Advice From the Trenches

Heavy-Handed: Should this reader’s daughter apologize?

Dear C and Dr. B;

My daughter Hannah got on her high horse at her high school about another student wearing a Hamsa religious symbol. She said that it was a cultural appropriation and that it was inappropriate for the other student to wear it because she was of a white non-Jewish race. Actually, Hannah was wrong about the origin of the symbol – yes, it is a Jewish symbol, but it is also shared by Muslims and Christians because it dates back to Middle Ages superstition. Anyway, I told Hannah I thought she was rude, and wrong and should apologize. Hannah refused.   

She got so upset over the whole thing! But what bothered me the most was that it wasn’t even based on historic fact. She got her version of the story from a Google search she did on Jewish artifacts. 

She’s also on a rant about not supporting Israel’s abuse of Palestinians, but I think no American has a right to sit in judgement here because Americans treated Native Americans even worse. I just found out the national park service massacred entire tribes in order to create some of the parks and ejected many others who had been living In the area.

I feel I need to have a talk with her, but I’m not sure what to say – she honestly believes she’s on the side of justice with these opinions.    

Stable Mom

Dr. B says: This is a big question that could be approached from more than one angle. For the purpose of the conversation with your daughter, I would point out that she is in high school for a reason. Teachers stress the importance of sourcing information for a paper, and this matters in the real world too. The opinions expressed without reliable references and sources can have volatile world consequences and do more damage than good. Many of the problems in America right now stem from information bombardment that lacks accuracy or truth.  People are dying from the conflicts these inaccuracies cause – mass shootings, a storming of the Capitol and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories are just a few. Ask your daughter if she wants to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. High school might be more meaningful if she can see that the information skills she is getting really matter.   

If she wants to see some examples of reliable news sources, direct her to NPR radio broadcasts and educational reference sources such as Google Scholar. And this quip I saw the other day is something else to consider ­– “If you can be offended, you can also be manipulated.” Emotion isn’t data.  

C says: Here’s something you might say to your daughter in regard to cultural appropriation – she is guilty herself of appropriation. She is assuming the role of a wise and informed adult who is in a position to intelligently judge others, when in fact, she is just another emotionally immature adolescent who mouths off without really knowing what she is talking about because she has jumped onto someone else’s bandwagon. If Hannah had bothered to Google search the actual origin of the Hamsa, she would have known better. She probably got her story from Facebook, which is not exactly a source known for its unbiased accuracy.

Hannah probably won’t listen to you because you are, after all, just her stupid mother and she is, after all, a fully mature adult who is wise and informed and capable of judging others. At least she thinks so. Therefore, why don’t you tell her that I, an impartial stranger who has over 50 years of experience on her, has a message: You, Hannah, have made yourself the fool in this equation. What a truly mature, wise, and well-informed adult does after discovering they have made a mistake and insulted someone else out of ignorance is APOLOGIZE. Get with the program, kid. Do your research, or next time – keep your mouth shut.

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