I have never wanted to overburden my kids with too much knowledge at two young an age in terms of some of the injustice in the world. Always tried to have an eye on ‘age appropriate discussions’ etc etc. But a few years back I was working with a group of 19 year olds – mixed race, black, white and asian kids – who were surprised to find out that black people in the Caribbean were not the original inhabitants of those islands. They asked ‘So how did they end up in the Caribbean then?’
And it made me aware of my own enormous gaps in general knowledge and with regards to injustice in the world. Both past and present. I find it deeply depressing that although those of us in the affluent ‘North’ have more access to information than ever before – this ‘Info-Swamp’ seems to keep many of our kids (and ourselves) away from learning the very important basic lessons of history and politics.
My 8 year old recently became interested in the issue of slavery (after watching an old ‘Huckleberry Finn’ film and reading ‘Little House on the Prarie’.) Cue a few discussions – designed not to freak the poor child out completely. But despite my Go-Gently approach, she seems to have gotten the message on certain more gruesome parts of our history.
For example, today I was helping her with some singing practice (musicals the current flavour of the month) and I ended up showing her a bit of ‘Showboat’ on youtube– the clip with the original, marvellous William Warfield belting out ‘Old Man River.’
So there was Willy and there was me, holding back a tear as I listened to such an incredible song and such an amazing bass-baritone. And there was my daughter – having had no explanation of story or meaning behind the song. But reminding me that some kids don’t need certain lessons spelling out…
“Well Mum. All I can say is this. If he is a slave, he wants to be careful he does! He wants to stop singing and stop all the messing about and get on with his work. Or he’ll be for it!”