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An Effort of Mass Distraction

Imagine for a moment what the 2012 Mock Presidential Election in your child’s elementary school will look like. What slogans will they create to campaign for (or against) Romney or Obama based on the messages they are hearing from the mainstream media? Will they talk about the dangers of socialism, theocracy? Probably not. Chances are most of them won’t even know who is running until they enter the pretend ballot box to cast their votes. Suddenly, the entire concept of a mock election doesn’t seem very educational at all.

If we want to truly empower our children, we are going to have to elevate the level of discourse beyond the sensationalized talking points of the nightly news. We’re going to have to educate them on the fundamental differences between the parties and candidates. We’re going to have to warn them against the ideologies that threaten prosperity in our great country. And we are going to have to teach them how to wield the power of the ballot box to protect the freedoms granted to them in the very Constitution they are learning about in school. Instead, we are talking about dogs, birthday parties and lawn boys.

And who is dictating the direction of the conversation? The mainstream media is, of course. Operating as an extension of the government-run educational system, the liberal media is but another pawn in the dumbing-down-of-our-nation’s-youth movement. Long have conservatives hammered the liberal media for dumbing down the masses, and most of us have taken to talk-radio to cure this ill. However, efforts of the media to dilute the real election messages are now obstructing the education of the very population that will be most impacted by the next President’s policies: our children.

It amounts to a well-orchestrated effort of mass distraction.

The problem is about more than just sensationalism or, as Ted Koppel said in an interview with Matt Lauer on Today recently, a result of the social media phenomenon. Koppel – a 30-year veteran of the media – didn’t want to shoulder any responsibility for the type of political conversations that are taking place today. Instead, he placed blame on Twitter, dismissing its value in the arena of public discourse by saying, “If it can be reduced to 140 characters, it has legs with the American people, and they run with it.” Even his tone toward the Twitterverse was one of repugnance, like it was only for the Simpletons of the world. Yet for those of us who predominantly follow news sources, pundits, political commentators who are considered leaders in their industry, this statement reeks of ignorance. Talk about out of touch.

Besides, can’t every issue, including the ones that really matter, be discussed in any social setting? If we teach our youth that the real issues like jobs, the economy, healthcare, and education cannot be discussed via social media with any real merit, then we are ultimately teaching them they can’t talk about things that matter in any social environment. As a result, they are reduced to talking about Lindsey Lohan’s latest public meltdown or Brangelina’s engagement. But our children have more valuable ideas and thoughts to contribute, and we must remember that they won’t always be children.

It would be great to live in a world where children could spend time in their own social environments – in the lunchroom, on the playground, on sleepovers, or maybe (GASP!) on a first date – talking about things that really matter. We want our young people to be able to carry on dignified conversations that reflect critical and independent thought, ideas that have been shaped by real education (that is, knowledge acquisition).

It’s true that media is headed in the wrong direction, but social media is far from the sole culprit. The problem we have is a government-induced, main-stream-media-supported effort to dumb down the population and to distract us, so we will lose focus on the fact that our country is falling apart under Obama’s reign. Union-loving teachers, left-wing reporters and liberal politicians (who, let’s face it, get more time on TV to push their agenda) manipulate messages in order to prey on the emotions of our children, rarely tempering these messages or images with logic or data that might provide balance.

As a result, children grow up unable to identify logical fallacies when they see them (trust me, I teach this concept in freshman composition classes), so they become adults who have been hard-wired as unable to think and reason for themselves. They can’t solve their own problems, so they become dependent on government to solve the problems for them. These moochers end up voting for Democrats exclusively, because that’s the party that will keep their entitlement checks coming. Do you see the payoff?

One can’t help but think of Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, which speaks of a future America where books are entirely forbidden and any worthwhile conversation or thought is replaced by talking “walls” in a person’s home. These walls are essentially movie theater-sized screens that surround a room, broadcasting nonstop coverage of a soap opera-esque reality TV show. The highest level of engagement one can hope for is being awarded a line of scripted dialogue in the show, which is spoken from the home, directly to the walls. There is no interaction or exchange of ideas.

If we don’t change the course of education, media, and communication in our homes, we are at risk of living out this Bradburian dystopic nightmare. As parents, we must fight vigilantly against the effort to dumb down our children, or we will fall victim to the VLWC that Mitt Romney recently spoke of. We must identify sources that don’t filter real issues or dilute them with Hollywood or sports gossip and make those informative sources daily reading for the whole family. Then, we should do what effective educators do, lead our children to reflect on the issues and discuss them – maybe over dinner or on a walk through the park (yes, a social environment). Through this exercise, we can teach them how to discuss their views freely while still being cognizant of the fact that others might disagree.

The civic education of our children isn’t the responsibility of the government – and they wouldn’t do the job correctly anyway – the duty lies with us, our children’s parents. As we head into election – and mock election season – we need to remember that even though the “votes” of our children don’t technically count yet, their informed opinions do, and that’s the first lesson we need to teach them.

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