education in schools, and societal expectations of gender and roles. But I’m just not convinced that a 43-minute episode does enough to keep the conversation moving. We see it; we think to ourselves what a tragedy it represents; and then we move on to the next week’s episode.

Somehow parents need to be empowered to engage their children in difficult conversations. We should start when kids are much younger before they are overburdened with puberty, confused about their own identities, and struggling to make a place for themselves in the world. Young children are much smarter than we give them credit for, and I think challenging them with reading, writing, and arithmetic needs to be supplemented by making them aware of how we are different, and why those differences make us a better society.

I want my children to understand there is poverty, and that a middle class upbringing is not a right. I want my children to understand that there is race, and that because of it we stereotype and do harmful things to one another. I want my children to understand that someone can have two mommies or two daddies, and that that’s okay.

But I want my children to be kids, and to be naive as long as possible. And I think that’s the wall that stops us from having those conversations.

Between now and then, it sure would be nice to find a way to make it happen. I guess it’s one more thing to add to the to-do list.

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