Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kids Get It

I saw this video today, and to me it just shows how much more the kids today know about bullying compared to the adults.  While I am trying to encourage my daughters to be strong and be themselves, and while I am trying to work with our parish's teens to teach them to live the golden rule, a lot of adults - a lot of LOUD adults - are trying to play down the bullying problem or blame the victims.  I have been told I am setting my kids up to be bullied and I should encourage them to "fit in" and match the crowd.  But isn't that backwards?  Shouldn't we be teaching acceptance, understanding, and celebrating diversity?  Isn't diversity what makes us stronger?  Our country is capable of doing so many different things because we have so many different people. If we all thought the same way, our growth would be so limited.  The kids get it, though.  They are fighting back and are standing up to the adults saying, "Wait, we've gone to far.  We have to start changing our attitudes."  Instead of saying, "Gay kids deserve to be tormented; beating up geeks and nerds is an American tradition; people who dare to look or sound different - whether or not they they can control it - should be driven from the herd," the teens are saying, "we need to stop making school a place to dread and start making it a place to learn; we need to stop finding differences and start finding similarities; we need to stop trying to force people to be like us and just learn how to live side by side."  I am encouraged by the changes I see in the teens I work with.  I am saddened because I have seen how very bad the bullying has gotten - much worse than it was when I was a teen.  I am angered because teens are not getting the support they need to grow.  Adults need to step up to the plate and stop bullying each other and really need to stop justifying bad behavior.  They need to start listening to the kids.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Star Trek is awesome, and I am awesome, so I love Star Trek."

We just got through two birthdays - first William Shatner's then Leonard Nimoy's.  For my four year old daughter, these were days of celebration.  She dressed up, baked brownies, and carried around her Cpt Kirk and Spock dolls as honored kings for a day.

I encouraged the celebrations for two reasons.  First, I believe life has enough serious stuff naturally built into it, so we should take every opportunity to focus on the positive, happy stuff.  Second, I love the messages in Star Trek and think my daughter will grow up to be a better person because of it.  I know some people think Star Trek is just a geeky sci fi show, or that it is boring compared to Star Wars because it isn't all fighting and special effects.  The boring factor is kinda what I like, though.  Instead of numbing the brain with explosion after explosion and building a story around visual effects and computer generated enemies, the show focuses on telling a story, examining philosophy and psychology and dreaming of a future with less conflict instead of more.  I want my daughters to be thinkers and dreamers, and Star Trek encourages that.   Cpt. Kirk and Mr. Spock fly through space in the future, a future my daughter longs for.  She looks forward to some day doing more, exploring more.  They have cool gadgets, so she starts talking about how she will make some and talks about what they are used for and compares them to technology around her.  We have discussions about how people make decisions by comparing Spock's cold logic to Dr McCoy's heated gut decisions.  What other show encourages a four year old to examine decision making that way?

One of the coolest lessons of Star Trek, I think, is the multicultural side of it.  Lots of different kinds of people and aliens are all living together, sometimes struggling with cultural differences, but working hard at sharing the universe.  They are always emphasizing peace and the need for peace and that peace is the end goal.  Peace and understanding - what better goals are there for a little girl?  Chekov, who the girls say talks funny even though he has the same accent as their father, lives with Scotty who has another accent and is friends with the Iowa boy Kirk who is best friends with the Vulcan Spock who sometimes clashes with but in the end is friends with the southerner McCoy.  Then there is the strong portrayal of women (even if they rarely wear pants). In the original series, Uhura and Nurse Chapel were the lead females.  They worked alongside the guys.  They didn't deny being feminine, but they also didn't deny being strong and intelligent.  Pretty good role models, I think.  Except for Chekov being extremely and hilariously Russian, the other characters were people first and ethnicities second.  That is how I want my girls to view the world.  In the show Trek Nation, Nichelle Nichols explained it perfectly when she told the story of meeting Dr Martin Luther King, Jr:

Simon Pegg, the actor who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the most recent Star Trek movie, further explained the additional benefits of being geek very clearly:

So I hope my girls grow up to be geeks, and I will continue to encourage them to explore strange new worlds and civilizations, to dream of a peaceful future, to seek ways to understand other cultures instead of fear them, and to be true to themselves without forcing their beliefs on others (the struggle of Kirk in many episodes and Picard's struggle with the prime directive as well).