Does hanging out with ‘other’ homeschooling tribes, and enjoying it, make me a coward, a terrible role model for my children or worse, morally bankrupt? Month 4 of Learning at Home

I’m getting some great comments on this post, please click on the post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the page to read them! And then please do add your own! I’ll try and reply on Saturday (it’s midnight Friday here now!)

The day before yesterday, I wrote about how I was getting together with a group of fellow homeschoolers in Bahrain. I was really looking forward to it. They are really nice people, I enjoy their company and I think it’s great for my kids to spend time with other homeschooled kids for a change. It’s an added bonus that they get to play with kids who are both boys and girls and different ages to them. I think this is very enriching. This is the way kids should play together, not exclusively with the same age and gender, which is what tends to happen with schooled kids.

As I said in my earlier post, I was interested to know how they these ladies would fit into my preconceived homeschooling tribes and wondered if they were thinking the same thing about me – whether I fitted into their tribe or not. Well, I still don’t know and I can’t decide whether this is OK or not.

It was an absolutely lovely afternoon. The host was incredibly gracious and hospitable, even though I would guess, if we had a frank talk, that we may have some major ideological differences. But we didn’t talk frankly and I wonder if that’s cowardice or social maturity.

All of us skirted politely around ‘safe’ subjects – newbies like myself gratefully asking more experienced homeschoolers questions about their approach, but we didn’t talk in much depth. Mainly it was lovely just hanging out with a very nice group of women and their great kids. Kids and adults all got on well. I felt incredibly grateful that this group has embraced us so warmly and allowed us to join in with them. I’m already looking forward to meeting up again in the next few weeks.

But, part of the reason we’re all getting along so well is that we aren’t touching on any sensitive subjects. I was always taught not to talk about religion and politics at smart dinner parties in London, where I grew up. Well, I don’t go to smart dinner parties anymore and I think religion and politics are some of THE most fascinating subjects to discuss! But they usually splinter people apart. Sometimes this is a surprise because you had no idea the other person holds a view that you have serious issues with or vice versa. Sometimes you have a good idea what you’re getting yourself into but don’t mind.

I only very, very occasionally get out in the evening by myself. I did so a few weeks ago to attend a book launch for a novel about Palestine. After the book reading, I got chatting to a guy over a coffee. We quickly got into an interesting, reasonably intellectual conversation (my favourite kind of conversation) that was political but not overtly personal. But it’s hard not to talk politics without getting personal. At some point, he said something that I found incredibly offensive. He was politically/culturally naïve enough not to realize that I would be so offended. He wanted to further our acquaintance, not halt it dead in its tracks. I was too polite/cowardly to say anything there and then and just tried to bring the conversation to a polite end. He didn’t suspect anything and hoped we’d get together with my husband soon. When I got home and told my husband about the conversation, he was shocked that I hadn’t said how distasteful I found this particular point of view. I was a bit perplexed myself, unsure what I should have done. I even asked a couple of friends in the coming days what they thought. I think they felt that in such a venue, with a stranger, it would have been hard, perhaps for a woman especially, to have been combative but understood my husband’s mild frustration with me too. I hope that if this happens again, I would be more courageous and would call the person out on their view or at least express my antipathy to it and either agree to disagree or recognize this was a deal breaker and that we couldn’t socialize further.

And that’s the point….as curious as I am about these lovely ladies and as important as I think it is to live an authentic life – and that means being true to my values, even defending my values – I don’t want to lose them! The man at the book launch might have been an interesting addition to our social life if he hadn’t held this offensive view (and therefore probably others) but his loss was not serious. The homeschooling community is so small in Bahrain and they are so nice, I don’t want to jeopardize belonging. I don’t want to jeopardize our emerging friendships both for myself and for my children’s sake. I don’t want to bring up a subject that either they or I might feel is a deal breaker.  But it feels a bit fake and I’m not used to this. I’m not used to spending time with people with whom I might share some serious ideological differences. And I’m a person who wears, for better or worse, my heart on my sleeve, so it does feel a bit like a ticking bomb; that sooner or later I’m going to say something that will cause ructions. I don’t think anything they say about their homeschooling approach would cause waves with me nor mine with them; even if they thought I was doing it all wrong they don’t know me well enough to care much or else would rightly think that my kids are still young so I’ve got time to self-correct! It’s the other stuff, the political, religious, ideological stuff that’s potentially contentious.

