Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Say No

Westboro Video Controversy, part II

Well, it looks as though the local controversy surrounding a teacher who showed an objectionable Eminem video to her seventh-grade class is now over.

However, in reality, this issue is far from over. It continues to jeopardize our youth and our adults of all ages. (See previous post)

What particularly concerns me is the reaction of numerous local parents with whom I have discussed the matter.

One highly intelligent father remarked that he believes some (read: his) kids are mature enough to view anything and not be negatively influenced. Yet in the same sentence, he was infuriated that a teacher dare show such material to his or anyone's children. In his mind, an adult who shows such obscene images to children might well be a predator seeking to cause them harm.

I countered: "And what about the possibility that by simply viewing the video at home they might be causing themselves harm?"

While the dad agreed that not all material out there might be beneficial for children to watch, he emphatically maintained that "mature" kids must be granted the freedom to explore the world on their own. "Preventing their exposure to such videos," he asserted, "might be more damaging to their souls than their viewing of the video itself."

(Parenthetically, it is important to note that the teacher showed the video to students, some of whom had presumably viewed before, without audio. She merely played it in order to point out the unhealthy image of women in today's society. While I agree with the outraged parents that it was inappropriate to show in school, the irony can not be overstated. On one hand, many of these parents are allowing their teens to watch anything they wish, without any supervision or parental guidance. But when an experienced teacher attempts to point out the dangerous attitudes advocated by these videos, the parents are up in arms! If parent mustn't restrict freedom, lest he or she be viewed as too judgmental or controlling, and teachers are forbidden to discuss such issues, who will then teach the children how to discriminate between right and wrong?)

Here is a humorous episode I heard recently that sheds brilliant light on this issue:

A Chabadnik woman was shopping in the supermarket one day when she heard something most peculiar. A young African American child asked his mother, "Hey Mom, are these cookies kosher?" The mom replied no, and her son put the cookies back on the shelf.

The curious onlooker approached the mother, who did not seem to fit the stereotype of your average kosher consumer.

"Excuse me, m'am," she said, "are you Jewish?"

"No," replied the mom.

"Just curious, then, why do you keep kosher?"

"Oh, I don't really keep kosher," answered the woman. "I just borrowed the term."

She proceeded to relate the following:

"For years, my kids have been harassing me at the supermarket that they want this snack, that candy bar, etc. I had a hard time saying no, as the kids would just carry on and whine. One day while shopping, I overheard a most unusual exchange between an Orthodox Jewish mother and her own kids. It was at the check-out line where all the sweets are enticingly on display.

"'Could we get that, Mommie?' her kids asked.

"'Nope, we can't get it. It's not kosher.'

"The kids quietly accepted her response, and the conversation ended there. I was so impressed, I asked the Jewish mother how she was able to raise such obedient kids. My kids would have begun pleading and pouting. The woman explained that it wasn't about obedience, but simply the knowledge that the food wasn't kosher. Her kids knew that if it wasn't kosher, they don't eat it. Period.

"I was so jealous. What a brilliant idea, I thought to myself. From then on, I introduced the idea of 'kosher' and 'not kosher' to my own kids, even though we're not Jewish and don't keep kosher. When they want something and I say 'It's not kosher,' they know that they're not getting it and that's it."

If only modern-day parents could understand this simple idea. You owe it to your kids to teach them right from wrong, to inspire them to make the right moral choices in their own lives.

It's not about being too controlling or judgmental. By teaching your kids that some images and lyrics are simply not kosher, not fit for consumption, you are empowering them to make the right choices later in life.

More importantly than teaching them, we as parents ought to teach by example. If it's not kosher for kids or young adults, it's not kosher for adults either.

It doesn't matter if the viewer is mature or immature, whether or not he is firmly rooted in his values or not. If it is not kosher, we don't consume it. It's not up for negotiation.

And we'll be happier and healthier as a result.

Teacher your kids to "just say no."

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