Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | February 14, 2011

Did You Talk to Your Kids About Egypt?


As I watched the news from Egypt last week I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time — hope that the world will be a better place for my children. I was caught up in the power of the people — especially young people —  to effect change. I was caught up in the exuberance of the will of the people to overthrow a tyrant in order to have more freedom. I was enthralled by the role of social media in this revolution. It was… in a word… transformative.

And so, I think that parents should talk to their kids about this news event, regardless of their age (okay, maybe not the infants). I think this is a time when parents can and should talk to their children about what’s going on in the world. It’s not hard to explain this news to kids. Put simply, the people of Egypt, after being led for 30 years by a leader who didn’t care as much for them as himself, said “Enough.” They spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. And, they gathered and stayed in the streets for weeks, for the most part in a non-violent manner, demonstrating their demands for a better life. They demanded that President Mubarak step down and In the end, that’s what happened. And now, it will take some time, but maybe Egypt will become a true democracy. Maybe not, but at least now there is a chance. And if that happens, the region of the Middle East changes and takes steps toward peace, which, if it can happen in that area of the world, it can spread worldwide.

This matters a great deal to me and to millions of parents around the world, but it’s not about us. It’s about our children and the world we will leave them. This was no ordinary week in world events. What’s happened recently in Tunisia, in Yemen, and now in Egypt may mean that the way is paved for peace. Now is the time to talk to your kids about the world around them. I hope my daughters will each talk to the young people they teach in their classrooms, too. If each parent and each classroom teacher explains to kids that the way to peace can be non-violent and that the road to peace is open, maybe they’ll hope along with me that the world is going to be a better place. And, if we all believe that…. maybe it will transform our future.

What did you feel as you watched the news from Egypt this week? Do you agree that it’s news worth sharing with kids? Why?

Alexis writes: Watching the news since the protests began was a little scary. I don’t think a lot of people (including myself) were really well-informed about the reasons why the Egyptian people wanted change. I went online and read an article about what the people were asking for. I realized that what the people were asking for was very reasonable. They wanted to be able to have fair and free elections and they wanted to elect a leader that had sympathy for their plight. Several days later the subject of Egypt came up in conversation at work and one of my colleagues suggested that the reason the protests in Egypt were happening was because Al Qaeda had an interest in taking over the country. I was absolutely horrified that a person who should be educated would suggest something so unfounded.

I think a lot of times parents don’t want to discuss this stuff with their kids because they want to protect them from the fact that sometimes the world is a scary place. Be careful with this folks. There’s a difference between innocence and ignorance. You have a responsibility to your child to let them know being informed is important. Knowledge truly is power, give it to your children. Discussing things will give your kids intellectual curiosity and tolerance, both important life skills. What’s really great about this experience is that in school we talk about Martin Luther King but it’s hard for the kids to really relate to what it was like to be alive in his time. Now we have a real-life example of people taking control of their destiny and banding together to make change. It’s a great opportunity to be a real witness to history. What could be bad about that for your children?

Tamra Writes: I’m not gonna lie, I really didn’t have too much of a clue what was going on, besides what I had seen on Facebook. I haven’t turned on the news since I can’t remember when, so I had to do a quick catch up to find out the details of what was really going on. Now that I’m all caught up, I think I can respond to the blog (we’ll see about that).

I think what’s happening over there is actually pretty cool. I can’t imagine going through what those people have been going through, but I guess it wasn’t too long ago that this country was going through similar kinds of things – trying to change the laws so things are fair. I agree with Alexis about this one. I teach a unit on Black History during the month of February, and the kids really have a hard time understanding what was going on and realizing that it wasn’t that long ago that our country was experiencing these kinds of things. This would be a great opportunity to give the kids a real life example that is happening when they are alive. I hear it all the time in school, “can’t talk about that with the kids.” I agree that there are some things I censor, because I don’t know that it is my job to explain certain sensitive issues to 8 year olds, but parents can teach their kids about this kind of stuff and I agree that they have a responsibility to share this kind of news with their children. Besides, if parents don’t talk about it, their children could grow up thinking that it’s not important to be informed because they never heard their parents discussing news. Do we really need a generation of people who don’t care/know about what’s going on in the world? Could be pretty scary…

 

Ned Writes: Yes, this is important news as we may be seeing a remaking of the Middle East. Egypt, the largest country in the middle East with 80 million people, seems to be moving toward democracy and they did it peacefully. Of course when the military is on the side of the revolutionaries, then there was no force to stop the people. Egyptians want freedom, but they also want jobs and the ability to feed their families. I remember Tiananmen Square which started as a peaceful protest and ended in a massacre. We are a long way from peace and this new instability may bring more problems in an already complex situation. I think over time we are getting closer to a more civilized world, but we are a long way from peace on earth. So although this movement is inspiring and hopeful I am reminded of a favorite quote from Martin Luther King “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

 

Shira writes: I admit that I limit my news intake to the 15 minutes of fluffy early morning news show that plays in the background while I put my make-up on, so my knowledge of the situation in Egypt was also limited. Sometimes even I think the news is too much to take, so I can imagine why people might think they are protecting their children from what is going on in the world. That being said, I do think it is absolutely necessary to be aware when something major is taking place, even if it’s not in our own backyards. I just had a discussion with my students on Friday about making changes in the world. We watched a movie about the role of youth in the Civil Rights Movement, and I think it was the first time they saw a large group of people close to their age making a difference.

When I taught in England, I was surprised how much my fifth graders knew about the rest of the world. They could actually locate Kenya on a map, and I worry that some American kids wouldn’t be able to tell me where Texas is. And I don’t think that is necessarily their fault. We adults are so worried about “protecting” kids that we forget to keep them informed. If we don’t give them a little information, we are going to end up with a world full of really ignorant adults.

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Responses

  1. What a relevant thoughtful post! Yes, unfortunately, I do not think that many kids/teenagers today are exposed to critical thinking about world events. Honestly it doesn’t seem that many adults are either. I work in a school and I know that some teachers try to include some of that discussion into their crammed day. Parents play a big role too in what they model at home.

  2. You are so right about the school day being crammed as it is. I think that’s all the more reason why parents have to step up and fill in where schools can’t. Plus, in some cases, as the parent, wouldn’t you want to be the one that has these kind of interaction with your child so that you can hear their views about the world?


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