I’m sure we all have some idea which issues we’d seriously disagree on. But do they think these are like the proverbial elephant in the room, in the way I do? Am I right to be so forthright in the way I go about in the world? Since I’ve joined a community that’s so important to me, but so small, have I got to change to continue to belong? I don’t mean change who I am, my values and beliefs, but change the way I live these values and beliefs – for the first time in my adult life to keep them to myself and hope others do the same so we don’t fall out over anything, however politely it would probably happen? Is this new homeschooling group, and other homeschoolers I may come across, providing a great opportunity for me to become more socially mature, for the sake of my kids especially, let alone myself, or am I becoming a coward or worse, morally bankrupt? What’s the better role model for my children, rejecting the warmth and comfort of other people, a community, because their views clash with ours or ensuring that such subjects don’t arise so we can enjoy each other’s company on a more superficial but nevertheless much needed basis?

The other day, a friend posted on her Facebook page a situation which brought home to me how differently people see the world, even people linked by friendships. We are, after all, all Facebook friends with this one person. This friend of ours was talking about issues her kids had had with friends of theirs.  Sometimes kids discuss thorny issues happily, innocently, curiously which might cause offence but which they’re probably unaware of if they’re young.

My friend’s kids were having dinner at a neighbour’s house. When they came home they asked their parents what side they were on, in terms of the present civil unrest in Bahrain (which has, as is so often the case, old roots). The parents were rather taken aback by this and wondered what had instigated that question. Their kids said they’d been asked by a friend of their friend’s mother. This is disingenuous and patronizing; asking kids a question to find out what their parent’s think. I think that’s quite unforgivable. But I’d be curious to know what the kids replied. The next day, a friend of the kids told them they weren’t keen on America since they took away Palestine (was this my son, although he knows Britain’s role in it too??!). My (American) friend joked on her Facebook page – whatever happened to asking the perennial tricky one, “Mom, why is the sky blue?”

My friend’s Facebook friends had some infuriating responses. One answered very thoughtfully and positively I thought, commenting about how beneficial it is to have kids live overseas, that it opens kids minds, that the resulting “cultural understanding and empathy is outstanding.”  But others answered in a way that, I think, showed little faith in kids generally and more specifically, naivety about how kids living with conflict of one type or another are forced to think about such things. One commenter wondered why an adult would think a little kid had thought about such questions. Well, my friend’s kids may not have done, they are very insulated from what’s going on here, although, since I have faith in kids generally, they may well have picked up on something of what’s going on here and could well have thoughts about it. One of my friend’s bright kids is 10. As a confident young man, he may well have formed an interesting opinion on what’s going on here without having access to much information. Kids can be very perceptive.

I was also annoyed by a comment that said that the fact kids were making such comments explained why, “that part of the world has such a difficult time getting along — kids are taught at an early age to pick sides”. This seemed prejudiced and narrow-minded – there are a lot of reasons why ‘this part of the world’ and so many other parts of the world have ‘such a difficult time getting along’.  But, there’s a grain of truth in it, as much as I hate to admit it.

I’ve seen kids being seriously indoctrinated to take sides and sing revolutionary songs in a very ‘black or white’ way. But it’s hard not to do that when you’re living it. And it’s ignorant prejudice when people who have had privileged easy going lives (and I count myself in that group) don’t try and understand this. Perhaps instead we could have more sympathy with their reality, whilst constructively trying to think of ways to help people have a more nuanced view of conflict situations, including their own view. I certainly try and do this with my own kids but then again, I can. I can stand back and have perspective. My kids aren’t first generation refugees but living the aftermath of that fact further down the generational line. Young kids take comfort in certainty, for things to be black or white, good or bad, but it’s immaturity to see the world that way as adults. It’s much harder to see the shades of grey. Young kids are easily indoctrinated to take sides but nevertheless from teenagers on, we must all try to see the shades of grey and for myself, I am trying to teach my kids this hard lesson already.

