Friday, November 28, 2008

Indecent Exposure

You are never going to hear me advocate forced censorship or book burning. I never have, never will. I leave that to the ultra-liberals who want to support things like the deceptively named and unfair "Fairness Doctrine", a blatant attempt by liberal ideologues to shut down or drastically reduce conservative talk radio. True conservatives would never go down that road. We believe in a free exchange of ideas, as long as it is done with responsibility. Liberals just want to shut up the opposition. The debate on the radio issue will be covered here another day. Today it just sets the stage for discussing what is appropriate for our kids to see, and where, when, and how they should be exposed to certain language, images, and ideas. I truly believe that each of these decisions not only should be made within the sanctity of each home, but also surrender to the fact that this will be the case no matter what type of restrictive legislation anyone attempts to place on media. If you are a practicing Christian who home schools their child, there are certain things that you are going to teach that child, and certain things that you are going to severely restrict. Just the same, if you are an ethnic or racial minority, there is programming and music that you are going to expose your child to that teaches them an appreciation of their culture, sometimes to the neglect of teaching them responsibility and affection for their larger American culture. If you are an Aryan white supremacist, you are going to expose your kids to other ideas, and not only restrict them from multi-cultural experiences, but teach that these are somehow inherently evil. As parents, we hold a great deal of sway over our children's education, no matter what they see and learn at school. If a boy goes to a Catholic school and learns all sorts of good lessons during the day, then comes home at night to a father who drinks excessively and slaps his wife around in front of the kiddies, do you think that days teachings will outweigh those learned at home at night? Just the same, if a girl goes to school where she is taught in a completely secular environment all day, but goes home to a family with strong Christian values, teachings, and practices, she is far less likely to be influenced by secularism. What we expose our kids to at home is extremely important. The television shows and movies that we allow them to watch, the music that we allow them to listen to, the video games that we allow them to play. Every bit of this media input that we allow them to experience will influence the people that they will become. We can write it off ourselves to "it's just entertainment" or "it's just fantasy", but kids don't know the difference in their developing minds and psyches, no matter how smart we may be kidding ourselves into believing that our children have become. Today's media is light years ahead of anything that we grew up experiencing. The production values and artistic representations are realistic to the extreme, and beyond in some cases. But it is not only important what we allow the kids to experience, but also what we allow them to find us experiencing. We can tell them all day long that watching or reading or listening to something is not good for them, but when they later find us enjoying those same items, what lesson will they be learning? Do as I say, not as I do - the gift that just keeps on giving. They will learn hypocrisy, and they will learn to reduce their own standards. We all understand that what is appropriate for a fully grown, matured adult to watch or listen to is not the same for a 6-year old, which is similarly different from a 16-year old. Adults are capable of discerning good and evil, and are even capable of learning from complex story lines that include things such as sexuality and violence when set against a greater lesson in the story line. In exposing ourselves to these more adult-themed inputs, we must always be aware that they are indeed fantasies, and that there is indeed a more important lesson to be learned, so that we are not simply experiencing entertainment, but learning those greater lessons. Today's parents must not only care about what they expose themselves to, but more than at any time in history must be actively involved in the input that kids are receiving from media, at school, and among their friends, and need to be an aggressive filter. The process of learning good and bad, and then ultimately the difference between good and true evil, is a delicate one. When we advance from teaching the kids about what is 'bad' and then ultimately what 'evil' is, we need to be discerning, taking into account their full development as individuals based on age, intellect, and maturity level. The same goes in teaching them the basic biological differences between the sexes, moving on to having 'the Talk' about expressing their individual sexuality, and ultimately to guiding as best you can their practices during adolescence. Parents are far too often guilty of indecent exposure with their kids. I can't say that looking back, I was a paragon of the virtues that I now believe whole-heartedly and express here. Sometimes it takes difficult lessons learned to advance forward. But once you learn a lesson and understand truth, it is irresponsible not to pass those lessons along. As the group Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang, we have to "Teach the Children Well", not just teach them. God bless all parents as they perform that most important role of their lives.

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