Saturday, October 15, 2016

On the Homefront: Nature vs Nurture

After a week off, I've returned with a piece of writing that deals with the debate many of us learned about in high school or college. That is, are people born a certain way, or are they taught to be a certain way?
Before you get excited, thinking I'm going to be talking about ongoing political talking points like whether a man can be with a man or a woman a woman, I'll stop you. This is not that type of column. Frankly, who people choose to associate with in their private time is none of my business.

However, given what was said to one of my children in the past 10 days, I will add this caveat: children have no choice in the matter, and while they are exposed to more and more nonsense on TV and in the movies nowadays, it is up to us as parents to teach them right from wrong.
That is something I have always believed. Then again, it was something I was taught.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, let's just say that something was said to one of my kids on the bus ride to school. In the grand scheme of things, while what happened was bad, it was not close to national news outlet-level severity. But it happened, and that's why I spoke up to the proper people.
After following up, I learned that to the credit of the people who work in the Medina School District, the incident was addressed without any further fallout. This is a good thing.
In this modern era of offensive language, it would be easy to blame political candidates who don't think about the children. I say that is rubbish because by the time most (not all) youngsters are interested in anything political, they should know right from wrong.
As parents in today's world, we are forced to walk a fine line with regards to what we can and cannot say. If we slip and say something we shouldn't the response more often than not is hope. Hope that our kids either didn't hear us or weren't paying attention. Of course, if one of them decides to repeat certain four-letter words at inopportune times, we chuckle outwardly while getting inwardly furious with ourselves. They got it from us after all.
Unfortunately, the incident that spurred the premise of this piece was not about someone swearing. It was about someone suggesting the world would be better if certain types of people still had immense power. (Please note the sweeping generalization here is being used to make a point for the purpose of this column. As stated earlier, that is by design as getting too detailed here would be counterproductive.)
As we are witnessing in this presidential election, words carry weight. As we have witnessed over the past decade or more, certain words have become "hate speech" and can lead to significant consequences.
I am not delusional enough to think that we will ever witness a utopian society where such words are never used. If I'm being honest, if the words in question had been hurled my way as early as 20 years ago, I would have laughed them off and tried to think of a shrewd comeback. But I was also in high school at that time and would like to believe that looking back, I knew how to diffuse certain situations. Times were different, though.
The issue here is that it deals with people right along that edge of knowing better vs. not knowing better.
I feel that I did my duty as a parent by reporting the incident, despite the fact many would call it tame by comparison to many other possibilities. I feel the school did its part by using the incident as a teaching tool. And I hope that it's the last time I have to visit an administrator in the district for an issue like this.
Although, that is really up to the parents. We need to take stock of what our kids are watching and listening to, and yes I know I sound like someone from the mid-90s complaining about insert-hardcore-rap-group-or-TV-show-here, but being a parent is a responsibility that is passed down from generation to generation. We need to make sure that whatever is going on in our world, our children are taught how to be good people.
Here's hoping.

Howard Balaban is a stay-at-home dad with three children. These are his adventures.