In it we discovered a new definition of what it means to be poor:
“To be poor is to be unable to make something of the world.”
This perspective changes who we see as poor and what we can do about it.
Who is poor in cultural power?
Immediately children and the elderly come to mind.
While listening to my father talk about how the culture in his home town had changed I suddenly realized that maybe one reason why growing older can be tough is that it is like moving to a new country without leaving home.
I imagine it’s a frustrating experience when the culture around you changes and you find yourself a stranger in a strange land with significantly less cultural power than you once had.
What about children? In many ways they get their way so much more these days than they used to.
Are children poor in cultural power?
If having cultural power is having the ability to make something of the world, then we should ask ourselves whether the power our kids have is productive, cultural power or more like the power of a tyrant.
Letting our kids pick the blue shoes or the red shoes is not giving our kids power of any significant worth. It’s more like a consolation prize for having to put shoes on. Of course there is a time and place for giving our kids this kind of choice.
My question is whether children have the power to make meaningful decisions in their lives. Mostly their lives are governed by circumstances out of their control. Their lack of refined language ability alone puts them in the culturally poor category.
Productive or destructive Power?
Sometimes as a parent I feel powerless by my toddlers destructive power to thwart my will. But it’s not cultural power that’s limiting my ability to make something of my world when my toddler has a tantrum.
As the parent I still have far more resources to influence my world than my toddler does. (Though admittedly I’m often too tired and angry to make use of them – I’m working on it!)
If the ability to make something of our world is a fundamental need for humans, could the lack of productive cultural power be a reason our kids turn to destructive power displays?
If they can’t have meaningful choices and the power to make something of their world will they lash out and thwart the power of those they see has holding them back?
I feel a bit out of my depth, but whether or not the above is true, one thing is sure: I want to raise kids who are able to make something of the world.
Productive Cultural Power for Children
Most skills take practice, so it seems logical to assume that kids need to practice making something of their world while they are young and under the protection and guidance of loving parents.
So how do we give our kids true cultural power? How do we help them practice making something of their world?