Early exposure strips children of right to opinions

I am rarely moved to comment on Facebook statuses that are clearly intended to spark an argument, but I felt genuinely disturbed by one that a distant relative of mine had posted that read something like this:

“My 10-year-old is in tears. He is mad at the injustice of abortion and doesn’t understand the point of gay marriage. He asked me why people don’t want babies anymore.”

This ignited a dispute almost as soon as she posted it, and I was damn close to joining this cyber fray. I kept my temper in check, though, partly because she’s family and partly because online debates are petty. My concern had nothing to do with my personal opinion on either of the two issues she had addressed, which I don’t feel the need to disclose.

What had disturbed me was the fact that her son is 10 years old, and has already been taught not only what abortion is, but also what opinion to have about both that and gay marriage. I can’t say for sure, but I highly doubt I even knew what abortion was when I was 10.

These are issues that even the most educated, compassionate people among us still struggle with – issues that have a whole lot of gray area. Teaching a child – because what else could you call a 10-year-old? – that the answer to these questions is as simple as ‘people not wanting to have babies’ is unfair to the child.

Does a 10-year-old really know enough about life or love to form those kinds of opinions for himself? Because I’m 22, I’ve lived through a little more than he has, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. I firmly believe we’re all entitled to our opinions, but some opinions come from life experiences and complex components that a 10-year-old can’t possibly comprehend.

It’s not really his opinion, then, is it? It’s his parents’. Most children will dutifully agree with their parents that stealing is wrong, sharing is right and you better hold hands when you cross the street – that’s the way it should be. I think parents definitely need to have a strong role in shaping their children to become good people. But is it really their place to tell them whether hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage are right or wrong, rather than simply explaining what each issue is and what both sides argue? They are too young and don’t know enough to even be able to debate the issue.

I feel very lucky to have had parents who didn’t try and tell me what to think. When my mom and I did have a pretty heated debate about abortion – I was probably 20 when this happened, not 10 – we didn’t see eye to eye. And although we basically do now, I didn’t change my mind because she told me to. I don’t think parents should rob their kids so early on of the right to find their own alignment in societal issues.

Not only that, but a child can’t consent to having his opinion splashed across his mother’s Facebook page. People often like to keep their opinions on touchy subject matter private. But did this kid have any say in keeping his opinion private? It seems to me as though his innocent comment was used to spark some debate, and maybe even to simply promote the opinions held by his mother.



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