Another commenter had much the same annoyingly trivializing comment, “Why can’t kids just not be kids? Can we not just learn from the past and move on?” Why can’t we? Some people find this very hard to do because they are suffering from civil conflict or war, or its aftermath, and the repercussions of that go on for generations. Palestinians always lament what was stolen from them. Of course they do. Their lives would be entirely different today if their grandparents and parents hadn’t been forced from their homes to live in abject poverty. Of course they would. It’s all very well saying, as the same commenter did, “I just wish for peace I guess is what I am saying, for one and all”. That’s easy for those of us to say who haven’t lived in fear and suffered from persecution.

If I had been having this discussion in person, with the commenters on Facebook, let alone my friend, things could have got heated. Just as I didn’t wade into an awkward confrontation at a book launch party, I didn’t wade into this online discussion either. I would like to have done. I’d like to uphold the banner of all that I believe is right, in part because maybe, just maybe, I could educate these people with a different point of view that might change the one they have. Now that’s progress! I personally have changed my mind a few times, when I’ve had a chance to learn more about a subject, and it’s a really enlightening, liberating experience, not scary at all. Most people think that the ground will shift beneath their feet and their world will come crashing down around their ears. But if only they’d give it a try, it’s more like making your foundations feel firmer and truer. But again, I didn’t want to rock a fragile new homeschooling friendship, with the friend who had originally posted, so I didn’t plunge in, keyboard blazing, and anyway online is not a very civilized forum for such discussions.

This brings me back to my dilemma with the new people I’m meeting with homeschooling – I like them and want to be part of a homeschooling community, but by not ‘showing my true colours’ or asking them to show me theirs am I being a coward, a terrible role model for my kids or worse, morally bankrupt OR am I being socially mature and a caring mother?  Your thoughts would be much appreciated!

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About homeschoolingpenny

Hi and welcome! My name is Penny and I used to live in Bahrain but In November 2012 moved to Dubai and now we live in Granada, Spain! If you want to contact me my email is pjmontford@hotmail.com. I recommend you start my blog on 'Day 1' but please enjoy whatever you dip into. 23 February 2012 marked the first day of no more school FOREVER for my two kids. Edward, who is nearly 10 had attended a variety of schools since he was very little. Petra, who is now 6, has never gone to school. On this date we decided Edward was never going back to school and Petra never would go to school. We hope to successfully homeschool from this day forward, although we would consider an alternative school as an option- if there was some amazing Sudbury or other really alternative school. Actually, I prefer the term 'home learning' than 'homeschool' because I don't like to think of school coming into our home. In fact, I hope to go further and guide/learn alongside, rather than teach, my kids using the 'unschooling' philosophy to instill a lifelong love of learning in them. We lived in the Middle East and now Spain all of which are very challenging places to home educate. This is an exciting journey that I used to blog about regularly, at first it was on an almost daily basis. Please join me on our travels and I hope we might be able to help each other out along the way. I certainly hope I can be a source of support and comfort and, in time, knowledge to all potential/presently participating homeschoolers/home educators/unschoolers. Good luck to us all! If you want to read about why I started home educating, why I pulled my son out of a 'very good' private school mid-term, how I felt at the very start and how my philosophy has evolved, please start from 'Day 1' of the blog. Please do post comments at the end of any days that you read. Your opinion is valuable and it's great to start up debate amongst other people commenting too, however old the post. Thank you for visiting homeschoolingmiddleeast.
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19 Responses to Does hanging out with ‘other’ homeschooling tribes, and enjoying it, make me a coward, a terrible role model for my children or worse, morally bankrupt? Month 4 of Learning at Home

