Children’s deepest perceptions of themselves and the world are not formed by what you as parents TELL them. If you feel that other races are inferior, it doesn’t matter what you TELL them; they’ll grow up feeling that other races are inferior. If you feel that sex is dirty and the human body is shameful, it doesn’t matter what you TELL them; they’ll will grow up feeling that sex is dirty and the human body is shameful.
If you feel that people on welfare are just lazy, it doesn’t matter what you TELL them; they’ll grow up feeling that people on welfare are just lazy. I could extend this list indefinitely. (This is why I’ve never been tempted to produce an Ishmael-for-children book; if you as parents embrace Ishmael‘s values on a deep level, then those values will be fostered in your children—so no Ishmael-for-children book is needed.
If you don’t really embrace Ishmael‘s values, neither will your children—even you give them an Ishmael-for-children book.) When they reach puberty, children begin to encounter new values, values not fostered by you. If the value system they receive from you continues to make sense to them, fine. If not, they’ll be open to something new (which is why so many kids in their teens embrace Ishmael as a eye-opening experience).
It’s very different in a tribal setting. In that setting, the value system of the children is shaped all the adults in the tribe (not just their parents). And, since the adults of the tribe all share the same values, their children all reach puberty with the same values (which is obviously not the case in our culture), which is one reason why puberty isn’t a time of crisis among tribal peoples.
Or, putting it all a slightly different way, if your experience with Ishmael has really changed you—if you have new minds, then so will your children. If you’re different from what you were, then your children will be different in the same way. If you’re different from your neighbors, then your children will be different in the same way. And this will come about because everything you do and say will be slightly different—all the time and from the very beginning—not because on one particular day you sat them down and gave them a lecture.
updated: 14 Jul 2003