A speaker you strongly oppose is coming to your son’s high school. Do you keep him home?
I wouldn’t dream of it. Depending on that speaker’s views, I might want to talk to my son after the fact, perhaps contribute a rebuttal or two. (“No, the moon landing wasn’t faked, and if there were mind-controlling drugs in our water, I wouldn’t have to nag you to take out the garbage, would I?”) But pre-emptive censorship will only make him wonder just what it is that you don’t want him to know.
– Phil Vettel
On one hand, just showing up can be interpreted as tacit approval. Yet, we all encounter – and have to deal with – people whose views are different from our own. I think I’d send my son to school. But I’d explain calmly and clearly why I disagree with the speaker’s views. I would also encourage him to share with me his impressions of the appearance afterward.
– Bill Daley
There are two issues at hand, said family therapist Carl Pickhardt, author of “Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence: How to Understand, and Even Enjoy, the Rocky Road to Independence” (Jossey-Bass): Whether to protest the speaker and whether to shield your son from the speaker.
“On the one hand, you may want to say to the school, ‘You are providing a forum for the expression of views that are inconsistent with our values, so we will boycott this presentation,’” Pickhardt said. “And to your son, ‘You represent this family, and we don’t want to provide an audience for these views, so we’re keeping you home.’”
On the other hand, trying to shield your child from views you don’t subscribe to – especially in high school – is ill-advised, Pickhardt said.
“Even though prohibition is meant to provide protection, it’s a temporary protection; he’s going to hear the stuff secondhand anyway,” Pickhardt said. “Besides that, prohibition provides no preparation for your kid to operate in a very diverse world with all different kinds of views coming their way.”
Whether you keep him home or not, Pickhardt said, be sure to launch a discussion about the speaker’s viewpoints and why you oppose them.
“We need to be able to share our view about the speaker’s views,” he said. “The job of parents is to inform their kids’ view of the world by adding to their thinking. ‘Let us give you our perspective, and you can factor that into to where you are on this topic.’
“Give your son a way of thinking about the speaker’s views,” Pickhardt said. “And, to a larger extent, help him think about how you respond to and process views that are different from your own.”
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