A Beautiful Song, But I Think Our Job As Parents Has Changed
(I promised to write about historical fiction and I will, but a couple of experiences this weekend made me feel I needed to explore this topic first).
Remember the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song? Here is a linkto the lyrics as well as some options to listen to it,tinyurl.com/yfzwv5z I’ve always liked it and seen it as an expression of something in my generation, the 60s kids, wanting to pass on a dream of a better world. The next line in fact is,"there father’s hell did slowly go by/ and feed them on your dreams." So as young parents we were to say the hell of the Vietnam War, racial clashes, would end, and we would bequeth to our kids our vision of a different future. A couple of experiences this weekend made me realize that we actually have a very different task: preparing our kids for a future which we cannot quite envision. We are not passing on a dream — as an antidote to a nightmare — (which is, in effect, preparing kids to live out our battles, and be defined by our hoped for victories) but rather preparing to let them go into a world in which they are more comfortable than we are.
This weekend Ruth Pennebaker — whose YA novels I published at Holt, she now has a cool blog www.geezersisters.com/ and has just sold a great-sounding new adult novel — and psychology professor husband lent us an apartment in NYC. There Jamie had a dual screen computer set up. As it happens, Sasha has just joined in a website created by his fellow fourth graders in which he covers the sports beat. Sasha rushed to the computer to resarch, write, and post his first columns. The author-illustrator Chris Raschka came over with his family. His 14 year old son Ingo now has his own Youtube channel where he posts the movies he makes. Meanwhile our young son, Rafi, who has mastered Google to find Ben 10 mashup videos, was busy playing counting games on his toy computer. Forgive me all of you parents, librarians, and teachers who have seen all of this long ago, but the afternoon of young people exploring new media showed me the future. I saw no danger to reading — Sasha was reading a bio of Vince Carter on one screen to write about the Nets game against the Magic and Vince on the other screen — but it was clear that they are living their dream, not mine.
As parents and teachers we need to give them skills to function in a world we don’t quite know yet and in which they will be ahead of us. Perhaps the 60’s was the end of the old world of the farm, the guild, the good union job — where the father prepared the son for the work he had learned from his father, the mother shaped the daughter to be the woman her mother taught her to be. Maybe that was the great clash, we knew that world was over. But we thought we would create a new future, ours. Instead we entered a time where the future keeps changing. We did not go from one steady state to another, but from a world which valued continuity to one predicated on change. So how do we teach children well to be what they will be, when we don’t know that ourselves? How do you prepare children for change — in technology, in forms of media, in forms of narration and community — as a constant? We of course need to give them the basic school skills and human relations tools. Sure. But what elese? What are the rules of the guild of future explorers?
Your thoughts? then back to historical fiction