Dr. David Walsh (www.drdavewalsh.com), one of the best speakers and authors regarding parenting that I’ve encountered, says, “Whoever tells the stories, defines the culture.” The importance of this concept for raising healthy children and being a healthy community cannot be overstated. What storytellers are most prominent in lives of our children in Pequot Lakes?
Understanding how this parenting concept has changed in recent years requires a brief look back in time. Over the vast majority of human history, the responsibility of storytelling fell upon clergy, teachers, authors, and elders in each community. Cultural norms, family values, and collective understandings were handed down from one generation to the next through stories that slowly evolved over time. The responsibility for storytelling began to shift significantly in the 1950s and 1960s as televisions became common and people spent more and more time listening to storytellers on TV. The invention of video games, the internet in the 1990s and most recently, social media platforms, has dramatically shifted the role of storyteller from community elder to media.
Why is this important? Dr. Walsh argues in his 2007 book No: Why Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It that mass media preaches four consistent messages: More, Fast, Easy, and Fun.
The mass media companies that produce the constant barrage of advertising we absorb from televisions, internet ads, and other media sources don’t tell stories to teach ethics, social norms, and community values. They are for-profit companies that want us to buy stuff, and they are incredibly scientific about getting us to believe that we deserve More, we deserve it Fast, we deserve an Easy life, and it should always be Fun. Consider just how contradictory this message is from wanting our children to learn patience, grit, hard work, and the importance of delayed gratification.
Raising healthy children and being a healthy community today presents different challenges than it did sixty - or even fifteen - years ago. As parents and as a community we must pay attention to which storytellers our children are listening to and diligently teach them about bias and to be self-aware as they interact with media. We must learn and model strategies to filter the media we absorb and most importantly, we must ensure our children are absorbing a healthy dose of the stories we want them to hear. While we cannot eliminate media in today’s world - and I would never advocate that we try to do so - we can teach our children to be in control of how they interact with it and use it.
Note: January 23 - 27 was Paraprofessional Recognition Week in MN. Thank you to our Patriot paras for the care you provide to our students!
-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools