Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Newsweek this week has two very interesting items in it (that I have read so far). First, the most detailed and troubling account of the Walker/Spann thing yet. This kid was clearly the rarest of sorts, a deeply impressionable, highly judgemental, kid, lacking utterly in critical thinking skills, who unfortunately had parents who didn't seem to care much about what was happening to him. His life pre-Taliban was utterly devoid of structure, at school or at home, and he fled into the arms of people who could give him the rigid structure and authority he sought. While this is clearly not the only path to religious fundamentalism, it was his. What is also interesting is the "My Turn" segment, written by a young woman at Yale who almost gets it. She remembers and laments some rather egregious events in her schooling, both at Yale and before, where people went to great lengths to avoid passing judgement both about 9/11 and other events and serious topics (she mentions female circumcision and a story of a schoolyard fight as topics that were discussed in this vein). Her final analysis is that SCHOOLS have failed her in not teaching her to distinguish right from wrong. This is the fundamental flaw in her argument. While SCHOOLS clearly have a responsibility to teach children about history, math, english, science, etc., it is PARENTS that MUST teach them right from wrong, and the ability to distinguish the two. This is not a question of two parents working, latchkey kids, etc. No level of work, responsibility, difficulty is enough to justify letting your children down in this way. This doesn't mean that there is only one way to decide what right and wrong are, nor should parents necessarily chose it for the children in the final analysis, but they must teach them how to do it. On the other hand, teachers and schools must allow students to use these skills, not force the students down a party line. In any event, it is finally the PARENTS who must be held responsible for this task.