  1. Dottie says:

    I think this issue is one of those shades of grey. If you really disagree with their personal beliefs and they are making you fail to uphold your personal beliefs then it is an unhealthy relationship and you should stay out of it. If you disagree with them but avoid the subjects and no one is compromising their personal beliefs then it may be ok. If their beliefs are effecting your children in a negative why you should move on. If no one is being harmed and you and the kids are getting a benefit then perhaps ok. One big question though is what they believe though. You seem to suspect without evidence (unless the Facebook people are the homeschooling people as I wasn’t sure about that) that you disagree with them. Perhaps this is a relationship that yet needs time to show its use colours.

    As for educating them with discussion, it likely would not work and would more bitterly entrench them into the position you are trying to change. I often try to keep my mouth shut until something really pricks my conscience and I speak. They I get heated, usually with rather ignorant people, and no only do they not see my point of views as valid but they actually get to the point of being hateful and insulting. My feeling get hurt and I feel like a failure for not being able to help them find the right path. Sometimes it is best to just agree to disagree, sometimes it is best to explain your belief and move away, and sometimes when you know someone well and the relationship is important you have to stick with it and try to help them find their way to you. I have been having a similar issue lately with a group of ladies that I have been chatting with on yahoo for 11years. I just thoroughly disagree with the stand some take on issues and when I have tried to present the other side I have been crushed and felt alone. I am now again just avoiding the group until I can heal and whether or not I go back I will leave for a later date.

    • Wow, Dottie. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You have suffered too. 11 years is a long time to be connected to a group, even online and how awful to feel so crushed and alone. I can relate to you getting heated but feeling it’s all for naught and just ending up feeling bad. As I just wrote to Laura, there are some really tricky issues I envision possibly being a problem. I don’t know for sure, but it’s likely. Aaah. I guess I can’t really decide this on my own anyway. It depends a lot on how the other person reacts to me too. And yes, of course, as you say, it depends on how our kids get on and if they are healthy friendships too. Good luck with that Yahoo group!

  2. Laura Weldon says:

    I really feel for you. I too wear my heart on my sleeve and believe it’s wrong to keep silent when something offensive is said. But that doesn’t sound entirely like what you’re dealing with in terms of your new homeschooling group. Here you are hoping to build new friendships with people who believe or live differently than you do but also have homeschooling in common. Although it may seem hard to believe, I’ve had a similar problem where I live. I’m a spiritually open, politically progressive person. I live in a very conservative, evangelical area of the midwest. When we first moved here my kids were mocked by a number of kids on the street because we violated their family’s standards by (don’t gasp) celebrating Halloween. The homeschool group we joined had a lot of very staunch moms who insisted on one way of homeschooling and very strict parenting. I continued to be who I am, gently building bridges of understanding through laughter and conversation and at times, disagreeing with statements that to me were unnecessarily judgmental. I mostly felt accepted as a person, even if sometimes I was held at arm’s length for being different. I insisted our group welcome everyone without regard to the way they homeschooled or their children fit in. Over the years many of these moms softened their approach to homeschooling, parenting, and worldview in general. I regard some as very dear friends. There’s a middle ground to take, being yourself and yet embracing others exactly as they are.

    • Wow, Laura. It does sound like you’ve had a similar experience to myself in terms of who you are and who ‘they’ are! And I really should take your advice, and Dottie’s. The only problem I still foresee is if the difference is about who should live and who should die in this region, who should be killed and who do the killing. I don’t want to be more specific than that. I don’t want to get my precious blog flamed! But these are pretty major issues, should they come up. You know what I mean?? How did you deal with these kinds of differences, which you might have come across too??

      • lifelibertyeducation says:

        Has it come to this kind of issues? If so then it would definitely have jumped wildly into unhealthy in my book. I have not found that this type of hate is likely changed with discussion and is potentially putting you children at risk. Do you just suspect or do you know that they feel some people should be allowed to live and others should be killed?

