In a local paper recently I saw the comment, “It takes a village to raise a child to hate the people in the next village.” This was a shocking take-off on the ancient African proverb so often used by peace advocates and community builders: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Shocking perhaps, but most shocking because of its inherent truth. Children are not born learning to hate and polarize. They might be angry if another child takes their toy, or does not play fairly, but they get over it and are soon back at play, and will not generalize their dislike to a whole group. Children learn to get along and find ways to work out their differences.
That starts to change when adults begin to suggest that certain children are not ‘nice’, and begin modeling discrimination and rejection, rather than finding ways to solve problems and resolve issues. A parent may not like a child, or the child’s parents, and so subtly transfers this dislike to their own child. The child is confused, because he may quite like the one who is being rejected. Yet, he has just learned to reject someone who he, personally, has no reason to dislike.
Children listen as parents speak to one another or to friends about what is going on in the world. If any group or country as a whole is maligned, children will grow up thinking individuals belonging to those categories are ‘bad’. So the cycle begins again with a new generation.
It takes all of our villages to raise children to become the stewards of a peaceful world. Our generation could not do it, but perhaps if we givethem the tools.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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