Exposure Composure

In the community where I live, there has surprisingly been a huge controversy over students reading Nickel and Dimed in their high school English class. The conservative parents leading this initiative feel that it is teaching students how to cheat on drug tests, that it is anti-Christian, and that it promotes a progressive political agenda.

For my seventh grade Sunday School class, I was given an assignment to write a book report about Mein Kamph. I borrowed the book from my synagogue’s library. While I found the book repulsive and terrifying, it was important for me to have the opportunity to confront and attempt to understand all of history.

I feel very grateful that I was nurtured by adults at my synagogue, many of whom were politically conservative, who believed that I and other children had the capacity to understand complex topics and to distinguish between right and wrong. Being exposed to the full human experience helps us to better understand who we are and our place in the world both individually and as part of a community.

5 thoughts on “Exposure Composure

  1. Diana Frank says:

    I know what you mean. I remember reading Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and “The Octopus” by Frank Norris as well as John Hersey’s “Hiroshima.” I don’t know that any of these books would be acceptable reading today when corporations have been designated as people and drones are killing innocent people all over the world. We are living in a post 1984 age where superficial, manufactured images and sound bites have more weight than reality. Everyone wants to skim, no one wants to dig for the truth. People talk about America being the greatest country in the world, but the connections between what our freedoms really are and who fought and died for them are crossed. School – high school and college especially – is where you should be pondering great truths and encouraging discussion and controversy, but some people want to pretend that ignorance was bliss. They want to go back to a time when rape was a whispered word, women died from illegal abortions, passionate thinkers were blacklisted and lynchings were commonplace. I think of the lyrics to the song, “Paper Mache” by Hal David and Burt Bachrach, “Can we be living in a world made of paper mache?
    Everything is clean and so neat.
    Anything that’s wrong can be just swept away.
    Spray it with cologne and the whole world smells sweet.”
    I also think that thinking is fun. Arguing is fun. Engaging is fun.

  2. jrdreistadt says:

    Thanks for sharing those examples, Diana. Lately I have been thinking that one of the underlying problems with the world (although I usually don’t like to dwell on problems) is that everyone takes themselves and their ideas too seriously. How can we make social change engaging and fun? How can we stay connected to joy and peace when we are immersed in this superficial world? That is something I will be thinking about a lot this year!

  3. Scott Erb says:

    I completely agree. I think some parents want to control their children rather than help them become free thinkers – free thinkers scare them. When I picked up my first grader from school last Friday they had a lock down due to the Connecticut shooting. “Weird,” he said, the doors are locked.”

    “Do you know why?” He said no. Then I told him about the shooting in Connecticut and how they wanted to just make sure the school was safe. We had a good talk about that, and I think I was able to judge how much his almost seven year old mind could take in on that. Other parents have talked about how they’ve kept the TV off and don’t want their kids to know, afraid they’ll be afraid to go to school.

    Perhaps, but I think we do a service to children by helping them learn about the world as they grow, not shielding them and then throwing them out in it unprepared.

    • jrdreistadt says:

      I agree. Schools are places where we should be free to learn, explore, and create understanding. If I were a parent, I would have wanted the school to explain what was going on to my child for two reasons: 1) locking the school without explanation could lead to fear or anxiety and 2) school staff are probably better skilled at speaking with children about tragedy than I am. While I think it is important for parents to engage in these conversations with children, I also feel that schools have practice and knowledge about how to best help children so they can understand and cope with situations like these. But, I am sure that there are some parents who would be outraged by open, honest discussions about what is going on in the world.

    • jrdreistadt says:

      …also, I watched that movie about Sophie Scholl last night…very powerful. I think I would have liked it more if it there was more in it about her life and the movement rather than focusing on the imprisonment and interrogation.

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