Content warning: this article discusses murder, racism and antisemitism.
Our country is shaken up today and trying to find answers, one day after the horrifying shooting at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC by a racist, anti-semitic extremist, killing an innocent security guard named Stephen Johns, and it happened not two weeks after another crazy extremist gunned down Kansas abortion provider George Tiller.
Naturally, we have everyone talking about the problems in our society with bigotry and hate crimes, with the fear of more domestic terrorism from crazy extremists. With it comes another question. How do these people get so hateful?
While I of course do not have a definite answer on that, there is a rather large portion of the population that can very easily be made to learn only hate and denied any access to information contrary to the hate. Those people are children and teens.
Because “everyone knows” that it is a parent’s job to instill values into their children, that parents have a “right” to raise their children however they see fit, it is believed that parents have the “right” to decide what information and media their children receive. It’s a common fall-back our free speech allies use against video game restrictions and library censorship, that it should be the parents and not the government or any other non-parent entity who decides what children read, play, etc. In that particular no-win this-or-that, whether parents or the government should be deciding what kids should be reading or playing, obviously the parents is the option to go with, but it’s really annoying that to so many these are the only two options, completely ignoring the rather important third option of “neither”, that the kids themselves should be the only ones to make that decision.
But I digress. While many would be on board with parents having the right to shield their children from sexual material or things like that, they often forget the very dangerous aspects of leaving parents so much control over what information their children receive. These aspects consist of just what kind of “values” it is these parents have, when these values are along the lines of asserting the “superiority” of white Christians, and when the “evil” information they mean to shield their children from would be anything that expresses the belief that black people and Jews and others are not inferior. And when the children are taught only this, made simpler for parents who choose to homeschool so they aren’t exposed to differing ideas there, they grow up with that has their own deeply ingrained belief (there are of course exceptions, but it’s probably safe to say that most people, at least deep down, share their parents’ feelings on most things, no matter how illogical or wrong). All because, God forbid, anything gets in the way of parents’ “right” to raise and control their children as they see fit, in any way they see fit.
Oh, it happens. For one, there’s Prussian Blue, the teen Neo-Nazi twin sisters who sing bigoted songs, after having been raised and homeschooled by neo-Nazi parents who “protected” them from anything contrary to that doctrine. As such, the girls learned only that and with such pride that they’ve launched a musical career based on spreading such beliefs.
So what’s the solution to that? I’m not suggesting that parents should be stopped from teaching their children things, even things most people would find reprehensible, or that they and their children don’t have the right to express themselves. But I am very much suggesting, or rather insisting, that children and teens should have complete rights to information, including and especially information counter to what their parents try to brainwash into them. This way, they’d see there are other options and that their parents just might be wrong. That’s a realization that’s much better to reach as a child than during adulthood because the longer you must wait, the harder it’ll be to shake your parents’ bigoted views.
For this reason, we should be decrying parental control devices for video games and internet access, as well as other measures that enable parental interference in children’s learning. Allowing even the youngest children to access a variety of information could make the difference between that young person being a happy open-minded friend to all sorts of people or the next crazy jerk to open fire at a genocide memorial.
Children and teens are not just extensions of their parents, but are separate people entirely and should be respected as such. This must be remembered next time you think about how much you want to stamp out bigotry, how you should also stamp out the idea of youth being family property, because if that family happens to be the bigots you’re against, by protecting the parents’ “right” to force their hateful beliefs and only their hateful beliefs on their children by controlling their children’s information exposure, you’re only ensuring that bigotry will live on well through at least one more generation.