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Craven: Father's Day

06/16/11 5:55PM By Jay Craven
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(HOST)  For filmmaker, teacher and commentator Jay Craven, Father's Day has special meaning this year.

(CRAVEN)  Father's Day rolls around each June, but this year I find myself thinking about it more than usual - probably because the youngest of my two sons just graduated from high school.  So, I'm reflecting on some of the fathering I maybe did OK along with other things I wish I'd done better. I'm also feeling how much I'll miss my boy.

Many people agree that it's difficult to raise children in today's hyper-paced world where our kids are so wired to electronic media and fewer seem to connect to the wonders of nature, community, or even family.  As the father of boys, I'm also aware of a gender gap, where girls often seem to place higher value on academic achievement.  At my son's recent graduation, the valedictorian and salutatorian were both girls.  The school's baccalaureate service featured student reflections on the idea of love.  Only girls spoke - apparently because no boys stepped forward. Of the 34 local grads I counted in the school's National Honor Society, only six were boys.

Perhaps schools serve girls better-but I've felt for a while that, during the past 35 years, women have also effectively championed girls, giving them support - maybe even permission - to achieve.  I'm not sure that we men have done as well-or that we're fully helping our sons discover dynamic new roles in our fast changing world.

Maybe electronic media loom so large that they've become a kind of parent themselves.  Internet, TV, movies, video games, popular music, and ubiquitous communication through text, cell phone, Facebook, and Twitter are crowding our kids' time and spawning virtual worlds that become more familiar than their neighborhoods or the woods and streams behind their homes.

This is surely a sign of the times - but it can be hard for parents to compete with the values, attitudes, gender roles, work ethics, civic responsibilities, and family principles that are shaped-or not shaped in the virtual world.  Parents try to affect the world our kids navigate - but media sometimes invite them to inhabit extreme or trivial virtual worlds that lie beyond what we might approve or even understand.  

Some say that TV, films, and video games can incite violence or a desensitization to violence.  I'd argue that excessive exposure to rough and cold images can just as easily spawn passivity, complacency, and inertia.  

Few could argue that an imbalance between virtual reality and a lived, reflected, and connected experience in our actual world will help our kids engage and cope.  I worry that this gap also contributes to a growing incidence of depression and behavioral disorders among young people.

This Father's Day, I've had the pleasure of graduating a son with honors who is headed to college on a merit scholarship.  I'm very proud - but still feel there is more I can and must do - to pass on values of love, nurturing, deep critical thinking, the common good, and the profound empathy, imagination, and generosity that our world so desperately needs.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Jay Craven at VPR-dot-net.
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