      • To be fair, at this point, I just suspect it. But this is why I’m getting so worked up about the situation/potential situation. You might think I’m surrounded by a bunch of radicals. Not at all, they’re probably very mainstream but scratch the surface of so many people and their views can be quite shocking, if not very well thought out.

      • Dottie says:

        Give them the benefit of the doubt for now and keep an eye on the situation. It is good for both you and the kids to have the social time but if anything offensive happens then you will need to reevaluate things.

      • Yup, agree with you Dottie. Thanks! Penny

  3. kim says:

    it sounds like you are dealing with something much bigger than homeschooling vs unschooling, which is what currently informs my experience. wow. i admire your perseverance. you are definitely dealing with another level of acceptance. it sounds like what links you all is keeping your children at home and this is a radical act. hopefully this common ground outweighs the rest. only time will tell. trust your instincts.

    after having looked for this magic group of unschooling (i too shy away from the labels in use) comrades for several years, i have come to a comfort level with the “keeping my mouth shut and observing” stance. trying to enjoy the moment for what it is worth. i am no longer on the “trying to convince everyone (including myself) that unschooling is the right choice” path. i know it is for us and that is what is important. my husband is in complete agreement and we are tired of conversations turning into us holding the stage in defense. curious questions from others can turn into what feels like an attack. we have realized that we must look inward for our strength and trust our instincts – trusting that we will attract the community we long for by doing what is right for our family.

    the homeschooling groups in san francisco seem pretty accepting of all styles. there is common ground that we share in this act of keeping our kids at home. i think there is at least one similarity with what you are experiencing, and that is a tight lipped atmosphere. i have come to believe that everyone must feel the same – they are no longer trying to convince anyone of anything, they are just living it. doing it. that said, i too sense that sparks are there to ignite and it gives a certain framework to these gatherings that i am sensitive too. i often come away thinking that i am the sensitive one. on further reflection i wonder if all of us have more feelers out, and this is why unrest often happens in groups with a cause. we cannot get hung up on the subtle (and some times not so subtle) differences when there is one overarching “beautiful ideal”. i am often guilty of judging subtle difference as a deal breaker. with this in mind, i feel that for me unschooling is even more of a paradigm shift than it is for my kids. after all, it is simply their reality. i hope it teaches me the ability to exist closer to those of differing opinion than i have been capable of experiencing in the past. time will tell. i hope all of us on this alternative path have empathy for one another. emotion is, after all, a big piece of our choice.

    i want to state again, it seems like you are grappling with something even more complex and potentially dangerous? so, my feelings may not serve as appropriate here. instinct seems the most important.

    we have come to feel that “free-learning” is what best describes what we are doing – put more simply – freedom. francisco ferrer’s efforts in his escuela moderna, over a century ago, inform our contemporary understanding of a “free-school”. these ideas of freedom are what resonate with us.

    i look forward to reading your blog in the coming months. thanks for reaching out to me.

    • Hi Kim,
      Wow, confloption – I love that word!!

      You have given me lots of wonderful food for thought. Thank you so much. I looked up ‘escuela moderna’, sounds interesting. Wiki say they have a school in London (where I’m from) but I couldn’t find it on google.

      Can you give me more info. on your ‘free learning’ approach? Does it have anything to do with Laura Grace Weldon’s ‘Free Range Learning’ philosophy??

      I got an email yesterday from Laura Grace Weldon of ‘Free Range Learning’ fame. She is such a lovely modest lady from what I could see in my recent blog/email ‘chats’. She said the following, “I’m starting two new projects, one about homeschooling/unschooling teens and another called Subversive Cooking. I’d love to have your input on both. If you know people homeschooling teens or grown homeschoolers who’d like to contribute their stories I’d love to hear from them. And here’s the Subversive Cooking site http://subversivecooking.wordpress.com/ and Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/SubversiveCooking Her email is: laura.euphoria@gmail.com and she blogs on wordpress too. I don’t know if you’re unschooling teens?

