Brainwashing comes home

This weekend, I visited my sister-in-law and her three children. The two oldest kids (13 and 11) were in and out of the room with the adults.

At some point, my 11-year-old niece says, “So who are you voting for?” I should mention here that this family is very conservative Christian, so I was reluctant to respond at all – it as a nice family Saturday, and I didn’t feel like a political argument. But then my other sister-in-law answered that she would be voting for Obama. My niece’s jaw dropped. “But he believes in abortion!” And he wants to take ‘In God We Trust’ off the money!”

So we had a brief discussion about the history of “In God We Trust,” which I had written about before. I was actually able to sit back and watch – the SIL who will be voting for Obama pretty much described what I had written (thanks for listening, A!). The conversation stopped when someone came back from picking up lunch and we moved on to sunnier – and less explosive – topics.

But a couple of house later, my nephew (the 13-year-old) came in and asked the same question. All but one of hte five adults in the room (his mother was the one) indicated Obama. He freaked out, citing almost precisely what his sister had, adding that Obama was a Muslim who wanted to ruin America’s Christianity.

His mother asked him who told him that, and he replied, “Mr. Powers.” She said she didn’t want to talk about politics, and told him not to bring it up again. (She wasn’t in the room when my niece asked the question, or she may have stifled discussion then, too).

So here’s the deal. These kids go to a Christian private school. So naturally there’s already a focus on religion there. But I am appalled that this Mr. Powers is uttering such inflammatory political statements in front of kids who are old enough to begin considering their own opinions and ideas, given a full cache of facts. There’s a reason they’re not old enough to vote, but they’re surely old enough to be taught to think critically, not just to spew out what’s been uttered by trusted adults.

This is disturbing. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They have been very happy since they found this church, but she has also become very conservative and – as demonstrated in the interaction Saturday – stifling. She’s not open-minded, and I’m not interested in starting a family feud. But I am gravely worried about these kids. They are not choosing their beliefs, they are mimicking their mom’s. They are not presented with other potential world views. They are given the information needed to keep them “in the fold.”

They’re not my kids; it’s barely my business. But I feel like this is injurous to their mental growth, and they are both extremely bright, with great potential in this world. I want to help them find a way to use that potential for the greater good, not for pushing an ancient and manipulative agenda.

Shady polls

I would love to say that Internet polls are useless dreck. But unfortunately, they’re grim reminders of the saturation of ignorance – willful ignorance – in our society.

I ran across one today on a local news station’s web site. I was disturbed enough by the response options. This is a snapshot of my vote:

So you see my vote? Yes? Here’s the results:

Alright… so there’s only 5 votes. Let’s hope the distribution changes over time. 4 of the 5 people think that, “We have better things to spend our limited classroom time on?” Should we scrap other historic events like Pearl Harbor or the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? Those things precipitated America’s involvement in wars, but apparently there are more important things to discuss. Like intelligent design, maybe?

But that’s not all. The 5th person apparently thinks “[i]t’s too controversial or disturbing for the classroom.”  Is this because of the rampant conspiracy theories? Or is it because we can’t have our children know about death and violence? News flash: history is full of painful, violent things. They aren’t pleasant to learn about, but they often happen as a result of ignorance (hmmm… like a plane crashing into a skyscraper because of close-mindedness to other religions and ideas). We teach history and current events in our classrooms so that history doesn’t repeat itself. So to spare our children from the pain of violence, we perpetuate ignorance so they can experience it firsthand.

Notice anything else? How about the 0.0% next to the other two options. Wait. Remember my vote? Why is it not being counted? I hope it’s not being lumped in with either of the other two. That would be worse that having it just be ignored. But let’s talk about this option – I want to qualify it. I believe 9/11 should be a part of current events taught in classrooms. I don’t necessarily believe it should be a large part. It deserves a place in the textbooks – for better or worse, 9/11 permeated our culture, our ideas and our beliefs. It is a piece of America’s fabric.

Of course the responses to this poll are limited. I am hopeful that there are some people with concern for today’s education that stop by and provide some sensible responses. Or at least that 12 News decides to fix their results-counting code…