Tuesday, October 16, 2012

But What About the Children?

When I was a little girl, frequently anything my parents tried to teach me I followed with the question, "But what about the children?"

Whether the lesson be about a scripture story, something in history, or math facts, I somehow brought the subject around to that question.  Obviously it didn't always relate to what we were talking about, but it was none-the-less the question always on my mind.  I felt strongly then as I do now, that children mattered in everything we do.  I am not alone in that idea.

While building the Soviet Union, leaders knew and understood the power of raising a generation of children indoctrinated in communist ways.  Their little ones were not pushed aside, or seen as insignificant and of little use.  They were an important tool in spreading their propaganda and beliefs.

Historian Orlando Figes, in his book, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia, gives this quote from a Soviet Schooling Theorist about the children during communist rule:
"We must make the young into a generation of Communists.  Children, like soft wax, are very malleable and they should be moulded into good Communists... We must rescue children from the harmful influence of the family... We must nationalize them.  From the earliest days of their little lives, they must find themselves under the beneficient influence of Communist schools... To oblige the mother to give her child to the Soviet state -- that is our task."
They sought out a complete break from the family, promoting loyalty to the community, to the group, to the mass.  There are records of children who were praised as great examples because they betrayed their own parents to the secret police.  For one reason or another, if students stood out socially,  they were bullied or even expelled, all for the benefit of the group and the community. They suppressed any and all religion, and wiped out ideas of individualism, free thinking, or self expression.  Power to the group, power to the whole! The common man was united as one.  

We as a people, as citizens of the United States of America, claim to emphatically stand against this way of life.  We claim to celebrate differences, we promise to be open, tolerant, respectful, and free.

Yet I find those promises to be empty, especially when it comes to teaching our very young.  My daughter's school recently participated in a "Boosterthon Pep Rally".  Admittedly, I did not go, and neither did she.  For the first time, I found myself grateful for a cold virus that kept her from school that day.  Knowing what a Boosterthon and Pep Rally are, I can quickly draw my own conclusions as to what it was about.  Despite being heavily taxed for public education, the school still finds itself lacking in funds.  So who do they turn to to raise them?  Their students.

I was taught to ask for money regretfully, privately, with humble gratitude, and only when truly in the greatest of need.  But why go that route, when you have at your disposal over 800 children ages 5-7, who, like soft wax, are very malleable, and will do the dirty work for you?  In fact, lets gather these little ones together, and get them yelling, screaming, and excited about asking for money!  Rather than quietly sending a letter home to parents, explaining the need for a little extra, respectfully requesting private donations towards a good cause, we are igniting our children, with fire and excitement, to parade out into open, and demand the money!

The motto for my daughter's school is "Reach for the Stars!"  However rather than spend more time teaching them to work hard, dedicate themselves to their studies, and reach for high goals of educational achievement, they are dedicating precious learning time to encourage them to reach with open, demanding hands, for money that is not theirs, from those who have already given enough.  Power to the group, power to the whole, united as one, they will reach.

Can you picture this gross scene?  Our babies, hundreds of tiny, sweet, innocent faces, jumping up and down, cheering, yelling, excited, and thrilled to get out there and ask for money, no doubt chanting their school motto, "Reach for the Stars! Reach for the Stars!  Reach for the Stars!"  

One of the activities for the Boosterthon is a "Fun Run", where every lap each child runs earns money for the school.  Again, it's being held during precious school hours, in substitute of learning and education.  I'm not opposed to physical activity among children, or Fun Runs in general.  It's the sacrifice of learning time, and motivation used that makes me cringe, shoved upon so many little ones, who are naturally eager to please at any cost.  Some of the money is going towards new playground equipment.  You're kidding yourself if you think the faculty and staff wont say to those tired little feet to keep going, or they wont get their playground.  I can hear the motivational cheering now:

  • I know you're tired, but if you don't run more, you'll have nothing to play on!!  
  • If you really cared about that playground, you'd go another lap.  
  • Look at little Billy!  See him, and how much he is running?  He must really care about his school! Go Billy go!  
  • Just one more lap! You can do it, reach of the stars!!!!
  • Come on kids, we're a team!!!!  