      Regarding Bahrain. My husband and I are a ‘mixed’ Arab/English couple. We met in Dubai, lived for some years in Toronto and then a few months in the UK. We didn’t find our niche in either country and so headed back to the Gulf because he can make a good living here and it’s easy for our ‘mixed’ kids since there are lots here! But really, we wouldn’t live here anymore if it wasn’t for his ‘good’ job, especially now we’re home educating and preferring an unschooling approach. We would love to live somewhere culturally rich or rich in nature to give the kids an education through those mediums. Bahrain has neither and it’s hardly a travel hub! But of course politically it’s interesting, which is an education in itself! And I love politics! At bit sad the kids bandy around words like ‘tear gas’, ‘burning tyres’, ‘graffiti and ‘protesters’ quite so freely though! I gather you live in San Fran. I love it there! I have relations nearby and my brother has been spending a lot of time there in the last few years.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. You are a great photographer by the way! Looking forward to hearing more of your views! Best wishes, Penny

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow there are a lot of issues here. As you point out in your blog entry, things are not black and white, therefore associating with people whose views you may find offensive does not make you a hypocrite or morally bankrupt or a bad person (and I always say that in this complex modern world, we are all hypocrites in one way or another). I know for myself, over the years I’ve coexisted just fine with families in my homeschooling support group whose views on politics, religion, and child rearing are totally different than mine. I think not raising issues like religion, sexuality, and politics when you first meet someone is socially mature and savvy, not cowardly. Over time, you glean where people are coming from, and when you do, you begin to understand who you may want to pursue a deeper friendship with. And it’s rare to find someone you agree with on everything. I always think it’s more important to look at the person and not the political beliefs. I know some wonderful people I call friends whose political views are radically different than mine. When it comes to their actions in the world and our relationship, they are clearly good people and good friends. If I found a person’s actions morally bankrupt and offensive, that would be a deal breaker for me in pursuing a friendship or relationship. But people holding views I disagree with would not.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your comment. I think what’s critical is when you said, “When it comes to their actions in the world and our relationship, they are clearly good people and good friends”. IF people are clearly good people but just different, that is not an issue. It’s the real goodness, and what I define as goodness, that’s at issue. I know people here who have to deal with people in her kids’ class with ‘black hearts’ as it’s been described. When you live in a semi-war zone or such a contentious part of the world as the Middle East, what kinds of views people hold can be very different from what people in other parts of the world are disagreeing about! For instance, kids here have to share classrooms with other kids who’s parents would consider them ‘cockroaches’ because of their different religion. How can you be friendly with people who think of you this way however polite they may be to your face. I wish I had thought of that example in my post. This doesn’t affect us, fortunately, but that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about! Very best wishes, Penny

  5. 1. Homeschooling is always the best choice.
    2. Yes, these other moms are gauging you. They want the best for their children, too, and have no idea where you are coming from. They may even be a bit pushy to see how you handle yourself under pressure. Just do you best to be civilized!
    3. It really matters because their children are playing with your chldren and children are easily led astray. Easily. A parent should never expect a child to have adult wisdom. Ever. And they do not guard their tonges, innocently do not know they should try to. They say whatever. Seeds are sewn. Seeds of violence, hatred, and treachery can be sewn. Facts reported at home, later, can be skewered. They’re children, for pity’s sake! They react to fear instead of responding in love. You are very correct to be very cautious.
    4. It is wisdom to keep still, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.
    5. Probably, wisely, at least one other person in this group is not in agreement, but also keeping silent. You will figure out which one that is, if you watch carefully. There will be your true support group. (I would look at the oldest first. Age often brings wisdom. Not always, though.)
    6. I found you through another site I cannot remember the name of, now, but by way of introduction (here at the end, I know!) I have home schooled for a quarter century. My baby just graduated college and will marry in Sept. My husband and I are on the statewide homeschool support alliance for our state. I have written for homeschool magazines for 15 years. I am openly and flagrantly Christian, which I hope is not a divisive factor, here, as I have no intention of trying to insult anyone, but sometimes my existence is just too much for some people, because of it. I can accept that, but I hope, instead, you can accept me.

