A British schoolchild has been filmed telling Tristram Hunt that he would vote UKIP in the upcoming General Election because they’d “get all the foreigners out of the country.” The video is really difficult to watch because it’s awful to see a child repeating what he has probably heard adults saying. As children we trust our parents to be right even when they’re not and it can have a devastating effect in many ways.
Watching the video was a chilling experience and took me back to a very similar and embarrassing experience that I had at school when I was younger. I can’t remember the exact context but we had been tasked to write a letter to the Prime Minister about something that we felt needed to change or improve and I wrote about the number of foreign people coming into the country. The teacher was walking around the room and engaging us children about what we had written and when he got to my desk he asked me why I held that view. The words I said are still very clear in my mind to this very day, “I think they need to sort things out their own countries before they come over here and use up our resources.”
Wait, what? Thirteen-year-old Hayley Stevens didn’t know immigration statistics and policy, she didn’t know anything about public resources or the benefits system in the country, so what on earth was she talking about? Well, I was parroting what I had read in The Sun newspaper that my parents would buy and read on an almost daily basis. I was parroting what the biased media tell us with scary headlines and I was parroting what I’d heard certain older relatives saying (in fact, a certain relative said the exact same thing Thirteen-year-old me said just last Christmas.)
Today a child of that age can connect to the internet and gain access to all sorts of information in minutes to help develop an informed opinion but when I was Thirteen we didn’t have that luxury in our house. I think we had a dial-up modem on the family computer at that point but we certainly didn’t use it 24/7 and I was limited to the media that my parents brought into the house which came mainly in the form of The Sun and ITV News.
But even with the internet access of today it is still possible to be misled and tricked into thinking incorrect things are true by the media who provide unfair balance to those who are not experts, and by twisting facts or simply making them up to suit their agenda.
I don’t hate immigrants. In fact, I now try to champion immigration and foreign aid as the good, positive things that they are and when I took The Political Compass test recently I was in the left libertarian quadrant (the red dot on the picture above is me, apparently.) So what changed?
I learned how to question stuff people claimed was true…
…and I’m glad that I didn’t grow up to view the world with a mindset shaped by such limited, biased input because I believe that every act of intolerance lessens what it means to be a human. When we are intolerant of another person we are intolerant of humanity.
Yet, that could so easily have been different because we’re taught what to think and not how to think as kids, and watching the young boy tell Tristram Hunt that he would vote UKIP reminded me of this. Children want to learn but when they’re not taught how to properly evaluate information it can impact their ability to think reasonably.
Let’s not hate the child for saying what he did, and let’s not even hate the parents for potentially making him thing this way intentionally or unintentionally – let’s hate the biased media that creates an echo chamber full of lies to twist the way people view the world around them and to turn good people against other good people. Fuck them.