Children Will Listen

Earlier this week I went to a play called God of Carnage. Having won the Oliver in London for Best Comedy and the Tony for Best Play in 2009. I don’t know if it’s because bullying is such an important topic right now, but the play, even though it was a dark comedy, left little for me to laugh at.

I’m about to give away the premise of the play, so stop reading if you intend to see it.

It’s starts out with two couples who have gathered at one of the couple’s home to talk and resolve a conflict about one of the boys bullying the other. What happens over the course of the evening (a 90 minute one-act with no intermission) is that the adults end up bullying each other (including their own spouses) and devolve into child-like behavior themselves.

It reminds me of a song from South Pacific called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

Short and simple, but very powerful the lyrics (written by Hammerstein over 50 years ago) are as follows:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I also happened to stumble across a post by a parent at my school who wrote about a personal story about what parents/teachers/adults teach our own kids. You can read it here at her website.

Schools cannot necessarily undo everything, but they can work at creating a climate of safety and make learning spaces ones where ALL children feel they are welcome, belong, and add value.

If you’re unfamiliar with the song, here’s a video of Mandy Patinkin recording it.


2 thoughts on “Children Will Listen

  1. I’ve heard great things about the play, Anthony. And I’m glad to be reminded of the song–especially as that musical has fallen out of favor in a more PC age.

    I’m struck by the notion of teaching our kids to fear. With social issues, fear plays a big role. No one wants to be alone, and some kids don’t do the right thing because they’re afraid they’ll be ostracized as well. If you don’t obey the powerful, if you don’t have the right favorite color/pet/clothes/silly bandz, etc., you won’t fit in or even be liked at all.

    Fear can drive us away from what we know is right. It can also drive us away from our very selves. In trying to be likable, we can shave off all of the parts of us that are interesting. Sadly, these parts tend to be the aspects of us that make the world a richer, better place.

    This is what we teach our kids, though, when we focus so much time and energy on acquiring big houses, fancy cars, designer clothing… that these things in any way matter.

    Early on, my goals as a parent were to raise kids who knew themselves, who had a passion for something, and who had a sense of accountability to their communities–that they were supposed to develop their gifts in service to the world. I never thought the hardest thing would be to get my kids (or at least one of them) to even acknowledge those gifts, let alone have the confidence–the lack of fear–to develop them.

    If I had one wish, it would be that parents would establish a climate at home where things that were different were a source of interest and enthusiasm instead of as a source of danger or disdain. Perhaps then kids would look inside of themselves with pride and interest, offering up what only they can in service to the world.

  2. Children will definitely imitate what they have see in their family, friends and in school. And most especially through the television. If the parents of that child always bully to each other and to the child then automatically, the child will follow it. The best teacher of every is the mother. IT is where the child first learn to talk and walk. Elders were the best model of the children.

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