Monday, March 7, 2011

Playgroup Socialism?

Some of the recent political happenings surrounding healthcare, government spending cuts and labor unions set me to thinking about the values I hope to instill in J Bean. After thinking about it a little and speaking with other parents I came to realize most parents want to instill similar values with their children regardless of their political persuasion. Parents of differing political views teach our children similarly in many ways: share your toys, don't snatch from others, no hitting, take turns, don't pick on people who are different. It seems that much of what we are teaching boils down to empathy... we work to help our children understand what others may be feeling and how their actions may affect others, so when does that change? When should children grow up and stop caring about the principles that were important on the playground? I hope my child never forgets those lessons.

This point is illustrated wonderfully in a a great article here from Steven Almond circa November 2009 which also ran in the Boston Globe. Why do we teach our children one thing on the playground then rail against the same principles as adults? Maybe we should all learn to play nice.

"...most parents are mortified when their children refuse to share on the playground, when they hoard toys, when they decide it is their right to smash a sand castle they played no part in building. 

These basic rules of the playground are sometimes given a more sophisticated, adult name: socialism. Which makes all us good parents de facto socialists.... opponents of President Obama have attempted recently to turn "socialism'' into a slur. Displaying the zeal exhibited by naughty children the world over, they have equated socialism with fascism, Stalinism, and even Nazism.

For the record, they are wrong. Socialism is a theory of economic organization that calls for equal access to resources for all individuals, along with a method of compensation based on the amount of labor expended. Translated into playgroundese: Everyone should have a turn on the swings, and if you built the sand castle, you get to play with it."

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