Back to School Night... Everyday

By Walt Mueller

With four kids in school, we get to do it four times each and every September. If you're a parent who cares about your kids, you've done it too. Depending on where you live, it's called "Back To School Night" or "Meet The Teacher Night." It's a chance for us to get to know two major components of our kids' education. First, we meet and familiarize ourselves with the teachers who will spend hundreds of hours with our children throughout the course of the school year. And second, we are exposed to an overview of the curriculum and content taught to our kids during those days spent in the classroom. It's fair to say that the mark of a concerned and caring parent is a deep interest in and awareness of their child's education - particularly who is doing the teaching and what is being taught.

As a parent I want my kids to learn as much as possible about math, science, history, and the numerous other courses that will prepare them for further education and the fulfillment of their vocational calling. But as a Christian parent I also care because I want them to get a good education that reflects Godly values and attitudes that will pay dividends in Godly behavior throughout life.

Over the course of my years studying adolescents and their unique culture, I've become aware of three basic facts: First, because of where they're at in the developmental process, teenagers are asking lots of questions about life. Because of that, they're primed for learning. Second, I've learned that most of what they learn about life doesn't take place while they're sitting in school. Rather, much of their education takes place in the "classroom" of popular culture. Their music, media, and peer group are teaching some pretty powerful and convincing "lessons" that over time will shape their worldview. And third, I've noticed that most of us parents don't involve ourselves nearly as much in finding out about what they're learning in the classroom of pop culture as we should. Sadly, many of us don't have a clue.

But as we fulfill our God-given role to nurture our children through the difficult, confusing, and sometimes rocky years of adolescence, we should be going out of our way to "Meet The Teachers" by familiarizing ourselves with who in pop culture is doing the teaching and what is being taught. Let me suggest that you should visit these "classrooms." Why? Because most kids I know sit in these classrooms each and every day. If we know what they're learning, then we can affirm those lessons that are positive, and challenge/debunk those that are negative with God's Word and a Christian worldview. Here are five "classrooms" that deserve your regular attention:

**Their magazines** - Research points to the fact that many teenagers spend more time each day with magazines than they do in front of the TV. Find out what magazines are your teen's favorites. Ask to borrow them or take a field trip to the magazine rack at your local bookstore. Grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and start to read. Begin with the covers. Look closely at the ads. Read the articles. Editors and marketers know what makes your teen tick. Their magazines are designed and written to push those buttons.

**Their radio station** - Early morning and right before bedtime - that's the time most kids are tuned into their favorite radio station(s). Have you ever listened closely to the radio "teachers" your kids live with every day? Take special note of the banter between the on-air personalities, the advertisements, and the music.

**Their CD's** - I've always said that there are two great ways to learn what's on the mind of a teenager. Naturally, asking them questions and sitting back to listen and learn is most important. The second way is to ask them about their music. What is it about your teen's music that connects with them? And what are they learning as they attend the school with a beat?

**Their Movies** - If you're looking for teens on a Friday or Saturday night in my town, all you have to do is head out to our local cineplex. And if they're not there, chances are they're at someone's house watching a movie or two from the local video rental store. What movies have your kids been watching lately? Do you know what lessons those films teach?

**Their TV** - While teenagers watch fewer hours of TV per week compared to most age groups, it's still a big part of their media diet. MTV. UPN, and WB are just a few of the networks targeting teens with viewing fare loaded with lessons on life. Do you know what show(s) you teen "just can't miss" every week?

A father once asked me this question: "How can I expect my teenage son to hear the still small voice of God with all those other voices screaming in his ears?" This dad recognized a troubling fact about growing up in today's world. While there's not an easy answer to that question, we can start by listening to those voices ourselves. When we know what their teaching, the lessons we must teach become clear. Want to do your kids a big favor? Then go "back to school."

*Reproduced with permission from [The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding](*