Early Bloomers

In England they start kids off on an activist career very young, it seems.

mtree2By the summer of 2007, my oldest was a six year old tree hugger, as evidenced by this picture. After only half a year at her English primary school, she was regularly lecturing us that driving is bad for the environment (even though we hardly ever drive — we take public transportation to drop her off and pick her up from school).

Occasionally my wife has been known to do the unthinkable for this young activist: she shows up in the car to pick her up from school if it is pouring rain at the time school is ending. The truth is, most of the time she goes on the bus with our two year old to pick up the older girls from school, even when it’s raining. But every once in a while, it just works better to pick her up in the car. On one such occasion, I am told that our little activist disappeared up into her room that afternoon and emerged with this stern reminder for what she apparently considers to be her oafish parents:

I am proud that my daughter is so interested in this, particularly since I am on board with the impulse to drive less. My sense is that Mormons ought to be acutely aware of proper stewardship of and responsibility for the cleanliness and general health and well being of the planet (we need look no further than the Doctrine and Covenants to find encouragement in this regard). Pollution of our environment, whether of the air, land, or water, or the derivative endangerment or extinction of species should concern us greatly and be condemned roundly as very bad things in themselves (i.e., outside of a political context).

At the same time, however, I wonder whether political lessons are appropriate for the very young. As we all know, kids’ minds at this age are very impressionable. In this case, the fact that my daughter has been turned into something of a mini-activist by her school lessons isn’t a big deal because care for the environment is an issue I happen to agree with. (Of course, it appears from the way that my daughter is expressing her concern for the environment that it might be the politicized face of the issue of a clean environment that is being taught at my daughter’s school, which I think is too bad.) The risk, of course, is that at some point the kids might come home as activists for causes that you find morally reprehensible. I would imagine at that point that it transitions from being cute to distressing.

This is all the more reason to make sure that the home is a refuge from the world and a place where values and priorities are discussed openly and early. Perhaps a good start is to teach kids early on to recognize the use of important issues for political means and distinguish that from the issues themselves. Hopefully, we all want our children to be able to decide their own politics for themselves based on issues. A home focused on values and priorities can be a rich foundation for a child’s own exploration of political issues as he or she grows up and begins to become aware of how those issues are used — and whether such uses are effective, divisive, disingenuous or sincere, etc.

7 Responses to Early Bloomers

  1. Ronan says:

    Is it “political activism” to teach children about global warming? I can see why some Americans might think so, but in the UK, global warming is now taken for granted by all sane people and is not seen as some edgy, tree-hugging, liberal, peacenikish cause célèbre. From what I know of primary school teaching, I doubt they have taped their eyes open and flashed messages of impending doom to their kids, nor brainwashed them into slashing the tyres of their parents’ cars.

    Here’s what’s happened: they’ve done a few weeks on the environment and someone has suggested that we should drive less among other things. For 99% of these kids, this is all rather meaningless and they’ve gone home to watch movies and play on their Wiis.

    You, on the other hand, have yourself an activist child, not because of the Primary school, but because of M’s native intelligence and sensitivity. J and W would never have written this (and they hear the same things at school).

    I am delighted for you, John old chap. What a remarkable daughter!

  2. Peter LLC says:

    Your daughter’s finger-wagging reminded me of Orwell’s essay “Why I Write” in which he says of his motivations: “Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”

    I say the earlier one figures out what levers to throw to effect the change one desires the better.

  3. john f. says:

    Well, she does a great job of it! She’s also fired up about recycling, the food pyramid (yesterday she admonished me to drink 8 glasses of water a day — imagine that, I’d never get any work done with all the bathroom breaks), and other various and sundry worthwhile causes.

  4. Bookslinger says:

    Sorry Ronan, the consensus among scientists does not exist to support man-made global warming. The consensus is among politicians and people in the media. What John’s daughter is being taught in this regard is manipulated propaganda, not scientific fact.

    The backlash against the global-warming hysteria has only begun. The “world is ending” alarmists have been caught lying for years now, and only recently are those lies starting to be exposed in parts of the media. Cycles of global warming and cooling have been documented for centuries. Cycles of solar radiation have been demonstrated to have far more impact. Ozone levels cycle annually. One volcano eruption puts more ozone destroying chlorine in the upper atmosphere than 500 years worth of man-produced chloroflourocarbons. When CO2 levels increase, nature responds by using that carbon for more plant growth. What mankind does to global climate is merely a fart in a hurricane.

    Sure, we should be good stewards. Sure, we should not pollute our nest or “spaceship earth”. Sure, driving less is a good idea in order to conserve resources, and save money. But burning hydrocarbons in our cars and factories and heating out homes is not causing global warming.

  5. Jenna says:

    You’re definitely right on about making the home the sacred haven that it should be. These kids are going to be bombarded by all sorts of things out in the schools, even out in the world, and we need to keep our homes very gospel-centered to counter what they will be exposed to (I’m thinking way more general than just global warming here–I’ve had to discuss abortion with Westley already because he heard the word from some older kids on the bus and asked about it!).

  6. Patrick says:

    Sorry Ronan, the consensus among scientists does not exist to support man-made global warming. The consensus is among politicians and people in the media. What John’s daughter is being taught in this regard is manipulated propaganda, not scientific fact.

    Glen Beck, is that you?

  7. Tom D says:

    I agree with Bookslinger, but we can all still be friends. Modern environmentalism seems far more a secular humanist religious creed than science.

    The only good thing I have seen come out of the Globalwarming hysteria is some reevaluation of nuclear power. As I tell my kids, nuclear power is by far the cleanest and most practical form of power generation that I know of as an engineer. As worldwide energy needs increase (and I don’t think that is a bad thing), we will either be burning more coal or splitting more atoms or quite likely both. I’d rather split atoms. I personally doubt that there are any really better alternatives.

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