by Jan Greenhawk, Editor/Easton Gazette
In my career as a teacher and a coach, I have met and worked with thousands of young people. I have learned so much about children and from them. Some of them are adults now, and I am amazed how wonderful they are. It brings to mind the first part of an Ayn Rand quote, “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” This certainly applies to children.
A child is not a race, an ethnicity, a religion, a sexual orientation or a country of origin.
A child is not a bargaining chip for more funding or a pay raise, a data point in test scores, a pawn in a political game of chess, a mind to be manipulated, a symbol, a social agenda, a way to promote ideology of any kind.
A child is not owned by the state, by the schools, by social services, by corporations, political movements, or the government.
A child is a person, an individual with different needs, strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and dreams.
He/she does not need indoctrination, shaming, blaming, to be taught fear, to be made a victim, or to be trained to hate others for characteristics for which they have no control.
A child needs love, challenge, understanding, and to be treated as the individual he/she is, not a stereotyped member of a group. He/she needs hope and encouragement and the right to fail as part of learning, to be told he/she can overcome obstacles with hard work and desire, to feel the satisfaction of achieving to the best of his/her ability, of making his/her way in the world.
He/she needs to learn to love others, to accept them, to appreciate them regardless of race, gender, country of origin, disability, religion and any other differences between them. He/she needs to understand that equality is not evil, that it means we all have a chance to succeed even if we don’t get to the same outcomes at the same time. He/she needs to learn to love liberty for all, freedom of speech, of religion, and all the rights of the U.S. Constitution.
A child needs to learn that people and countries make mistakes and that what they do to correct those mistakes is what matters and that people of all races and beliefs have died to correct the mistakes of this country. Our country has done so much good. Our history doesn’t need to be glossed over, but it shouldn’t be distorted into some horrific tale where all is bad and unforgivable.
A child needs to know there are boundaries and that not everyone should be trusted or emulated. He/she needs to know that there are people who do horrible things and that he/she needs to listen to that inner voice that warns him when they are near. He/she needs to know the difference between the heroic and the merely rich and/or famous. A child needs to know how to choose role models wisely.
He/she needs to learn that there will always be some people who judge and hate others based on surface characteristics and that he/she will meet them during his/her lifetime. They might call him/her names, try to hurt him, but that there are people; good, caring people who will stand by his/her side to fight in times of hardship.
He/she needs to learn about the people who came before who fought for our freedom, our rights, our country.
It is up to US the ADULTS, the parents, the families, the teachers, the administrators, the Board members, even the politicians to put aside OUR differences to work together to teach them that they are strong, capable, smart, and creative enough to make their lives and this world a better place.
A child deserves loving parents. Not perfect parents, but parents who do the best they can to raise and protect their child. Parents who would go to the ends of the earth for that child, parents who will love them enough to do the right thing for their child, even when it is hard.
And those parents need a say in giving their child all the things they need in life. They need to speak for the smallest minority.