Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Smart or Wot?

Sometimes I fear that before we have a chance to leave this country for good I would have become an incoherent woman chanting, like a broken record, the importance of educating parents in nurturing their children. Of course, nourishment for the body is of utmost importance but feeding the impressionable young mind is of no less significance. What goes into these young minds impact the society, collectively, in the future.

I have talk about how a lot of people here have little concept of what constitutes a balanced meal. I've also quoted
local sources, via La Nation, that most Argentine children are malnourished – this research has already taken into account the vast wealth gap of this country and their results confirmed that children from high-income families are as likely to be malnourished as from low income ones. In all case, the parents are the source of the problem.

This is not only an Argentine problem; Jamie Oliver of Jamie's School Dinner fame is rallying the UK government to improve school lunches at state schools. Campaigns are also being introduced in Australian schools, directed at children, in promoting the importance of a healthy diet from an early age. Healthy eating blogger
Lime and Lycopene has some useful advice when it comes to getting the kids to eat healthily.

Ultimately, if the parents do not follow a balanced and healthy diet (many in Argentina think beef and potatoes count as a balanced diet already), their young children are hardly going to know better.

The same applies to nourishment for the mind. I've mentioned previously
the Argentine justification of what is deemed to be bullying in other cultures. Children here grow up in an environment where they learn to dispense the same prejudices, as the adults around them, thinking they were being humorous. Those who don't accept their "humour" are the problematic ones; those are the ones who simply cannot take a joke.

The majority of Argentine society positively receives a behaviour called pícaro – the local culture would say it means muy suave (in this context, smooth) or chistoso (funny). It actually comes from the Spanish word picaresque which has more negative connotations. Pícaro, in action within the Argentine context, is equivalent to being roguish in an English society.

One of our nephews, not even 4, consistently behaves in the most appalling manner. Words and ideas coming out of his mouth are not what a normal mischievous child of that age should be capable of. I was puzzled why the parents don't guide him out of it.
Only when Guillermo first voiced his concern to me, I started wondering out loud too; still only between the two of us, in the privacy of our own home, of course.

Guillermo points out that no parents want their children to be bad or stupid. Fair enough; so he goes on to say that his nephew's behaviour is very likely condoned by the parents, encouraged even. When children receive affirmation, they seek to continue this affirmation. If the parents praise them for being "smart" (instead of accosting them for being a smart arse) they would strive to be "smart" always.

Then I questioned how his parents could earnestly think their son who is displaying a noticeable mean streak, with off-hand biting remarks ready for anyone at any time, is being clever? Obviously, I am wrong. They consider his behaviour a sign of his intelligence; their son is learning to be pícaro which in most Argentine's eyes is a good thing.

Well, so be it that both Guillermo and I disagree with this culture. There is only so much one could let slip in order to fit into the mainstream, and this is beyond what is acceptable to us.

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