Over the last few days, my kids have been pouring over comic books, reading the stories and trying to work out which one they like the absolute best. It was quite intriguing to watch them moralising in their own way, which superhero was their preferred one and why.
Whilst observing them doing so, I was able to find the method to their logic and to their decision making. My daughter’s preference was The Flash, due to his willingness to sacrifice all to save those in trouble, often to the point of letting the villain escape if it means saving a life.
My son on the other hand prefers Captain America. He liked the idea of being able to save people and beat the villains up. In his mind, this was logical, since letting the villain go, would mean only more people were in danger.
Their stance was a bit different to mine. As a child, I was quite the fan of the Green Arrow. I liked the idea of having an arrow for every problem, defeating villains, and being both a smart ass, and a man of morals. To me the deciding factor was not only substance, but style as well.
Looking at our three personalities, it’s interesting to see how morals develop differently, and which side of their personality is the more dominant one. For me, I liked the idea of being the best and letting people know about, whilst still adhering to a moral code. My son’s personality seems to be a logical one, which is to be expected as an autistic child. He sees the situations and logically decides, that both are solvable, so why not solve both. My daughter’s decision seems based purely on her compassionate and caring nature, preferring to preserve life, and keep others from harm above all else.
So what does all this have to do with anything? Why the focus on Superheroes? Well, as most things in the media, comic books and superheroes are a form of entertainment. Only recently have they really reached the fore and become mainstream entertainment. The Marvel and DC movies, along with shows such as The Big Bang Theory, have popularised them to an extend of respectability.
Comic books and Superheroes however have been dealing relevant societal and moral issues for years. The Green Arrow comics have dealt with poverty, homelessness, HIV, drug abuse and many other issues over the years.
Yet despite all this, I still believe that the moral compass of my children should be based upon their judgement as well as the morals that I try to educate them with. I do not believe that the comic books will have an influence on their morals, but perhaps on their social awareness. There’s a lot of coverage in schools, and the media, about current humanitarian affairs, and often these can be perplexing for children to understand. Superheroes however, in comic books or movies, make it so much simpler for them. Villains need to be stopped, heroes are always doing the right thing, and saving people is what matters the most.
This might be a rather simplistic way to look at it, but I also feel that at the formative years of their lives, there’s no need for overcomplicated explanations on humanitarian issues. As a child, I lived through the Falklands and Iraq wars, my teachers tried to emphasise on me why the end of a war, in countries I had not heard of at the time, where such an important and moral issue. It was only later on that I was able to understand the horror that a war truly brings. Despite their best attempts, their emphasis on the importance of the end of those wars, was lost on me.
Perhaps I was not the most socially aware, or indeed brightest child. The word war had no meaning to me beyond playing with my toy soldiers. Yet I fully understood the concepts of heroes and villains, and of doing the right thing. There is so much societal pressure these days to ensure our children are politically correct, and to ensure that they are socially minded and humanitarian minded.
Whilst I as an adult understand such viewpoints and the reason they try to highlight such an emphasis on such things, I think that we should allow children to be children. Allow the simplification of things for them, and let the adults, the parents, give them the moral compass they need. With the Syrian refugee crisis in the news, the school informed all the children in my kids school about it. The outcome was that my kids knew all about the refugees coming from Syria, but they had no idea what a refugee was, or what indeed they were seeking refuge from.
For me the best thing for the school to have done, was like they used to do when I was a child. As a child in my primary school, every year we collected food for the homeless and the less fortunate. My teachers explained rather simply, that there were people who had no food or very little food, and we needed to share, it was the right thing to do. That was simple enough for me to understand, and I remember being very excited at the thought of helping someone out, doing the right thing.
Fast forward to the modern day, and instead of having my children understand things as the school had hoped, they had come home with more questions than answers. They had no inkling of what a refugee was, what Syria was, or where it was, and why there was such a large scale movement across Europe.
In the real world, there are no Superheroes, there’s no epitome of a moral compass dressed in blue and red with a large S on his chest. Therefore it should be left to us, the parents to explain to our children as best as possible, why doing the right thing is important. Keeping things simple is vital, and honestly, I would prefer if the schools focused on giving my children the education they need to be able to succeed at the career of their choosing when they reached adulthood, than trying to establish a moral and societal code of them. I believe that is my duty as a parent, and not for the government or education system to attempt to do so.
We may not be Superheroes, we are parents, and we’re the closest thing our children have to Superheroes, so it is best left to us to become the moral compass of our children.
Until next time,