Sometimes it's the little things that stay with you as much as the big.
Like a few years ago there was a small news item on our local news: it couldn't have been more than five minutes long, and yet I can't quite shake it from my memory.
The story was about a six year old boy who'd been banned from his local school because of his constant disruptive behavior. The act that had finally got him barred was when he had lashed out at and hit a teacher.
And so the news cameras had gone around to the parent's house to interview the parents. There was no sign of a father figure and the mother was sitting in the front of the shot, smoking and clearly wanting to get back to whichever soap opera she had been watching. The six year old kid was sat in the background laughing and playing on his playstation: clearly as happy as Larry that he no longer had to go to school.
The journalist asked the mother, "Why do you think he behaves this way?"
She shrugged, 'It's not my fault if he's evil, is it?'
So there it is: a single, highly depressing moment of Television reminding us that a hell of a lot of parents out there just don't seem to be aware of the impact of their actions on their kids.
It was a comment by Michael of Always Going, Going, Going On Beyond that reminded me again of this news item. He was talking about his own fears that the school his child was going to were not necessarily evaluating his children's progress sufficiently to help them prepare for the world outside and, in a response to a comment, he said "we need a new subject: morals and ethics. They could talk about all the religions and have debates about tricky decisions (e.g., should the government support smoking -- by allowing it to be sold -- while at the same time encouraging us to avoid it). It's clear the many parents are not offering this knowledge to their children."
Children are not born into this world with an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong. They are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge and experience and it is no single factor that defines this, but a series of experiences. Although parents cannot be the sole source of information for a child they can at least be the steady thermometer against which they measure the temperature of how to act. A parent who is unable to distinguish right from wrong is unlikely to teach their child the same.
So perhaps it is time that we involve parents more in the process of their child's education. Perhaps we should teach morals and ethics, not only in school but in classes involving the parents? We as adults are no more born knowing how to be a good parent than we are born knowing how to be a good person. Any person can, providing they can find a willing sexual partner, go out and have kids and raise them pretty much any way they want to. Would interfering with this to enable parents to teach their kids right from wrong lead to complaints of a "nanny state", or is this something that we all need to learn?
For my own part I was recently asked "If you were able to perform a single act and have no consequences: what would you do?"
After some thought I replied that there are always consequences: the main one being that you, as a person, still have to be able to live with your actions, to be able to look yourself in the mirror. I quoted Shakespeare, "to thine own self be true" and thought about the words of Ghandi when he said "Be the change you want to see in the world"
I wonder what the mother of that kid would have said?