The first day that your kids learn about the Civil War can be a tough one for everyone. The schools introduce the subject badly and too early in a child’s maturation, maybe because teachers themselves are not educated well on the subject. One of my kids came home and afraid of Grandma and Grandpa because somehow in the discussion at school, they got the impression that everyone’s grandparents were involved.
One of my kids went to a fully integrated school where whites were the minority and everyone was friends until the teachers spent too much time talking about slavery to an audience that was too young. Even black children who didn’t get taught about slavery at home get a stunted lesson at school and then no one knows how to act around each other.
It is difficult to talk about. Slavery and human trafficking is difficult to explain to your innocent children who may have never seen nor heard about evil. But the subject is best breached by you, a well prepared and educated parent who can present the subject smartly before they get it in an awkward and badly planned lesson at school where a teacher has been so restricted in what they can say that they just want to get through it.
Slavery and human oppression have been around since the beginning of man. Since man has had to work for his own survival, he has schemed to devise ways to lessen his own effort. Until the invention of farm implements and heavy construction equipment, men have toiled in the dirt by hand. When they could, they utilized animals to pull plows and haul building materials. But, when a strong people could get the upper hand, they used weaker people. The weak are always easy prey for being enslaved. For thousands of years, during wartime, women and children were easy to enslave once their men were killed. People with improved weapons could overtake and enslave those with lesser weapons. In the church, we learn first about the Israelites and their generations of enslavement. Remind your kids about Moses and why we celebrate Passover (freedom from bondage) There has never been a time period when slavery didn’t exist.
When discussing the Civil War it is easy for teachers and children to fall into thinking that all white people were part of the perpetuation of slavery. But the Founding Fathers fought hard to prohibit slavery though eventually allowing it in order to form the country. The problem weighed heavy on those who opposed it. Though there were churches in the south that somehow justified slavery as a biblical principal, there were just as many churches that knew it was wrong and sought to abolish it. Eventually it was white people, because it had to be, that ultimately offered their lives during the war in order to end it. People who had nothing to gain from the abolishing of slavery other than knowing it was evil offered themselves. The majority of people knew what was right and when the time was ripe, stood up and fought.
When discussing, reading or watching Civil War history, the language used is not what we call appropriate today. Is it better to completely censor it as some parents and schools and cultures think? The last thing I want to do when teaching is to censor facts. As historians try to censor facts in the name of PCness and to avoid insult, all that happens is that truth gets forgotten and diminished. Movies like Glory use the N-word. Because young children repeat everything indiscriminately, it would not be age appropriate for little kids. But for a mature teen who has been well educated and knows what’s up, it should be okay.
For your older teens, if you think they are ready, then move on to explaining that human trafficking goes on today and that mostly women and children are bought and sold for sex. Men across the world who do not hold the same values as us will traffic in humans for pleasure. Remind them that the illegal drug trade creates much of this demand. This could lead into a discussion about the role of pimps and prostitutes. If they are going to live in the world they need to know what is going on. If you live in Salt Lake City then you know how drugs can force girls and boys into prostituting themselves and becoming victims of those who can control them. There is no way to not see them standing on the streets and in front of convenience stores. We point out that those who purchase drugs illegally here are guilty of perpetuating the sex trade elsewhere. If there was no demand, there would be no trade. You can tell them that poor countries often ignore the sex tourists that exploit children because they want the money. This knowledge about the evil outside of their homes can be devastating, so be prepared. They may wonder how a God who loves his people can allow this to occur. This is a good opportunity to talk about the gift of agency, how choices that seemingly only affect ourselves(like drug use) really create a domino affect across the world, and, as we are brothers and sisters as children of God, how we truly are our brother’s keeper. There are millions of good people in this world who eschew the temptation of money and sacrifice their own livelihoods in order to fight for the freedom and safety of these enslaved individuals. You or you kids may have that desire to enter that fight.
Articles to Read
Movies to watch: 12 and older
Books to read