How Much Should Kids Know About Osama bin Laden?

In the several days following Osama bin Laden’s demise at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs, teens and kids have been asking, “Who is Osama bin Laden?”

A Yahoo press release shows 66 percent of searches for basic information on bin Laden were by teenagers aged 13-17. Searches by teens also asked who killed bin Laden or how and why he died.

On Moody Radio’s May 3 program, “Chris Fabry Live,” host Fabry was discussing how Christians should feel about the death of bin Laden.

One caller commented that she was pregnant when the 9/11 attack happened. She promised herself she wouldn’t tell her child about that awful event. But, now nine years old, the child came home from school asking, “Who is Osama bin Laden?” “What was 9/11?” “Why did he need to die?” She realized she had been sheltering the child from events that affect our lives today as Americans.

This raises several questions. How much should we protect our children from the negativities and realities they will face out in the world? Did schools have the respnsibility to discuss bin Laden? And how can Christian parents explain why the man had to die, when the Bible appears to condemn murder and tells us to love our enemies?

Learning about horrific world events: School, home or church responsibility?

After bin Laden’s death, The Associated Press syndicated a story about how schools across the country were taking time to explain September 11-related topics to the youngest students who would have no recollection (“Questions, confusion over bin Laden,” AP, May 5).

What about slightly older students? Parents with children in public school may or may not know that in the late 1990s, “Outcome Based Education” and “Goals 2000” were established by the U.S. Department of Education as a part of national curriculum. Within the 50 states, various aspects of these guidelines are being employed.

Two main aspects of the program are “feeling based” learning and what’s become known as “social conditioning” in the classroom. Sometimes, it even takes precedent over subject-based learning. Simply put, its premise is that children will be better citizens if they learn how to navigate and react in a global society.

But ironically, this very thing can prevent them from learning enough about terrorist attacks.

Valuing diversity and being non-judgmental is now a huge part of classroom curriculum. It is sprinkled throughout lessons on other topics, along with the “everyone gets a trophy” theory and the reluctance of schools to give students failing grades on the grounds that it can wound students’ egos.

U.S. students have fallen behind those in other countries in major subjects, partly due to classroom time spent on aspects of political correctness; and partly due to federal testing guidelines that force teachers to drill memorization instead of knowledge, so that schools can look good after tests like the FCATs.

Subjects not getting enough attention include math, history, science and American civics, the latter tying into why students may not know much about what happened on 9/11.

Julie Dee, a homeschooler in Illinois, shared a knowledgeable outlook after studying the public school system in her state:

“Not too long ago, I read a comment by a student that they went to school for an education and ‘for socialization.’ So much emphasis seems to be placed on extracurricular subjects that the main subjects get watered down. Most of the teachers I have met seem sincere in trying to provide an education, but meet with resistance from outside sources.”

This is verified by David Wheaton, host of The Christian Worldview Radio Program and editor of Wheaton also authored the book, University of Destruction, studying why Christian youth often lose their faith at college and how we might prevent it.

Speaking with CP about the Yahoo survey results, Wheaton shared incidents that give a clue as to why teenagers may be unfamiliar with bin Laden:

“Recently, I watched a DVD of an evangelist on the streets of Los Angeles. I was shocked that most of the younger people he interviewed had no idea, or very little knowledge, about who Hitler was.

But this jibes with my own experience in speaking to high school and college students as to how uninformed they are about world events, and their lack of critical thinking on them. They’re quite informed about cultural events (movies, cell phones, etc.) but not when it comes to important world events.

I grew up in a family where the news was watched and discussed. I don't believe this is common anymore. Americans have become increasingly absorbed in their own lives and don’t see the importance of paying attention and developing a Christian worldview on the news. The government educational system – the politically correct, non-objective way of teaching – either ignores ‘potentially offensive’ subjects like this or raises more questions than answers by making sure students see the validity of the ‘other side's perspective.”

In September 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics put out their 2006-2007 results. Out of 36 countries, U.S. students were behind 12 countries, including some we consider third-world or tyrannically governed.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute did a two-year study in 2006 and 2007, “Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions.” ISI interviewed approximately 14,000 students at a variety of U.S schools with 60 questions on American heritage. The average individual score both years was 51.7 to 54.2 percent correct answers.

If these tests were done prior to the practice of not giving anyone a failing grade, these students would have received an “F” in school and would not have passed a basic American history course. In those days, a grade of 60-65 was considered barely passing (“D”).

With schools failing to educate students on history and how world events can impact them, Christian parents and church leaders may want to take on the responsibility to teach their children, especially when such events as the killing of bin Laden raise moral and theological questions.

Was bin Laden’s death murder? Was it wrong?

One of the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 is “thou shalt not murder.” In the Hebrew language, “murder” has a different translation than “kill.” Murder means to spill innocent blood.

Christian parents may want to teach this difference to children and teens, while also discussing the need to love all people, show understanding, display the fruit of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22, and learn that vengeance is the Lord’s. We have a fine line to walk.

Wheaton’s overall conclusion? “It is up to parents to make sure the news is watched and discussed so that their children can be informed and prepared for life in the real world.”

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