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Children should be encouraged to respectfully question authority

By: Kayla Merriweather

From birth, children are taught to obey. Whether it be a parent, teacher, coach, or another authority figure, we are taught from a young age to follow the direction of someone in a position of power. While there is certainly nothing wrong with respecting figures of authority, a fine line often exists in certain situations. For example, if a teacher asks a young student to do something unreasonable or inappropriate, how can they be expected to refute the instruction if they have been programmed to obey? Because our society is so rigid, especially when it comes to rules and interactions with people of authority, it is seemingly impossible to be 100 percent right at any given point. For this reason, it is important to teach people from a young age that disagreements or differences in opinion are not something to be discouraged, but rather something to be embraced.

A major, seemingly unsolvable issue that constantly rears its ugly head is a common moral code. If every person has a different opinion about what is right and what is wrong, discord is almost always assured. While it is wishful thinking to hope that one day every person will be on the same page in regard to morals, we do have control over the way in which we discuss issues, especially things we disagree about. In American culture and society, there is a belief that anything different or unique is to be frowned upon. As a result, it is difficult to compromise with people who are different than ourselves, hold different views, or a combination of the two. However, there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

According to psychologytoday.com, “behavioral style is often the reason we will like or dislike someone. We tend to ‘like’ those who are like us. We can communicate more effectively, and have greater understanding, with those people who naturally behave in a manner we understand.”

In their formative years, children gravitate toward those with similar behavioral styles, resulting in the establishment of views and habits that are hard to shake as they mature. Over the course of their lives, any encounters with someone of a different behavioral style might result in judgement, prejudice, or even conflict. For this reason, it is important to establish early on that the differences among us, varying from different political stances to racial backgrounds, are not to be feared or shunned, but embraced.

This generation of youth seems to be embracing diversity more so than their predecessors, but an aspect of respect is also necessary. While having a different opinion than someone else on a given subject is normal, it is hard for others to take someone seriously if they are not respectful in the way they exhibit their views. When a general code of respect is established, East students may see a relative decrease of conflict.

In short, appreciating each other’s differences and portraying our opinions and views while simultaneously respecting those of others would diminish strain in many relationships. Teaching children to challenge authority in a respectful way when they perceive a wrongdoing builds strong character, resilience, and a sense of security in the importance of their voice. If every child is provided the opportunity to speak out against injustices they perceive, even if they are directed toward authority, the future for America is bright.

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