A couple of days ago I had a chat with a younger relative. I don’t recall exactly how it came up, but I told him that it’s important to talk to and listen to people who you don’t think you agree with. He looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Thankfully, he then asked “Why??” which allowed me to explain. I’m not sure how much he took in what I said – teenagers aren’t known for having long attention spans – but at least he allowed me to make my case. So I’m hopeful that he will mull it over again, and see for himself the value of being open-minded in the future.
Alas, I have far less hope for the people of my generation or any before it. It seems that we Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are far more apt to just put our heads in the sand when presented with any information that doesn’t fit into our preferred world view. Currently Millenials and Gen Zers are known for being more open to all kinds of things, But that openness, kindness, and understanding that being different is OK is something that, unfortunately, be taught out of them.
Whether we know it or not, yes, the kids are watching. And not being a parent doesn’t get you off the hook in this case. Almost all of will, at some point, interact with adults in the presence of children. They might be your neighbor’s kids or your coworker’s kids or members of your own family. As much as some of us try to avoid them, children are truly everywhere.
An awful lot of time and money is being spent in schools today to stop bullying. And that’s great. But how well can we expect these programs to work if once they are out of the classroom kids see the adults in their lives bullying and belittling others over their political views, their religion, or even their skin color? Answer: They won’t.
Before you post that next nasty, emotionally charged meme on social think about who will see it. Many social media sites- including Facebook- allow accounts for kids as young as 13, and many parents allow kids even younger than that to have their own accounts. Before you go off on a tirade about some idiot politician think about who might hear it.
I’m certainly not advocating against free speech. But disagreeing without being disagreeable is a lost art. If we as adults can’t treat everyone the same and be nice to everyone how can we possibly expect the kids to do it any better?