Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Discrimination: Good or Bad?

Two headlines have been bouncing around my brain today. The tragic murder of Ben Kinsella and the little boy in Sweden accused of 'discriminating' against two classmates for not inviting them to his birthday party.

It really does seem the planet has fallen off its axis.

Let's take Ben's murder. Here's a happy 16 year old boy, just finished his GCSEs, having a night out with his friends. Not a troublemaker, no criminal record, just an ordinary teenager winding down after months of exam revision and school stress. So why does a night out for this boy end up with him being stabbed multiple times in the torso? Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Did he dare to answer somebody back for insulting him? Did he just 'look the wrong way' at some demented brainless youth hanging around a street corner looking for someone to slash as part of a night's entertainment? It's no surprise to anybody in England that four youths have already been arrested and it's no surprise what their background is. They're all the same. You just have to look at the police picture profiles to realise they're all from the same unfortunate backgrounds. The police say it wasn't the result of discrimination on the part of the assailants. Rubbish. It never is, is it? Discrimination comes in all forms and these boys knifed Ben because they discriminated against him randomly. It doesn't have to be planned. I don't think they even cared who he was - he was just the nearest one they reached, so he took the brunt. But the British press will print their pictures, the MPs will gasp with shock and horror and as ever, blame the other political party, the tabloids will run their gazillionth campaign to end the knife culture in Britain and what will happen? They'll get 2 years max, ready to re-offend, only with more skills learnt inside prison. Is it going to get to the point where I'll have to keep my children in until they're 35 just to keep them safe?

Then, the birthday party. The only upside here is that finally, it's not just Britain that is showing the world it has a mental block when it comes to political correctness gone mad. The fact a 7 year old boy is admonished for not inviting 2 children in his class to his party beggers belief. Maybe these 2 children are the sort that will grow up to be like the ones that stabbed Ben. Maybe they never invited him to their party, so he's just repaying the favour. Who knows? Discrimination? You bet it is.

But who said discrimination is ALWAYS bad?

As a parent, I actually think SOMETIMES it's a good thing. And you want to know why? Because it's a skill my children need to learn in order to make informed, intelligent decisions about who they associate with, where they go and what they do.

Take the class bully. Every school has one. Every parent hates to think it's their child. But they're there - every school, every town, every country. One child just out to get everyone. I have told my children to keep away from other children like that. I have taught them to suss them out and avoid them and have no hesitation in giving as good as they get if they're picked on. I don't advoate my children starting fights, I advocate self-defence. Some people might not like this and cry pitiful woes of teaching them to 'walk away' and 'tell an adult'. Well, let me tell you, it doesn't work. And I speak from first hand knowledge both as a child victim and as the mother to a child who 'walked away' and 'told an adult'. Six weeks later when nothing was done, in exasperation he punched the kid square on the nose and dealt with it. The child has left him alone since then. Even the school bully has a little verbal pop at him now and again, but he's warned off with the knowledge that Joshua could floor him with a well aimed professionally trained rugby tackle - not one to test him on when you're standing on a concrete playground.

I'm getting angry.

I teach my children to discriminate against foul mouthed people who bitch, backstab and are two faced. I don't mix with people like that and I don't expect my children to. I teach them to stand up to people who mock them. Madeleine has a problem pronouncing the 'sh' sound as she clamps the sides of her tongue between her teeth when she says it. One girl is making her life a misery - I found out this morning. She's been told to keep away from this girl.

I teach my children to discriminate against liars. Lying is not tolerated in my house. It's the biggest no-no going. They can shout, have temper tantrums, be late in with homework, stomp and moan, but if they EVER dare lie to me, all privileges get removed, playdates get cancelled, the works. Joshua has a friend who is compulsive liar. To the point where he told me his uncle got blown up in a Land Rover. He also tells lies about the other children in his class. I banned him coming over for tea and told Joshua that when his friend could be honest about things and not lie so much, he could come back. Apparently he's calmed down and I'm allowing him over next week. More lies and he's staying away.

So, am I right to teach my children discrimination? Maybe discrimination is not the correct terminology. I could use euphemisms like 'choose your friends wisely', 'don't get involved in fights', 'don't let somebody encourage you to do something you're uncomfortable with'. It goes on. So.. if you're milder mannered than me and you use those euphemisms with your child, just remember, you're teaching them discrimination, just like I am. Only, we're doing it out of love for our children. Out of concern; as we want them to grow to be well balanced adults. Teaching them to hate, steal, lie and cheat - that's different.

We have children and we are responsible for who they are until the day we die - let's not screw it up.


sarah said...

What an amazing piece of writing Karen, I just sat here reading it and felt angry with you....I agree with everything you said..and I tell Dani the same as you tell your kids...
I could sit and read your blog all day every day...
Keep it going forever hun..
I love it..x

Jen said...

EXCELLENT post Karen....