Preparing Children and the World for Each Other by AJ Talley
I have two primary obligations as a parent. The first is to prepare my son to be ready, in every way possible, to meet the world. The second, of no lesser significance to me, is to prepare the world to meet, and to receive, my son.
I began thinking about what kind of parent I would be when I was 14 years old. I believed then, as I do now, that children are vulnerable. The ways that children experience life, guided, protected, taught and disciplined by adults, determine how they will impact the world as adults. I wanted to give my child as many internal resources as possible.
I have made it my responsibility to talk to him about the history of many peoples in the world, knowing that the educational system would teach history from a primarily Eurocentric perspective. I have taught him some “good, old-fashioned manners,” and that when you work for other people, you must give them “good value for their money.” He has been taught to value the feelings of others, to recognize diverse communication styles, and to be a critical thinker.
Even with all these resources, I would be dishonest with myself and with him if I did not acknowledge the heightened risk factors for young males in our society today. The risks are even greater for young men with black or brown skin. We all love our children, and want to protect them from the bad things in life. For me such “bad things” include negative responses to stereotypical images that might be placed on my son. It could be as simple as name-calling. But if a stereo-typical image promotes the mistaken theory that my son is, for example, a gang member, that mistake could cost a life.
I believe that to live without regret, one must live in a way that permits you to say honestly, “I have done all I could.” Living so, we will rarely be bitten by the whip of “If only I had done . . .” I believe passionately in getting involved with our community. To do so makes a significant statement to society and, importantly, to our kids about the value we place on making society receptive to the young people who will soon replace the people of my generation—in business, govern-ment, arts, and as members of humanity.
To sufficiently prepare my son to meet society, I must help prepare society to receive my child. To fulfill that duty, I have volunteered in some of our schools, talking with students of all ages about diversity, about violence and how to break its cycle, and about contributions of ethnically diverse people to the history of our country. I have participated in school district task forces, advisory committees, and activities. I have worked with the Salem-Keizer and surrounding communities to create opportunities to celebrate diversity. And, as host of “Tapestry,” a half hour interview show on CCTV, I have explored the things that kids think about and the way in which societal pressures impact them.
I have recently strengthened my commitment to readying our community to receive my child—all of our children—by declaring my candidacy for Salem-Keizer School Board. As a member of the School Board, my commitment will be to address how our educational system pre-pares our children, with all of their needs and gifts, to meet an ever-changing and increasingly receptive society. As a member of the School Board, I will participate in the interaction between the School District, local businesses, higher educational systems, and government.
The educational process is similar to a three-legged stool. The parent is respon-sible for 1/3 of the process. I must provide a home environment supportive of the child, and see that he is prepared to learn. The student is responsible for 1/3 of the process. He must pay attention in class, do his homework, and treat teachers and administrators with respect. And the school district is responsible for 1/3 of the process. They must find innovative and effective ways to teach each child what they need to know to go into the world.
When one leg of the stool is unable to fulfill its role, members of the community need to step in to restore the balance for all our children. It is my intention and my joy to fully engage in this process.
Aleta Joy (AJ) Talley has lived in Salem since 1990. She is the single parent of one son. AJ is the founder of the local Kwanzaa Celebration, and the fledgling Afro Oregonian Historical Center. She can be reached by phone at 399-7439 or email.