From the youngest ages, kids learn to enjoy playing war and glorifying warriors. Fighting ranks among the most common forms of video entertainment for kids, and weapons rank among the most common toys. Violence against people, as in football, hockey, lacrosse, boxing, and auto racing, is portrayed as sport. Violence against animals, as in hunting, fishing, trapping, agriculture, zoos, circuses, and biology laboratories is portrayed as wholesome, necessary, educational, and fun. War reverence is reinforced in school, where conquest by combat is a major theme of world and American history. Kids aren’t encouraged to imagine how the conquistadors and pioneers might have peacefully engaged the Native Americans, or how wars might have been avoided.
In America today, young teens are allowed to join paramilitary organizations, e.g., JROTC, and, at age 17, the armed forces. The average age of enlistment into the United States Army is 20, a year too young to purchase or consume alcohol. Kids major in war at the Nation’s public and private military academies. But kids are not encouraged to wonder about war. When is it necessary? What, precisely, is America defending? If it’s American youth, recruiting them to stand in harm’s way is counterproductive. If it’s not American youth, what is more worthy of protection?
The U. S. Department of Defense, with more than 3 million employees, is the world’s largest employer, and commands more than 20% of the federal budget. It’s common for kids to know someone who is in the business of preparing for or perpetrating war. No comparable attention is paid to peace. Despite long-standing efforts to establish a U. S. Department of Peace, there remains no such department, and peace is not a topic for study at school. Peace knowledge and skills are not evaluated on state-wide mastery tests or the SAT. There are no departments or professors of peace at college, and peace is not a respected college major. It isn’t surprising that the world isn’t at peace.
Kids learn to care about their personal appearance. They learn to use cosmetics for their hair, eyes, lips, skin, and nails. They use perfume, clothing, and jewelry to enhance their desired image. Kids learn to care about entertainment. They buy admission to movies, amusement parks, sports events, concerts, and vacations. They learn to care about their rooms and, eventually their homes, and their cars and their hobbies and their favorite forms of recreation. Some kids learn to ski or scuba dive. Others learn golf or tennis or martial arts or fine arts. Kids learn to care about the taste of their food and the manner in which it is served. They learn to appreciate ambience and fine dining. Kids become cultured. Eventually they learn to care about their careers and investments and insurance. They learn to build financial security, and how to pass their culture to their kids. But no kid ever learns anything about world peace.
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