    I look forward to hearing from you via the reply option, below. 🙂 Katharine

    • Hi Katharine, Thank you for your thoughtful points. I especially like no. 4. I am finding out more about this group and it has an interesting history. For the moment though, I think we can hopefully all accept each other but in the past, there were some members who I wouldn’t have been able to stay with. Anyway, we’ll see! Very best wishes, Penny

  6. PS – you may email me if you desire. 🙂

  7. Wonderful post – it’s fascinating to hear about how similar, yet so very different things are on the other side of the world.

    From my experience I’d say remain silent, foster these relationships, avoid certain topics, or if you delve into them and discover you’re on opposite sides, be polite and step out of the conversation. IME if I’m in someone else’s home, unless they invite debate, we just smile and nod when someone says something morally offensive to us. In our home, we might try to discuss, but if the person isn’t open to other views, then we politely tell them we don’t believe the same and would like the discussion closed, if they continue we ask them to leave, and will close the door on the relationship.

    Though it would depend. If the person spews hate regularly, we’d stop contact with them. We know one family, in particular, who views certain people as less than worthy, as evil. We know they hold these views, but for the most part they don’t discuss them around us. If they did I’d be more inclined to sever ties.

    My parents closed the door on many relationships. I see them now, aging and alone. I see myself and my husband with only a small handful of friends. But I see so many others with a small handful of friends, but a large network of people they can invite to dinner, spend time with and enjoy companionship with. They do not have to agree on everything, they can still be friends. I see their lives as richer than my own. I also see their children increasing their tolerance of others.

    I find after standing my ground on issues I find important for ethical or moral reasons, I don’t actually feel very positive about myself. I feel negative about myself and others. I’d rather teach my children tolerance, patience, understanding, and love.

    Of course the exception to this is with a certain group of acquaintances we have who enjoy a lively debate. Often they’ll choose an opposing side just to discuss. 🙂 I really wish we had more people like that around us!

    Oh, after a visit with someone who’s views are opposite of ours, we do take the time to talk to our children about why we don’t agree with those views. At a very young age our children have seen racism personally, they’ve witnessed others spewing hate towards one person or another. I don’t want them to learn that it’s okay – but by preventing their exposure, I inadvertently tell them that we’re better than someone else. We’re not – we’re just different.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. But!!! I don’t agree that we’re all as good as each other, just different. People who aren’t racist ARE better than racists. People who aren’t homophobic ARE better than homophobes. I have a real issue with Zionists. Yes, it matters how they express themselves, how zealous they are e.g. whether they use hate speech or violent acts. This sort of thing is really worrying to me http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/30/christian-fundamentalists-plan-teach-genocide

      When we meet others and find they have different views, about serious issues, it’s interesting, if the opportunity presents itself to find out if these are deeply entrenched, thought-out views or views just held in ignorance, acknowledged that this is so and open to debate. I wasn’t always the way I am now (I feel I am a far more well-informed, developed person now) but the way I was before was because of ignorance and I was happy to admit that, look at new facts and see if after being better informed, I would change my mind, which I have done from time to time). I feel that if we accept everyone, we are condoning them. I don’t want to grow old and lonely but I don’t want to call racists and bigots my friends either. You said, “We know one family, in particular, who views certain people as less than worthy, as evil. We know they hold these views, but for the most part they don’t discuss them around us. If they did I’d be more inclined to sever ties”, no way could I be friends with these people or at least, to be fair, I really can’t see how I would. However nice they were, I would feel ashamed of myself and feel I’m putting my need for friendship above my morals which isn’t good.

      I can’t see how being friends with people who hold abhorrent views (not merely different), friends enough to dine with them, as being a contribution to the richness of our life. If bigots and racists etc… were stood up to, THIS might change their views. If not, I don’t want to implicitly tell them ‘they’re OK’ by socializing with them or give my kids that message. I think it’s really important to teach my children, as you say, “tolerance, patience, understanding, and love” but is this not, in some cases, accepting the unacceptable? I think the people who could really teach us something are people from the kind of minority, persecuted groups I’m thinking of. I am going to give you a sensitive example. Please do not be offended. This is a really heartfelt plea to find out what’s the best thing to do when it comes to socializing with people with really different views.

