We’ve gotten pretty good at telling our kids what to believe, sometimes without ever taking the time to consider what they already believe, how they’ve come to those conclusions, and how those beliefs influence their lives. A little listening goes a long way. Not only that, but if we take the time to listen, kids know that they’ve been heard. So, when we open our mouths to teach kids the truth or to challenge their opinions (that are – at times – way, way out there), they’re more prone to hear and consider what we have to say. That’s one of the secrets to good dialogue. And good dialogue is always a prerequisite to spiritual nurture.
A news story circulating this morning caught my eye as one of those opportunities to dialogue about real-life ethical issues and culture. This one is unfolding in New York City, where a 30-year-old art teacher at an elementary school in the Bronx has been pretty straightforward in an article she wrote for the Huffington Post about her past as a “sex worker.” Not surprisingly, people are upset and there is a growing debate raging about whether or not she should have been hired to teach young kids in the first place.
This morning, I quickly read the article penned by Melissa Petro for the Huffington Post, along with a report from the New York Daily News on the story. While I’ll reserve more in-depth comment until a later time when I know more about Petro and the context of her remarks, there are some initial reactions I have.
As a Dad, I’m very concerned about the character of the people who teach my kids in school. Sure, Petro says the experience left her “spiritually bankrupt.” I’d love to know more about what that means to her, along with what she’s done to remedy that spiritual bankruptcy. Depending on what that means, she could teach kids some amazing lessons that might just save them from adopting dangerous beliefs or making horrible decisions of their own later in life. Those who have been there and done that can issue powerful and credible warnings.
Of even greater concern might be Petro’s foundational beliefs about human rights and authority. I know that my life is not my own and that I answer to someone much higher than myself or any philosophical life foundations that I could ever dream up on my own, adopt, or feel good about. I always hope and pray that my kids are around people who do the same, so that they are better equipped to converse, love on, work with, play with, and minister to those who think and live differently. Those are just some initial thoughts.
What I really want to encourage you to seize on is the timeliness of this story as it unfolds. I would sit down with your more mature kids and students and have them read the stories I’ve linked to, along with the countless others that are sure to flood the internet and airwaves over the coming days. Ask them what they think about Petro, the school, the hiring of her as a teacher, the reaction of the school’s parents, etc. What a great window into how your kids are thinking and what they believe. Remember, listen hard. . . but follow that up with some clear guidance and direction . . . . guidance and direction that comes from that someone much higher than ourselves and the revealed Word that that someone has graciously given to us.
I’d love to know where your conversations on this one go. What do you think?