It’s Election Day. I voted. I hope everyone else did too. Tomorrow the results will be in the paper and on line. Tonight I stay as far away from the TV as possible. The politics of the media has completely eclipsed the politics of the politicians themselves, and it is to our detriment. As Jon Stewart so aptly put it on Saturday, “If you amplify everything, you hear nothing.” Nothing but insults. When we were kids, we thought election night tremendously boring, and so would turn on Channel 4 and watch Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, which for some reason they always broadcast on election nights. Now I think the election results shows are nothing but useless amplification. And insults.
Funny how we’ve become a culture that loves to insult each other but is terrified to fail. Or to put it perhaps more accurately: we enjoy insulting others, and watching other people fail, (American Idol contestants, politicians, entertainers, fellow classmates) but we are terrified of failure in ourselves or in our children. And it just may be that the same media that looks for a fear topic of the day to amplify out of all reasonable proportion, has something to do with this situation. Of course we buy into their fear-mongering, which makes us complicit in our own demise.
Why do kids in schools tease, bully and otherwise torture kids who don’t conform? Who wear earrings someone finds odd? Who dress differently or speak their mind? Where does this come from? It must be fear based. We tend to ridicule or belittle things we don’t understand. But it is a learned behavior. Where is it being learned? Why do we laugh at the failure of others? American Idol fans relish watching the contestants who can’t sing a lick get up and get reamed by the judges. What fun! And then parents turn around and do everything in their power to keep their own kids from failing. At anything. Only losers fail. Failure is bad, bad, bad! That’s why many kids little leagues nowadays don’t even keep score. There are no losers. Only ‘second-winners’. ??? You can debate the value of competition, or the detriments of emphasizing winning over sportsmanship, but I would say it is also a valuable lesson to learn that if you choose to play a sport and compete, there will be a winner and a loser. That doesn’t make the winner a better person, or more likely to succeed in life. It just means they won the game. What has happened to our sense of balance?
When we switched to unschooling, it was such a relief in many ways, but I also had moments of wondering if I was crazy. Was this really going to work? Over a year later I see the many ways in which it does, and that my kids are not learning any less, just differently. The biggest gift, though, about being removed from the schooling machine (and this goes not only for unschoolers, but most homeschoolers as well) is that my kids don’t enjoy insulting others. They don’t like watching people be mean to each other. Today Maya told me with wide eyes that she’d just read Lexi’s latest blog entry. “Mama, they made fun of what she was wearing!” This is such a foreign concept to my kids. Why would anyone make fun of someone else’s clothes? Or how they look?
Turning off the news helps. Not watching most TV helps. Not being subjected to the Lord of the Flies type social structure in school really helps. The politics of fear and insults remain in the periphery.