      So here goes – how would the Jews in Hitler’s time feel about friends of theirs being friends with Nazis? I really would have thought they would have felt sick and betrayed. Could you really say to these people that by being friends with Nazis, you are modelling tolerance, patience, understanding, and love?? In my world, if I met people who thought what was happening in Palestine now is totally OK and acceptable, that it’s OK for Israelis to treat Palestinians this way, I do not think I am helping my children by welcoming them into our home. If they say they support Israel because they feel sorry for Jewish people but admit not really having thought much about it and are happy to discuss it, this would be a totally different thing. These are things I’m talking about. Other issues e.g. abortion, I can see both sides of so much more. But other issues, I can’t accept the other side, although I’m always happy to debate and happy to keep an open mind although if the person is a racist or a bigot their position comes out of so much hate, it’s hard to give them 5 minutes talk time. The hate just oozes out.

      Do you know what I mean? Does this change your thoughts at all? I try and put myself in the shoes of that persecuted group, who I want to support, however flimsily, and I feel that I have to take a moral stand, however much it hurts me.

      • I think, for me, it comes down to the wise words “teach the gospel, use words when necessary”. I can’t change their views by arguing, I can model my own ideals. I’ve never seen someone change their mind by being told their wrong, by being attacked, or by being ostracized. That being said, I don’t associate with people with the intent to change them.

        HIstory is full of opposing sides being made up of families. Brother against brother. They are morally on opposite sides, yet still sit down for Christmas dinner together.
        Ultimately I still don’t think I’m any better than anyone else. Our backgrounds make us who we are. We are not born being who we are as adults, our parents, friends, and society shapes who we become. That is never ending. Adults can change.

        I do think some ideas, ideals, are better than others. I can completely disagree with a person – be disgusted by something someone says they believe. I can cringe at the thoughts a person lets slip. I can also make a firm stand within my own mind, and talk to those I know agree with me about how I felt so as not to let that taint my own thoughts.

        But ultimately, IMO, if I believe I’m better than someone else b/c of their thoughts, their background, their colour, their attitude, then my thoughts are no better than theirs either.

        I want my children to learn the value of all people so we can be part of the solution.

      • I know! I do also worry, “if I believe I’m better than someone else b/c of their thoughts, their background, their colour, their attitude, then my thoughts are no better than theirs either”. I do worry that if I believe I’m better than a racist or bigot then I’m doing the same thing as them! I do hear where you’re coming from.

        And it sounds so commendable when you say, “I want my children to learn the value of all people so we can be part of the solution.” But I really wonder if this is the solution. I’ve talked to people who have been marginalized, in a way I never have. I have talked to people who’s whole background pre-set them to be a certain way, who’s whole families are a certain way, but they made a choice to be different. And all these people say that they do not want people not to take a stand. There ARE some objectively WRONG ways to be. I am not a relativist and I don’t think you are either. The whole world is being taught that there are some things that are objectively wrong by, for instance, a greater and greater emphasis on human rights and the fact there are now international courts dealing with human rights violations. These rights were not accepted before but they are more and more so – universally. There is an awfully long way to go but there have been huge strides made in trying to have some international laws that say some things are not right, even if you think, in your country and culture that they are right. And people stand up and say these things/people are wrong. I am obviously in the wrong job, being a homeschooling Mum 😉 I should be working for these courts, I feel so passionately about it. I base my beliefs on what I think is right/helps those less fortunate than myself, however uncomfortable it makes me. I feel that’s the price I must pay for being so blessed; for not having to suffer these things myself. Thanks for the debate. At least we’re on the same side, just a different approach. I hope that between us, we can make a positive difference 🙂

What do you think? Please do let me know. I would love to hear your opinion!

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