A Response to “Who’s Really Politicizing Our Kids”

June 13, 2019

by Rob Roper

The following is in response to a letter that appeared in the Caledonian Record on June 10th by Steven Isham. 

To the editor:

Steven Isham’s letter of June 10th mischaracterizes my op-ed, Politicizing Our Kids and Rising Suicide Rates, and in many ways misses my point. He writes “Rob Roper… posits that liberal claims about the environment are causing a rise in teen and young adult suicide rate. He makes this claim without providing any proof other than his own opinion.”

First, I posed this as a question, not a proven fact. From the article, “So, here is a question: is politicizing (politically weaponizing) our kids causing them serious psychological damage?” I do hope more people with a stronger background that myself will examine this issue further because I personally think it deserves more attention. It can’t be psychologically healthy to put so much pressure on young people – teaching them it’s up to you to save the world or you and everything you love will die – and to bombard them so relentlessly with doom and gloom scenarios about their futures.

I do not argue “liberal claims about the environment are causing a rise in teen and young adult suicide rate[s].” But I do question how those claims are being used by some adults (politicians, activists, teachers), if they are keeping children in a perpetual state of fear, anxiety, anger, and hopelessness for crass political purposes, and if doing so is psychologically abusive.

For example, the concept of a carbon tax is not inherently threatening to a child. But, if you tell a middle schooler that if we don’t pass a carbon tax now all the polar bears are going to die, and you encourage (or coerce) that child to take part in a political campaign to pass the carbon tax, and then the carbon tax doesn’t pass, because, you then say, all the adults running the world don’t care about you children… what do you think the likely impact will be on that child’s psyche?

Mr. Isham writes, “anxiety over the environment is not listed as a factor for suicide in any list of such factors I could find.” I don’t doubt it. But anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness and isolation are all cited risk factors in teen suicide and substance abuse (also a major problem in Vermont). Therefore, it makes sense to me that indoctrinating kids with the idea that they live in a violent world on the verge of cataclysmic destruction, controlled by people who are racist, homophobic, and otherwise hostile to their sense of identity would feed negatively into all of those psychological factors.

It was my hope that the op-ed would start a conversation that would lead to some more concrete answers and insights on this issue, so I thank Mr. Isham for helping to start that broader conversation. I invite others to join in as well.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike June 22, 2019 at 1:05 am

This is an interesting topic of discussion. To be clear I’m coming at this with the personal belief that there is world of hurt coming for us if we do not corse correct on our exhaust rates of carbon dioxide. There is validity to your greater point though, scaring kids into a dogma of beliefs is not healthy, especially in a compulsory education system. It would be far better to tool these youths with ideas that allow them to make their own decisions about political philosophy. Indoctrination of our kids in anything other than logical decision making and practical skills like reading, math, science and maybe a couple of obvious subjects like how to exercise and how to cook for yourself and how to grow food and how to budget, should off the table. Seems like when I was a kid, the end of the world was far less a problem than it’s made out to be today. We should probably just go ahead and start taxing the carbon so we can let the kids know we are not dumping a burden on them. When I do a calculation in my head of net positive and net negative, I can’t see what person a carbon tax would be net negative for but, that is an opinion I came to on my own. We need to teach kids how to figure out how to do that on their own not put our battles on them.

Questions that come to mind though, if a group of kids want to become politically active and want to assert their own political will, should we stand in their way? Should we stop them from taking a side in an argument? Is that only something adults get to do?


gdp June 23, 2019 at 11:01 am

The problem is deeper and more pervasive. Jordan Peterson appears to have a grasp.


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