There is an old-fashioned southern phrase that I'm fond of, the idea that a child has been "raised right." Being raised right means lots of things ---- a child who is polite has been raised right; a child who does the right thing even when there is no grown up around to make it happen has been raised right. A child who is raised right knows the right thing to say and do.
Most of my decisions as a parent are driven by this goal: ensuring that JT is raised right. In pursuit of that, I have recently made the decision to carefully expose JT to the news.
Yes, that's right, my 7 year old is a news consumer. He listens to NPR with me. Frankly, there are some topics that I'm not quite ready to explain and so I'll turn off those stories. But we listen to the news each day. In my Government classes, I teach all about political socialization. I know that if I want my child to share my values, I must expose him to those values and explain why I believe the things that I believe. Politically active parents, people who encouraged me to express an opinion and join in political discussions, raised me. I'm seeking to recreate that experience for my child.
So he listens and we talk. I've had reason to explain the war in Iraq and why I think it's a bad idea; that George W. Bush isn't evil but he is wrong; that sometimes people hurt their own children; that in some places children are hungry. In short, my son is learning about the world.
Last Tuesday, I reaped my first reward for these lessons. We were listening to the news; to a story about states requiring that registered voters bring a driver's license to the polls. The story was about who is most adversely affected by these Republican-sponsored laws ---- poor, elderly, and minority voters.
When the story ended, before I could say a thing, my son said to me, "That's not fair, Mama. Some people don't have a driver's license and they won't be able to vote. What if they don't know how to drive or are too old to drive? What if they don't have money for a car? That's not fair."
He's right, of course. And he doesn't know the half of it: that voter ID laws such as these are designed to suppress voter turnout. That the voters who are suppressed are often Democrats and that Republicans raise the specter of vote fraud to justify these laws even though no credible study in the nation believes we have a problem with fraud. My 7 year old didn't need to know those facts. He understood enough to see unfairness and call it as he saw it.
I daresay he's being raised right.