It was Parent Night in my religious education classroom this week. To my pleasant surprise, all but two of my students’ parents showed up. The kids and parents usually came to the classroom together, but separated when they sat down: students to their desks, parents to the back. I never said anything either way about seating arrangements, not even to the students last week.
One of the things I learned in my social anthropology classes was to let the people you study act naturally and without your influence. So, I sat at my desk in the front and smiled amiably at everyone, knowing they were evaluating me as much as I was secretly studying them. Not a single person asked, “May I sit with my child/parent?”
Something I remember from my days in grade school— and even into high school— was one simple rule: If your parent was there and there wasn’t a set-in-stone rule about seating, you sat with your parent. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It was a show of unity and solidarity. Such body language spoke volumes toward the responsibility felt by both parent and child. Parents stood by their children in a literal sense and a more intangible, metaphorical sense (e.g. their decisions, their actions, etc.). Children recognized their role as representatives of their family name, values, and the sort in situations where the parents aren’t always present— like school.
In any case, everyone settled into their spots and class began. After a brief introduction and homework review, I said, “Alright, parents. Come on up and sit next to your students.” I paused for a moment, a slight smile quirking the corners of my mouth, as the collective expression changed from calm neutrality to surprise and a parent said out loud, “Oh no, we’re just here to observe.”
As I went on to explain the activities I’d planned already, I could see that most of the kids were excited to get their parents involved, to see them in action as well. To their credit, I’m glad none of the kids showed any disappointment when the parents hesitated at my invitation. Heck, I’m proud of myself for not losing my amiable smile; I expected hesitation, but not outright refusal.
That’s when I really understood and wanted to ring up the White House with my brilliant idea. I know Vice President Biden had met with video game executives a few days ago, including representatives of Activision/Blizzard— which makes Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo— and EA, which distributes Mass Effect, among other games and titles. I can’t claim to know much about their thought process or what was said in those talks, but I know this much for sure: If every parent sat down with their kids to either play the games with them, or talk about the game’s content and material, we might be a lot better off.
Anyone who’s been following my blog for the past two years can attest to my penchant for “preachy” posts that extrapolates complex morals and ideals from the heart of the video games I play. A lot of those ideas are inspired by the fact that I’m a parent and, for better or worse, my daughter’s going to be looking to me for guidance. She’s also going to pick up a video game one day. With luck, she may just innocently see it as a form of entertainment that comes from a box and nothing more. But knowing how much she is like me, she’s more likely to ask, “Why did that orc ask me to capture those Alliance characters?”
Some of the subjects that come up may be tough and touchy, especially if you have a kid who seriously questions the ethics of his/her actions within the confines of a fictional universe. Not all of the questions will be difficult, but not all of the answers— if they exist in the first place— are easy, either.
My students remember the little bite-sized quips I make up better than they remember actual material from the book. One of those quips is, “God does not ask us to do anything He would not do Himself.” The students and I spoke of it briefly on Monday night, and I couldn’t help but notice a couple of the kids looking back at their parents pointedly.
Whether it’s religion, video games, sports, needlepoint embroidery, gardening, or just life in general, kids need us adults— parents and friends alike— to help them through it. And we can’t do that from a distance. We have to be there with them, in the moment, present and accounted for.
In the coming weeks/months, I’m going to have a post or two more that respond to the role of video games in our society and, apparently, the increase of violent crimes in our country. Got an idea, suggestion, or comment? Let me know!