Garbage In, Garbage Out

What do kids think about these days? A group of teachers found out recently. And the answer shocked them. According to the Education Reporter, it started when a California school district participated in a creative writing project. The assignment for all the children was to write a story beginning with the same opening line: They were to imagine coming to school on a "misty, foggy morning" to find a strange car on the field, with the teacher's voice coming from the car. The tone of the opening line suggests mystery, but the stories the children came up with had a lot more than mystery: They had savagery, violence, and sexual innuendo. One child's story told about his teacher holding the class hostage with a machine gun. The police lure the teacher out and blow her up. In the end, the child wrote, "Ever body was happy." Well, that gives a new definition to happy endings. Several other stories were just as gruesome: One was about a teacher kidnapping a student and stuffing him into the trunk of the car; another about a teacher planning to assassinate the principal; another about a teacher teaming up with aliens to capture her students. The teacher wasn't always a perpetrator of violence. Sometimes she was a victim. One student wrote a story about taping his teacher's mouth shut and pointing a gun at her head. Other children laced their stories with sex. One little girl wrote about seeing her teacher in the car with a man, passionately kissing. Another child wrote about his teacher being brutally raped. Another wrote about finding his father in the car with his teacher. How old would you suppose these kids were? Incredibly, they were only third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. What a stark testimony to how early children today are exposed to the sordid, ugly side of life. Just 30 years ago, parents could pretty much control their children's access to unwholesome material. Society cooperated in protecting kids from explicit sex and violence. But today society no longer cooperates. Just the opposite: From movies to television to so-called "problem literature," kids are fed a steady diet of murder, suicide, abortion, incest--you name it. And with the rapid increase in divorce and two-career families, there's been a sharp drop in the amount of time parents spend supervising their children's activities. The result is that children are no longer being protected from the corrupt and dangerous side of life. In fact, some people say we are losing the very concept of childhood as a special and protected place in the life cycle. In recent years, several books on the subject have appeared, with titles like The Disappearance of Childhood and Children without Childhood. In this presidential campaign we're hearing a lot about family values. Well, here's a concrete example of the decline of family values. And it's something you and I can start to change. It may mean rethinking our priorities so we spend more time with our children; it may mean putting up with screams and hollers as we wean them off the lurid stuff they've become used to. But it's time we did it. It's time we gave our children back their childhood.


Chuck Colson


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