Soconvivium

When young people ‘get it’

Cosmopolitan blogger Rebecca Rose is enamored with the story of five-year-old Yasmeen, who procrastinated on her homework recently by writing a short letter to President Obama. From the post:

“Please stop war for our world, instead have a meeting,” Yasmeen wrote. “Please give a speech to tell everyone they can marry who they want.” 

Yasmeen’s letter is pretty perfect and lots of people found it adorable and incredibly awesome that such a young person gets it about marriage equality. But the letter had another big fan—President Obama himself.

Yasmeen’s aunt, Dr. Fahmida Zaman, put a screenshot of the letter on her Twitter account. The president wrote back, saying “Tell your niece I really like her letter. Couldn’t agree more!” I am happy to see a young girl encouraged to raise her voice and pay attention to politics. As well, I know how much acknowledgement from one’s heroes can mean to a budding activist.

Yet, marriage debate aside, I can’t help questioning how much someone so young “gets” these issues. I have written before about the need to be careful when introducing children to the abortion debate. While I stand by my previous statement – that exposure to such sensitive subjects must come from people whom kids love and trust – it seems especially easy for parents to pass on soundbites that make any political view unobjectionable. Whether you’re five, 25, or 95 … who doesn’t want to see people fall in love? Who doesn’t love cute babies? Who doesn’t want to stand up for human rights?

While I would normally applaud parents who bring their children to political events, I can understand the fears of those who would disagree. After all, kids can stand up for causes we would not support, as well. Parents are role models for their children. Pro-life and pro-choice advocates would be happy to hear their convictions parroted back to them, but acceptance of one slogan-sized idea (“hurting babies is bad/women have rights over their bodies”) is not indicative of full understanding. Young people are the present, rather than the future, of all major human rights movements … but if they can completely comprehend a moral debate at the same time that they learn to read, there might be something amiss with the way it was presented.

Above all, keep explanations age-appropriate, but respectful. “Because we love babies,” may be a quick response to a child who asks why her family joined the throngs of people on Parliament Hill  for the National March for Life this month. I’d be afraid of the impression that anyone who opposed them obviously doesn’t love babies. Perhaps these simple statements are necessary, but we must allow our answers to grow along with the little people we love.

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