This is a phenomenon I’ve been noticing in more liberal media outlets (and particularly on Twitter) for a while now, but it involves some rather “delicate” questions. How many times have you seen stories where (generally liberal) parents push stories about how their elementary school aged children are terribly upset with Donald Trump or some other conservative over this or that news story, policy position, speech, or other related activity? It may not be a daily thing, but it’s getting close to that stage.
David Rutz at the Washington Free Beacon finally rips off the bandage this week and says what I’m guessing many of you were already thinking. Yeah.. right. Your “woke elementary schooler” is really upset over all of this, we’re sure. And they came up with such ideas all on their own. Pull the other one, guys… it’s got bells on it.
Yesterday my 9 year old saw some footage from Charlottesville. Then she asked me if there would be a second Holocaust.
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) August 18, 2017
This particularly annoying bit of commentary is part of a meme you may have heard of called the “woke eight-year-old” (in this case, nine-year-old). It was met with the best of Twitter: withering sarcasm and loathing for nauseating sanctimony…
Bragging about how precociously progressive my child is, AND getting my own smoking take out there? Double victory!
Let’s state the obvious: When pundits tweet out these little stories, all they’re doing is sending out THEIR opinions, but doing so in a way that a) makes them look like great parents for raising such emotionally advanced children and b) shields them from criticism. Because what kind of jerk is going to attack a CHILD, for God’s sake?
David has assembled a vast collection of sardonic responses to some of these “woke 8 year old” announcements, along with additional examples of the same from various authors. It’s an amusing collection if you’d care to take a few moments to browse through. But it also brings up the frequently unexplored question (or should I say accusation) underlying all of this.
Just how awful are we if we respond to some of these claims by calling Horse Hockey (to keep this PG-13) and demand a bit more proof?
I still have some experience with the real world of seven, eight and nine year olds, not only by virtue of having been one back in the dark ages, but from continual exposure to a collection of relatives who are still in the business of spawning. And for the most part, almost all of these stories are complete nonsense. I’ll grant you that by the time they get to high school, a lot of America’s students are probably more politically engaged and vocal than we were in my day. They’re exposed to a lot more news via their connected devices and peer pressure to discuss such issues.
But a kid in third grade? I’m calling BS unless you’d care to back it up. There are two obvious answers, neither of them particularly attractive for the claimant. The first (and worse) is that you’re making the story up out of whole cloth to either make your point with extra emotional punch or to simply make yourself look like a better parent. (As David suggests above.) The second is that your kid may have actually said something along those lines, but only because you’ve been inundating them with talking points they probably don’t even grasp and coaching them to say such things. Whether you’re doing it to indoctrinate them in “approved thinking” for later or simply to get a good story out of it makes little difference.
But perhaps I’m wrong and you’re raising some sort of savant. What say we put it to the test? This is where it gets tricky because it’s bad enough to be using your own child to score political points to begin with. Dragging them further into a counterpoint argument is likely inexcusable. But if we could, I’d love to find someone tweeting one of these claims and ask them if they’d care to bring their child in immediately for some closed door, filmed questions from a child psychology professional. (Just to make sure there’s no additional psychological damage being done.) Can the child give simple definitions of the words they are using? Do they know who the people they are naming really are by more than name? Do they grasp the underlying policy issue in a way in which they can explain it in basic terms understandable by most children? And finally, where did they get their information? Are they watching MSNBC every hour of the day when not in school or is it all coming from the parent?
Obviously nobody would want to volunteer to put their child through something like that and in the real world we shouldn’t demand it. But we can at least ask the people making these claims if they’re really comfortable with what they’re doing to their kid’s mind at an age when they should be outside skipping rope or riding a bike.