Am I the only one who shudders at this?  Am I alone in seeing the obvious similarities to the schools of Stalin?  How is that "Fun Run" any different from child labor?  We are pushing the children with physical labor, threatening them with something that is dear to them if they do not comply.  They will be belittled, put down, and marked as "not a team player" if they slow down, or stop earlier than their classmates.  The teachers are pressured to comply too, with competitions and rewards for classes who can earn the most money, and promises of percentages of what is earned going to each class.  The teachers are no doubt told,

  • If you want more for your students, you'll encourage them to participate   
  • If you need books, supplies, and computers to enrich your classroom, you'll push them to run! 
  • If you care, this is what you'll do.       

I am not morally opposed to general fundraising.  However, I believe there is an appropriate method for asking for donations.  This is not it.  Where is the modesty, the humility that should be accompanied with a request for money?  Small businesses who are taking enormous hits from the economy at this time, as well as parents who already sacrifice funds, time, and resources to their children's education, are the ones being appealed to to donate.  Shouldn't that be done a little more sensitively?  Instead it has become a loud manipulative circus, all in the name of teamwork, and with the voices and actions of 1600 tiny feet and open, reaching, hands.

I am surrounded by conservative friends who boldly put Vote For Romeny signs in their yards, cheer him on in debates, and unapologetically post on Facebook their conservative thoughts and opinions.  And yet I seem to be the only one concerned about this blatantly communist behavior going on at school.  I haven't heard a word of criticism or disapproval for this.  When do your actions back up your words?  When will you start matching conservative voting with conservative choices?  When will you realize your choice not to act is affecting those you should be protecting and caring about most?  What about the children???  

Translated, the poster reads, "Join the pre-school movement- Build a new life - Organize kindergartens and playgrounds - Educate a new Communist generation"
How, you ask, am I demonstrating my own actions behind my words?  By protecting my child.  I am not so brazen as to picket the school with signs, or write a nasty letter to the principal.  After all, my little girl is in the first grade, and I know we'll have many more battles to fight.  I need to pace myself accordingly.  However I will not subject her to this.  I will not put a cute, cheerleader face on for this activity, join the parents in the crowd, and demand money from our community for every lap those little feet can manage.  I refuse to watch my baby be manipulated and washed up in the hype.  For family reasons, we will quietly stay home during this event.  Follow our example, if you dare.  Or stand up in your own way.  But please, consider your children.  Put your actions where your vote is.  Conservative beliefs don't just come into play on voting day.  It is a way of life, one I don't mind living alone if I have to.  I know I'm probably not making any friends by writing this.  However I was raised, by my parents and despite many of my teachers I might add, that standing up for your values, even if it means standing alone or being different, is not a bad thing.

Soviot Propaganda Poster originally copied from here.    


  1. You go girl!!! I'm so proud to be your friend!

  2. I remember a similar pitch in High School. We had an assembly at which a fast-talking two-tone shoes salesmen pitched the students, from out of the blue, on a fundraiser that we were all going to do. My friends and I told the teacher afterwards that we were not in favor of it and would not participate. Kudos to the teacher, who said that was fine.

  3. I can kind of see your point, Liz. I do like how they are having to work for the money, though. They have to put forth the effort to see the pay out...unlike selling gift wrap where they do nothing! I think I sit somewhere in the middle!

    1. I had thought of that, but why should they have to work for the money at all? Shouldn't it be the parents' job to finance their children's education? Perhaps when they're teenagers they should be a part of it, but at 5, 6, and 7, they should be focused on reading, writing, math, and being little kids. And the motivation methods used for them to make the money bother me so much. The pep rally, the classroom competitions, running around a track, all done so loudly, and in the name of a "team". Individualism gets pretty lost in there.

  4. After 6 years of fundraisers, probably more because they do them in preschool too, I was just happy to donate some money and not have to buy anything! I logged on to the fun run website tonight, before reading your post, and thought it seemed like they were really trying to teach the kids some good things. The music video was all about having character and standing up for what was right. It did seemed a little more appropriate for the Intermediate school (they are doing the same thing) than the primary school though. Ainsley's just excited to get prizes. She doesn't care about the playground I'm sure. I have serious doubts anyone will be forced to run more than they want or be made to feel bad about it, but maybe I am naieve! And lastly, I must have low expectations of public school, because I say let them have some frivolous days. I know my kids will have fun.