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In our 17 years of parenting, we’ve tried homeschool, private school, and public school.
We desperately (and futilely) attempted on multiple occasions to get our kids into Catholic school, but circumstances (geographical, financial, or flat-out being denied admission) always prevented this. And for multiple reasons we’ve explained in the past in both our book as well as our podcasts here and here (and therefore I won’t repeat here), our attempts at homeschooling were always far less than ideal.
Therefore, our five kids all attend public school.
This week, our 15-year-old freshman son, Walter, was assigned a project for his World Geography class to create a video explaining, “why overpopulation is the worst man-made disaster.”
Here’s the video:
First off, this is one of Walt’s best-produced videos. As his parents, we’re enormously proud of how his skills have increased over the past couple of years, and how he continuously tries to do new and different things using video. Considering he’s just 15, we’re impressed by that alone.
But we’re also impressed with the fact that Walter immediately took issue with the topic. As one of five kids here on earth and several more in heaven, Walter has been raised understanding the value and sanctity of human life and the fact that every person has an innate dignity that must be respected from the moment of conception until natural death.
So to somehow suggest, as Walter’s classroom assignment has, that the existence of people themselves is somehow “the worst man-made disaster” is just absurd.
But Walter, knowing a grade was at stake, did the project, with a caveat. In the description for his video he wrote, “FYI I don’t agree with what a lot of what I said in this video. I only did this and said the things I said for the sake of getting a good grade.”
When Walt and his brother Sam were younger, there were multiple occasions when we had them pulled from their classroom for presentations that we found counter to our Catholic faith or simply just against our core beliefs. In countless situations, we’ve sent emails to teachers letting them know when topics, discussions, and assignments were in opposition to what was happening in our home. We still do that for our other three kids still in elementary and middle school.
But it’s an interesting thing to have kids (who you’ve tried your best to raise in the Catholic faith) attending public high school where their daily existences include having to continually be on the defensive in support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, to explain to their peers why contraception is contrary to God’s plan, to justify why they struggle (or try to struggle) against pornography and why they attempt to remain chaste. These are things that both our high schoolers, Sam and Walter, have had to encounter time and again.
After watching Walter’s video this morning, both my wife and I encouraged him and congratulated him for being willing to publicly share his personal belief that contraception is wrong. He states this himself near the video’s end.
We then pointed out one of the other detrimental effects of the overpopulation myth can be seen in forced abortions and sterilizations in parts of the world. I encouraged him to visit the website of the Population Research Institute, whose executive director had been a guest on our radio show years ago. While some of the information there has been debated for years, it offers many strong oppositional studies that rally against the myth of overpopulation.
Would I have preferred for him to not have to do this assignment? Yes. But God can bring good out of any bad. And in this case, a 15-year-old posted a YouTube video stating he thinks contraception is wrong. There’s a good chance one or more of his classmates will take notice.
Walter took a stand and became a witness for the faith in which he has been raised.
But the thought came to me: does Walter actually understand what he believes, or does he just believe it because that’s what his mom and dad believe?
After pondering that, I sent Walter this text to encourage him:
“Stand firm in your beliefs. And here’s something else I’ll challenge you with (and this will surprise you): don’t believe stuff just because your mom and dad believe it. But we believe what we believe because of tremendous research and discernment throughout our lives. We trust the Catholic Church’s teachings on things like no contraception because the Church is also the original Church, and the only place where you can receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments. We’re proud of you for sticking to your guns. I wish you didn’t have to make a video espousing something you don’t believe in, though. That’s tough.”
Interestingly, the fact Walter had to make a video in opposition to one of our family’s core beliefs that all life is sacred lead to a follow up text conversation. I encouraged him to take the awesome production quality he brought to this video and start creating videos explaining Catholic stuff for teens from another teenager’s perspective.
The idea seemed to resonate with this 15-year-old trying to figure out the world, trying to understand why we believe what we believe, trying to comprehend the contradictions in this world created by God and inhabited by so many people who don’t want to live for God.
I told him the entire Catholic blogosphere would cheer him on. I hope you’d encourage him to do so, and maybe say a prayer for our teens Walter, Sam, and Ben, as well as all the other teens who are indeed trying to find their place in this world by putting Jesus at the center of their lives.