Kristin Vanderhey Shaw has a pretty good article in the washington Post, How to teach our kids not to hate, despite all the hate they’re exposed to this election. Here are some opening excerpts:
It takes very little effort for a child to learn to hate. It’s the status quo, after all, according to the often-repeated phrases “girls can be mean” or “boys will be boys,” usually accompanied by a shrug implying “that’s just how it is.” Teaching kids to not hate is much harder. It takes effort, and work. Family doctor and parenting expert Deborah Gilboa says many people assume that children learn hate and racism and xenophobia at home, but that’s not always the case.
“Young children and cautious children often have an inherent distrust of that which they don’t recognize as familiar — people, and also food, activities and so on. As parents, it’s our job to help our children respect others and learn to see differences as interesting, not scary,” says Gilboa. “We have to teach our kids to avoid sweeping generalizations about people — by gender, by religion, by culture, by race.”
I think Shaw is on the right track but her article is incomplete. The two words missing from this excellent article are collectivism and individualism. Both are implied. But I believe it’s important to conceptualize in concrete (word) form what we are talking about. Collectivism and individualism fit the bill.
I define collectivism as the idea that the primary focus of moral concern is the group. This leads to the kind of dehumanizing generalization discussed in the article. I define individualism as the idea that the primary focus of moral concern is the individual. This leads people to evaluate others according to individual character rather some racial, economic, or other group association. (It is important to note that collectivism does not mean teamwork and cooperation, and individualism does not mean lone wolfism.) We need to understand explicitly that collectivism leads to sweeping generalizations like “girls can be mean” or “boys will be boys,” and that individualism leads to the mindset that no individual represents every person in a demographic.
Unfortunately, collectivism is being promoted in the name of inclusion. The diversity campaigns promote the idea that racial or cultural heritage matters in judging people. People are diverse according to many individual characteristics. But racial/cultural identity is not a relevant characteristic. Though well-meaning, highlighting racial/cultural identity promotes collectivism and thus makes it easier to slip into an us/them mindset, which in turn makes it easier to hate entire groups. In short, we must conceptualize—collectivism, bad; individualism, good.
DelBarton Student’s 'Diversity' Initiative, Though Well-Meaning, is Based on Counter-Productive Premises