20 May 2008

On Ideological Intolerance

I was all set to dash off something brilliant on this topic when a co-worker sent this to me. It is by Michael Josephson, founder of "Charater Counts". And I think he says it pretty well ...

"On many issues of morality we are deeply divided.

The volume and virulence of disagreement on issues like stem cell research, abortion, and gay unions is testimony to the undeniable reality that millions of Americans are lined up on opposite sides of a chasm, appalled at the ethical poverty of those with whom they disagree.

According to a May 2005 Gallup poll, about one-third of Americans think it’s morally wrong to test animals for medical research (30 percent), to buy and use animal fur (32 percent), to gamble (32 percent), to conduct stem cell research (33 percent), and for unmarried men and women to have sex (39 percent). At the same time, a very large majority believe such conduct is morally acceptable. One-third may be a small minority, but it’s a lot of people.

On the most socially contentious issues, the nation is almost equally divided -- with about 50 percent believing that doctor-assisted suicide, abortion, and homosexual relations are morally reprehensible.

On each issue, believers are sincere and passionate. No amount of discussion is likely to change their minds.

So what are we to do? As to what our laws will permit or prohibit, the majority rules, but the legal solution often intensifies rather than resolves the controversy. After all, morality is not simply a matter of voting.

But who’s really right and who’s wrong?

Although I have strong personal convictions on all these matters, I can’t honestly say I know. I only know what I believe. While it’s hard for me to accept contrary views, I can’t claim superiority in either intelligence or integrity -- lots of people I disagree with are smart people of good character. Is the opposite of a moral truth a moral lie?

Ideological intolerance evolves into self-righteousness, condemnation, and ultimately persecution -- and I know that’s wrong.

07 May 2008

Raising Readers

Apparently, May is "Get Caught Reading" Month - an event sponsored by the American Association of Publishers to help inspire kids to read.

Got me thinking:

There are about a billion studies that show the benefits of reading to kids. I won't rehash those. (You're welcome.) But I will say that if you want to do ONE thing to improve your children's lives: READ TO THEM!

I have always been an avid reader. I read to learn. I read to relax. I read for the sheer pleasure of it.

My mom used to have to pry books from my hands to get me to go to bed at night. I minored in English in college so that I would have an excuse to take extra classes in Shakespeare and American Literature. I always have a huge "to read" stack next to my bed and I never go anywhere without a book.

So, it's just possible that I might be a wee bit biased when I say that it's a national tragedy that the numbers of people who read for pleasure are declining.

I think our society would be much better off if more people turned off American Idol and picked up a great American author.

I don't know why more people don't share my love of the written word. And I can't claim to know any special secret as to how to inspire young people to develop that love of reading.

But I do know that I want to do everything in my power to pass that love onto my sons.

I've been reading to them and telling them stories since they were only a few weeks old. It didn't matter what the reading material was when they were babies. They just liked the sound of my voice. So I just read to them whatever I happened to be reading at the time. Then we moved on to board books (yum, chewy!) and picture books. And now we read simple stories with fun characters.

I just love reading a book from my own childhood to my kids. It's like visiting an old friend: Frog and Toad ... The Pokey Little Puppy ... The Giving Tree ... Mowgli's Flute ... The Berenstein Bears ... Where the Wild Things Are. I can hardly wait to read them the Harry Potter Books! :)

As much as I have loved to read my whole life, I have found that - like so many things - it is even better with my kids.

I hope that my love of reading will "rub off" on my kids. Because I think that to raise a reader is to raise a lifelong learner. And those are the kind of people I like to share my planet with.

05 May 2008

Children Learn What They Live

My mother hung this plaque in my room when I was a baby. Now, 30-plus years later, the same plaque hangs in my sons' room. It's message is just as true and important today, I think.
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.

If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.

If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.

If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.

If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in them- selves and others.

If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.