Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No, No, No!

Our [11-year-old] kid is... sheltered...she doesn't know how horrible the world is. She doesn't know about racism, she doesn't know about gender bias, she doesn't know about... religious wars... the biggest problem in her life is, "I've already seen this My Little Pony." And that's a good thing, because one day she's going to realize how horrible the world is... rather than expose her to all that intolerance and stupidity, we just keep her away from it. She doesn't know that anything like that exists. [My wife's] big fear was that she would see this [poster] and be like, "What does this mean?" And we'd have to explain... and you just don't want to have that discussion yet.

That's from director Kevin Smith, explaining why his wife wouldn't let him put a poster from the Westboro Baptist Church on their living room wall. In the end, his solution was not to have an actual mature conversation with his almost-Middle-Schooler, but to hide the poster in the hallway and avoid discussing it until it actually fell over.

And excuse me for being intolerant, but I think that's absolutely ridiculous. First of all, your child is eleven, not stupid. Unless she's been home-schooled, kept in a media vacuum and lives in a giant tupperware made of frosted glass, I think she's probably noticed that not everyone in the world has a famous director father and lives in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills that was previously owned by Ben Affleck. Does she go to the grocery store? Has she ever visited one of your sets? Does she have eyes? Give your kid some credit, please.

Second, kids can handle much more than adults-- particularly their parents-- usually give them credit for. Many topics in this world are actually not very complicated, if your kid is used to discussing mature topics and being treated like a vaguely intelligent human being-- one of the key points, being, of course, that you don't condescend to them by assuming that they still like My Little Pony despite being in fifth or sixth grade. I talked to my second graders about the Holocaust, you dope, and they understood it, they handled it, and rather than being traumatized, it made them curious and engaged. They wanted to know why people let terrible things like that happen in the world. It inspired some of them to start reading more about history and social justice in other contexts. And that wasn't an isolated class. I've taught fourth and fifth graders about racism and prejudice and genocide, so don't you dare act like the reason you can't bear to explain homophobia to your kid is because "she's just not ready." You don't want to deal with it, you're uncomfortable with it, and you're taking the easy-- and lazy-- way out. Which does your kid no favors, incidentally.

In the same way that Bill O'Reilly and all the other professional blowhards are out of line when they carp about how gay folks shouldn't hold hands near their families so they don't have to "explain" it to their kids, it's a total copout for Kevin Smith to act like he's somehow noble for not explaining to his daughter how the world works. I'm still waiting for someone to say they won't let their kid ride in a car because they don't want to have to "explain" how its engine works.

It's one thing to try to protect your child. It's another thing to (supposedly) shelter them to the point of stupidity, especially when it's more for your benefit/comfort level than theirs. Grow up, so your kid can, too.

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