Monday, August 28, 2006

The majority should rule sometimes

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

The fundamental principle of socialization is: Teach the young what you want them to believe and how you want them to live when they are adults.

There is no room for debate about this. It's how life is in every society, every culture, within every religion on earth. It's even the same among animals. Teach the young.

Nietzsche advises against corrupting the young. This only makes sense because no society wants corrupt adults. No culture can succeed where corruption prevails.

Now we must take Nietsche to the finest point, whether to hold those who think alike in higher regard than those who think differently. Here is where the advice breaks down because the quotation was taken out of context.

When teaching children the mores and the standards of behaviour of the society in which they live, the ways of the majority must take precedence. A society would facture irrevocably if parents did otherwise.

However, when it comes to matters of judgment, of choice, to some extent even of morality and politics, we need to teach children to listen to all parties who have an opinion.

In western cultures, for example, children are bombarded daily with examples of violence and sex on television, in movies and in video games. If the children have no countervailing voice--their parents--to teach differently, they will grow to believe that adults treat each other, sexually, the way people do in their games and other forms of entertainment. The weight of sheer numbers of experiences will influence them, at least some of them.

Is that what we want?

Some parents believe that their children will learn about such matters as sex and personal relationships on their own or by watching their parents. A divorce rate of around 50 percent, a rapidly rising number of couples that do not marry because they believe that a relationship will not last forever and incidents of abuse within marriages soon tell us that children do not pick up these important matters correctly by absorbing them from their environment.

Their environment is violent and sexual, at least compared to that of their parents. More and more people are living out the plots of movies and television programs they have seen. Not by intention, but because they didn't have strong enough role models and parental guides to tell them differently.

The need is not to put an end to violence and sex in entertainment, but to strengthen the parenting skills of young adults so that they know what they must do to teach their children fully and properly. Studies show that most teens (88%), for example, consider their parents the greatest influences in their lives. (That study was done in 2001, in Canada, but the numbers are similar elsewhere.)

Kids need to know the boundaries of everything in which they come in contact. Those boundaries will be taught by parents or by entertainment media.

There may be an important role for entertainment media to play in the lives of our children. We need to ensure that the role that their parents play is stronger and more influential.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to establish parenting courses for young adults before they have babies to raise.
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