To the editor:
Kudos to Joel Hellmann for his thoughtful, detailed letter regarding the recent play performed by Arts Alive!
I am a Barrington resident and the RI Director of the Parents Television Council. The PTC is a non-partisan, grassroots organization concerned about the messages that children receive from the entertainment industry.
I founded the RI PTC chapter after an incident that I witnessed in the Barrington Center one day. I was walking past a row of parked cars, one of which was filled with teen boys that I assumed were Barrington High School students. It was a warm, sunny day so the car’s windows were down. A teen girl ran over to speak with them. The driver greeted her with, “Hey, slut!” They all laughed, even the girl. My heart sank.
When I was an undergrad, there were so many family, child, and relationship articles about “I have this problem; how do I fix it?” I wondered, “Why should we have to fix anything? Why are we always looking at things after the fact? Shouldn’t we be addressing how to do things right in the first place?”
I reasoned that if I knew what provided a strong, healthy, emotional foundation for my children, that foundation would serve them well as adults. What sends messages to my children that I care deeply about them and that their feelings matter to me? What do not?
Child development courses seemed ideal because they included what emotionally influences children on positive and negative levels. My hope was that if I could instill what it takes to have supportive, mutually respectful, and caring relationships as adults, they would do likewise with their offspring. But where does that begin?
Quite simply, children are not the emotionally same as adults. What seems innocuous and even entertaining to adults can be confusing, disruptive, and even harmful to children. Raising children to develop positive self-esteem and make good choices requires careful, diligent cultivation. Clarity is also an important factor.
A few years ago, I was interviewed on the radio. We were discussing the increasing portrayals of sex without consequences on television, especially programming aimed at young people. Obviously attempting to put the PTC down, the host asked if I thought people were afraid of young women’s sexuality. “No,” I responded. “I think they’re afraid of their intelligence and competence.”
When I read the debates over the play in the Barrington Times, I recalled a father bragging to me that he had his daughters watch “Pretty Woman” over and over again. He thought I’d approve because it was such a nice story. Honestly? Prostitution is a desirable career choice? If a hooker is pretty and nice enough, she’ll end up with a millionaire who showers her with gifts and love? You really think so?
It’s easy to assume that teachers, who are trained in conveying subjects to children, are also trained in child psychology and have a full understanding of what impacts a child. The areas are not mutually exclusive by any means, but they are two different areas of expertise.
Kudos to John Gray for having both.
Marcia M. Weeden