Don't outsource courage

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He stood up for someone being bullied, against a foe with a knife, and he was reprimanded for it:

We need an entire rethink on the pervasive message of pacifism we’re teaching children.

I’m not advocating violence, and I understand a school board has legal liabilities to worry about. But we do our children a disservice if we do not acknowledge there are circumstances, albeit rare, where action is required.

This likely wasn’t one of those. Do we really believe one child was about to stab another in the classroom? More likely an idiot wanted to look imposing by flashing a weapon. Yes, telling the teacher would have been a better choice in that situation.

Children should walk away from insults, children should seek help from authority figures, children should use words and other means to avoid physical confrontation.

But when physical confrontation is unavoidable, we want them to respond aggressively, purposefully, and with all the survival instincts that have resulted in us being here three billion years after life began on Earth.

Courage shouldn’t be outsourced to the government.

The police won’t be there when someone breaks into your home, and they won’t be there when someone assaults your kid at a Friday night party.

We teach them pacifism without even meaning to. Sure, we don’t want kids screaming all the time in the house. But as a journalist, I can’t tell you the number of times I ask a child his or her name and I can’t make sense of the hushed, mumbled reply. Children should be encouraged to speak boldly and loudly. We spend so much time – too much time – telling them to use inside voices, we repress their voices.

Voices matter. A loud voice is a survival tool, and not just because it can yell for help. A strong voice can be a declaration of self-hood, a statement of confidence.

We stifle them physically, too. Children should know how to hold a kitten gently. But they should also know how to smash things with all the energy their muscles contain. Gentle is good for most things, but smash is the mode you want in certain circumstances, and it won’t just magically appear if it’s been chained, restrained and weeded out of their personalities.

I think martial arts training is a core skill, like swimming or fire safety. The goal isn’t to create Bruce Lee, but to introduce them to physical confrontation in a controlled setting; give them tools they can use to protect themselves; and to develop the ability to dial into a combative mindset.

Courage should be promoted. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is the will to do what needs to be done in the face of fear. That’s a laudable personality trait, and every parent has the power to impart it to their children, even if they struggle to feel courageous themselves.

I understand the urge to keep children safe. Of course I do. I share it. But it must be resisted a little. Bubble-wrapped safety isn’t safety, not really. At best, it protects by limiting curiosity, adventure and ambition. At worst, it leaves them woefully unprepared when danger appears. 

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