I’ve heard it said by experts that it is harder to raise children today than it was for our parents. One of the reasons for this is the mass media. In our parent’s day, the mass media could only get as close to children as the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Today it is right inside a child’s bedroom and often with the door closed.
As a husband and father of six, I struggle (as I’m sure you do) with the everyday challenges of being the parent I want to be. Right now my greatest struggle is finding the time to teach my children the wisdom they will need to successfully navigate a world that looks so different from the world in which I grew up. The other struggle I am having is discerning the wisdom they need to learn.
In the past, parents could shut out unwanted advances on a child’s character by turning off the television and replacing it with conversations about their own core values e.g. character, hard work, honesty, integrity, excellence, etc. Indeed, it was during one of those conversations with my mother when she taught me I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it by never giving up. When I left the room at the end of that conversation, however, I did not fall under the Minecraft spell of creepers and skeletons or the lure of the worldwide Internet.
Instead, I think that was the day I took my Dad’s brand new golf ball—with his name on it—and tried to hit it over my neighbor’s house with a wooden baseball bat. In the end, I might have been better off with the creepers and the skeletons. I launched the golf ball with such ease that it should have cleared the roof easily. In the end, I got my first lesson in physics.
The ball curved downward with other worldly precision. It struck the five-by-five picture window dead center. After a brief pause to admire the incredible unlikelihood of nailing a window so precisely in the center … I ran. If I’m ever President of the United States the story will sound something like this, “I cannot tell a lie. I broke the neighbor’s window.” I’m hoping historians will leave out my Dad’s response of, “It was never in doubt Dave. Our name was on the ball.” In the end, once I came out of hiding my parents asked me if I had done it and I told them I did. My parents taught me lessons in life. One of them was the importance of telling the truth. I learned that telling a lie was wrong but more importantly I’m the one who actually suffers when I do. I learned that lying was spiritually corrosive.
My parents found the time to teach my brothers and I about character. After that, the only issue they had to worry about was the level of self-control I demonstrated as I navigated through the world. This is as opposed to worrying about the world navigating through me. Growing up, my television only had 5 channels. Today, basic cable television has 71 channels. Three-year-old children use iPads, iPods, and iPhones. If parents do not communicate their own messages to their children, the world will. To sum it up, the real difference between past and present is the omnipresence of today’s mass media. The mailbox can now be found in the hands of a three year old.
As parents and educators we are all responsible for helping students navigate successfully in the world. For that reason, Greenvale Park is implementing the Core Essentials Character Education Program. Each month we introduce a new character trait at our monthly building-wide meeting. We will teach the following traits this year: Respect, Individuality, Cooperation, Compassion, Determination, Peace, Honesty, Friendship, and Peace.
John Dewey said that the purpose of public education is to train children to be successful citizens. The social aspect of functioning in the work place is as important as the particular skill sets unique to each work place. Schools can help by taking time to focus on social curriculum. As well they should.