|NUMBER 293||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JUNE 2010|
|Indoctrinate Our Kids and Green My Parents|
Actress Brooke Shields says it bothers her to hear about global warming skepticism:
"I don't know what is true or not, I only know what I can do on a daily basis because I believe in it. Whether I am turning the water off in between brushing my teeth, which my little daughter is the police of, or I am recycling, or switching my products or using an energy saving washing machine. . . . I just have to do the best that I can do and keep doing more."
Shields' faith in impending eco-catastrophe is tested by her young daughter's "policing" of her water use. This "help" from her daughter brings up a point I've touched on before: the growing cultural movement to encourage children to monitor their parents at home.
The mandate for children is to change their parents' behavior by constantly nagging them about small aspects of their daily lives such as recycling, turning off the lights, and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. Kids are urged to ensure that their parents do "the right thing." Normally children don't make sure Mom and Dad eat their vegetables, treat family members with kindness, and go to bed on time. That's because it's widely recognized that it's the parents' job to train children in right living, not the other way around.
This concept has been rendered obsolete by eco-enthusiasts. Children are seen as the innocent ones, with sensitivity toward the environment and utopian thinking that their elders lack. They are the hope for the future, the influencers, and the change-makers. They are the generation that must grab society by the pant leg, stop it in its tracks, turn it around, and direct it on a new course.
Communist and Nazi regimes have used programs such as pioneer camps and the Hitler Youth to indoctrinate children into the regimes' ideologies of choice. A few years ago, the news came out that in the 1980s the secret police of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu enlisted thousands of children to spy and inform on their parents and teachers. While today's environmental movement in America calls for children to be more overt, there are signs that recruiting them as spies may not be too far away. The future Green Police could be our kids.
To prepare them for their role in unleashing eco-revolution, schools around the country are teaching students, beginning with the very young, to live a lifestyle centered on "sustainability." (Stay tuned to learn about one public school in Chicago that trains five- and six-year-olds to be "global citizens" by becoming sustainability activists.)
According to a poll by Habitat Heroes, one in three American schoolchildren fears that the earth will not exist when he grows up. I wrote about this in "Green Goblins," where I quoted the New York Times' observation that this generation has become "a growing army of 'eco-kids' — steeped in environmentalism at school, in houses of worship, through scouting and even via popular culture — who try to hold their parents accountable at home." In the Times article, a mom says that when she brushes her teeth, her four-year-old son will often "come over and turn [the water] off and say, 'Every day is Earth Day.' He learned it at school."
At last year's Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference at the University of Maryland, Al Gore told college and elementary school students, "There are some things about this world that you know that older people don't know." In a book recommended for American schoolchildren by Scholastic Corporation, Captain Eco and the Fate of the Earth, Captain Eco warns, "Your parents and grandparents have made a mess of looking after the earth. They may deny it, but they're stealing your future from under your noses."
A MasterCard commercial that aired last year shows a small boy who silently reminds his dad to turn the water off and buy renewable energy light bulbs. The son looks self-righteously up at his eco-clueless dad each time he helps him make "green" choices. The tagline at the end is "helping dad become a better man . . . priceless." Note that being a "better man" now means being a "greener" man.
Green My Parents just launched in April on Earth Day. It is "a movement that activates & enlists kids to lead their families in measuring & reducing environmental impact at home & 'challenge' their parents to share savings with kids." On the website is a picture of a child saying, "Here's a timer for your shower, Mom." There's an accompanying Green My Parents book by the campaign's leader, Tom Feegel, released at the end of May. More about the movement from the website:
So kids that get involved with this are supposed to "grade their parents" and demand pay for their services.
GreenMyParents relies on vocal young activists to spread the message; its poster child is a thoroughly indoctrinated 12-year-old prodigy named Adora Svitak, who has published several books and speaks regularly at schools. She recently gave a speech at a conference, where she said that "certain types of irrational thinking" could be "exactly what the world needs." She urged the adults in the audience to listen to kids and stop restricting them with oppressive rules and low expectations, because the goal is for kids to turn into "better adults than you have been." Adora's mom told The Oregonian newspaper she didn't mind her daughter nagging her about her water use.
The theory behind GreenMyParents, says Feegel (paraphrased by The Oregonian), is to "get them before they're indoctrinated," so that kids grow up seeing "green" actions as normal. But is GMP engaged in its own form of indoctrination?
Perhaps not. The campaign seems to capitalize on beliefs that have already solidified in children's minds through their education, extra-curricular programs, and pop culture. As an opinion writer at the New York Times put it, "Within the GMP program, it's the parents who have to get on board. The kids are already there. So ultimately what this program does is help raise a generation that no longer needs convincing on climate change."
By badgering their parents over household energy use, children may help their families save a wad of money on utilities. Surely parents would be grateful that their kids want to keep them from wasting money. But to eco-educators like Feegel, the monetary benefit is merely a carrot to entice parents who lack the activist's zeal for sustainability.
The savings also seem to be outweighed by the notion that kids are entitled to "their fair share," and by the nagging itself. The recurring message to children is that they are entitled to defy their parents and should correct them day-to-day in the home.
Kids are being taught that the fate of the planet rests on their shoulders, and that "doing their part" means bossing their parents around. This is a complete reversal of attitudes. Formerly it was understood that parents and grandparents should be treated with reverence as those wiser and more experienced. The green movement tells children just the opposite - that adults should learn from children, because they know better. Such teaching subverts the family and robs parents of their rightful authority.
The National Association of Scholars has primarily focused on the manifestations of the sustainability movement in higher education, but we must also be mindful of where the indoctrination begins. The defiance cultivated in students at an early age grows up with them and goes to college. In many cases, it recycles itself into "sustainabullying."
As Katherine Kersten pointed out in the Star-Tribune, "sustainability" has managed to "piggy-back on legitimate environmental concerns and open the door to every left-wing cause under the sun." Most people can agree that thrift and prudent stewardship of resources are good practices, but "sustainability" is being used to cover a much wider spectrum of "good" attitudes and beliefs. Among them is the idea that an "equitable distribution of resources" is preferable to capitalism and consumption.
Sustainability moves easily from the earth to feminism to gay marriage to race to population control. The environment is only a small part of the story. These social, economic, and political aspects of sustainability make it an ideology, a system of ideas that shuts out questions and opposing evidence by ruling in advance that the questions are illegitimate and the evidence irrelevant.
America is inculcating such closed-minded ideology into our children's minds today. And now they're turning around to shake a finger at parents who fail to conform. Feegel and others like him seem to have created a well-oiled machine that fuels itself. How sustainable of them.
Ashley Thorne is the director of communications for the National Association of Scholars. She writes frequently about issues in higher education at www.nas.org. She received her undergraduate degree in politics, philosophy, and economics from The King's College in 2007.