Greetings, AMS community:
In light of the ongoing election, I have recently received queries from parents regarding the appropriateness of including children in political discussions. Beginning around the age of six, children's developmental forces enter a new stage where the powers of reason and abstraction begin to flourish. This begins the period of the "acquisition of culture," so children will actively seek out to know as much about the goings-on in our world as they can. So, engaging children aged six and older in service and political campaigns is appropriate as long as it is positive and balanced. Keep in mind that these new capacities for reason and abstraction are emergent characteristics, so the manner in which we respond and include the children in these conversations should vary accordingly. For instance, a seven-year-old may be satisfied with a simple explanation or a response to a question on any subject matter, whereas a nine or ten-year-old will have more complex and nuanced considerations.
Children under the age of six live in the moment and cannot abstract ideas like older children can and should be protected from exposure to political campaigns. All children need to feel their parents' hope, love, and determination, especially during difficult times. As a parent myself, I often wonder how this can be achieved. I have drawn much inspiration from the words of our school's founder, Donna Bryant Goertz, and ask that you take the time to absorb and reflect on her important message below.
Head of School
I write to you today with thoughts of both good news and bad news in mind. First, the bad news: as you know, is that we are in the midst of times that test us to the brink. Indeed, times that call on us, as we live on the edge, to monitor our hearts, minds, and souls for the sake of our well being, but more so for our children. We breathe our way forward. Not only do they see and hear everything, but they also absorb our inner lives and form their own accordingly. This climate has the potential to deviate the formation of our children's sensibilities and the development of their compassion, patience, intelligent reflection, carefully measured responses, and energetic resolve necessary for growing healthy lives, functional relationships, and just, civil, and gracious communities.
Now onto the good news! Although these times test us, they can also inspire us to rise to the challenge and dig deep to find ways to evolve and transform ourselves to respond instead of react. Our children learn not through our perfection but our mighty intention. These times call for our community as a whole and each of us individually to monitor our hearts, minds, and souls for our children's sake.
Through studying the principles and methods of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, we can prepare our minds and spirits to wage campaigns of fiercely held ideals non-violently, respectfully, and energetically. We will each find our way for keeping ourselves sane and healthy during these times, keeping our compassion, patience, resolve, and responses measured and powerful of soul. And we will fall far short, but we will get up and grow. And our children will see our mighty intention and our powerful struggle. They will see our compassion for ourselves, for them, and others. Yes, hard times can even help us grow the hope and courage to better thrive during easier times. And our children will absorb both our process and our being, and they will follow our lead. Our children's gift to us is the challenge to be our best selves. Our gift to them is our daily struggle.
Political Parties, Campaigns, Elections
Children bring such unexpected benefits to us adults. Because of them, we remember to vote, take action for our earth, think and feel more deeply about our community, and act on behalf of the whole human family. Because of our children, we struggle to discover common ground, develop insights into other cultures, and find better ways to reach consensus and resolve problems. We search our souls with one another for the meaning of freedom and the means of its practice because of them. Because we have children, we are called to think beyond our immediate lives and our lifespan. Suddenly everything and everyone on our earth are more precious. Our passions, desires, and ideals, our principles, habits, and goals, and our virtues as well as our faults, are all charged with relevance. Because we live with children, we think and feel in a new way. When extreme situations confront us, when we are stunned by complexities and provoked to react, the reality of our children brings us to weigh and measure carefully through the prism of our highest and best selves.
In this season of campaigns, our children bring us toward spiritual and emotional health so that when we speak of candidates, we evaluate issues and policies rather than attacking persons; we evaluate principles instead of insulting parties; we evaluate individual methods rather than entire campaigns.
Some say we have become a society with such short attention spans, fractured focus, and quixotic moods that only rage, revenge, and hatred can motivate us. But we have our children to keep in mind, so let us bring forward our informed love for them to guide us in our focus, perseverance, and action.
Donna Bryant Goertz
Founder, Austin Montessori School