February 22, 2008

A horrifying realisation

For those of you who don't know this, I was born in 1980. The earliest distinct memory I have of a major political event was the August Coup that destroyed the Soviet Union. So I became aware of the world outside my school and my house during the first Bush presidency and the first Gulf War, the democratisation (more or much, much less) of the former Warsaw Pact countries, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. It was a time in which the dynamic and rhetoric of the Cold War was replaced by the dynamic and rhetoric of decolonialisation, democratisation, and universal human rights.

So let's say 11 years old is the typical age at which children start to become aware of events happening on the world stage. (If anything, I think I was precocious in this respect. If 12, 13, or older is more accurate, this doesn't cause a problem for my argument.) My students (and my step-sister) were born in 1989-90. This means they were starting to become aware of events happening on the world after 2001 -- a time in which (and sense which) the dynamic and rhetoric was dominated by paranoid, defensive imperialism and the unitary executive.

I'm not sure why I find this so disturbing. There's certainly no direct causal link between the political climate in which one's identity as a citizen is formed and, say, one's political values. Perhaps my worry is this: If these ideas, in some sense, make up the basic conceptual framework with which they analyse politics, then how well can they understand the dangers of totalitarianism?

1 comment:

MosBen said...

I'd say the real danger for kids growing up in such a time is to view the political process as insurmountable. That is, that the president will continue to do whatever he/she wants, Congress will refuse to do anything to stop it, and elections are a shady affair. This could conceivably lead to a youth that is disinterested in politics, if not outright afraid of the system. Of course, those same kids that were in the 11-13 age group are the first time voters this election cycle which seem to be coming out in droves.