Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Suspect Taught Kids

Alright. That's it. I've had it. I'm sick to death of the implication that adult male interest in kids is sinister. Since when has teaching children become a bad thing?

There's a headline today saying:
"Ter.ror Suspect Taught Kids at Muslim School".
A disinterested observer unfamiliar with American mainstream media might not note anything wrong with conveying that information, but that disinterested observer would be wrong. The connotation and intended message of that headline in today's media is this:
"Oh Noes! Confirmed Evildoer is indoctrinating innocent (although possibly already-terrorist) baby children into the ways of terror at terrorist training camp for kids who-are-not-like-our-own-precious children. "

The theme continues the fear mongering around gay marriage: "Vote your neighbor's marriage to be illegal or your precious baby children will be taught to be gay, Gay, GAY!" No. They'll be taught that being gay is ok. Which it is. So if they ARE gay, they'll grow up with self esteem rather than self loathing. They might still loathe themselves for other reasons, but not for this preventable one.

Also concerning to me: "Local father coached young girls soccer! Neighbors outraged!" I rode on an airport shuttle with two guys discussing the nearly impossible logistics of coaching one's daughter's soccer team. They aren't allowed to hold practice unless one of the moms comes to practice and stays the whole time. It's hard enough to find volunteer coaches, let alone chaperones who don't have anything to do but keep a wary eye on the coach. That's not even including a traveling team coach who has stricter rules. My sense is that anyone who is a sufficiently good coach to be, let's face it, volunteering as a traveling team coach, is doing it for love of the game and bringing the love of the game to the next generation, not for the sexual thrills.


We have made or condoned this notion that all men have pedophilic intent when they show a natural and healthy interest in children. This notion is poisoning our society. We need to stop this notion and reverse it.

Kids grow up with the message that hugs from even their own father are inappropriate, and god forbid your neighbor's father takes an interest in your well being. Or a stranger stop your child from chasing a ball into the street by actually touching your precious. He may have to register for life with the police for such a grotesque breach of human nature. To me, this insidious negative message pervading daily life is much, much more damaging than the actual risk of someone coaching softball to have a look at the goods.

We as a collective seem to have lost the ability or desire (or both) to discriminate between good and bad touches, and good and bad desires. The good outnumber the bad so overwhelmingly that people should be given the benefit of the doubt until there is just cause to suspect otherwise, not the other way around.

Yes, throughout history and the present there are people (usually trusted people rather than strangers) who will and do harm children. If your kid suddenly doesn't like Uncle Lucius, or starts avoiding the park it could be because Uncle Lucius is rude and a new bully moved into the park, or it could be worse. Investigate, yes. Decry all men to the whole town? No. Keep your kid away from a particular activity or person you don't like until you figure it out? Yes. Make unfounded accusations about people who are trying to help? No. Assert that any contact with kids makes you a raving psycho? Also no. The existence of bad apples shouldn't keep us from eating apples. Fear of stranger danger shouldn't be pervasive in everyday life for most people but as I can personally attest, it is. I spent maybe three years afraid to hug my own father until I realized what was going on - nothing. But awful messages from the media (because if it bleeds it leads, even if bleeding isn't news to anyone but the bleeder) had me convinced for a short while that there must be something, somewhere despite absolutely no evidence of inappropriateness ever in my whole life.

We need to believe, truly, that it takes a village to raise a child and that our villiages have both men and women. Friends and neighbors showing an interest in your child should be encouraged. (It's the cutest thing in the world when my parents' neighborhood kids come over to ask if my dad can come out to play.) A stranger engaging in a game of peek-a-boo with your child should be given a smile for keeping your kid happy while you're in line at the post office and they're bored. Young men who want to teach? Have at it. Even teach the young kids. Teach them at sunday school, temple, Muslim school, or space camp. Diversity counts from an early age if you want your boys to grow up thinking they truly can do anything they set their minds to. Unless you don't want them to grow up to be civic minded coaches, big brothers, teachers, scout masters, or benevolent strangers.

Please, the next time you see a message like this, realize the cumulative damage it does. Don't read that article. Don't buy that paper. Don't watch that program. It's fear mongering and nothing more. The man in it? He will not/is not harming your kids. He's probably not harming anyone's kids. It does not make society better to spread these lies and insinuations about male teachers. We can deal with the individuals who are problems without making all men into problems.

In with the love; out with the jive.


Up My Mind said...

Wonderful post! Sorry I didn't get caught up on your blog until now. I really think what you are saying here is the reason why the list of boys waiting to be matched at our Big Brothers Big Sisters is longer than the girls waiting to be matched.

No one thought it was strange or wrong for me to want to be a Big Sister. But a guy wanting to be a Big Brother? Hah. A crying shame!

CrankyOtter said...

Exactly. A crying shame indeed for grown men to be made ashamed of wanting to mentor young children of either sex. Hugs are healing, they are good touches.