Sure, the kids don’t know a diplomatic cable from a cable TV show. All the analysis and public hand-wringing over WikiLeaks‘ latest release of classified documents is as intelligible to pre- and grade-schoolers as adult speech in Charlie Brown cartoons (whahn whah whahn whahn whahn).
But buried in the more than 250,000 secret communiques — ranging from blase to tattle-telling to must-have-been-funny-at-the-time — is a handful of life lessons that one is never too young (or old) to learn.
We’ve boiled down a quarter of a million teachable moments into these 7 life lessons:
1. History is happening RIGHT NOW
It’s a fact that should be obvious in this day of Tweeted births and parent blogs that mark every first poop/first word/first day of school and beyond. But life’s daily unfolding isn’t limited to individuals. The leaked cables give us immediate reactions to specific meetings and behind-the-scenes accounts of what other world leaders expect of the U.S. Historical events don’t come out of nowhere; they are the result of a slow build-up of events and reactions to those events — all while life was simply … happening.
2. Even grown-ups make mistakes
We’ll leave it to the experts to decide whether it was a good idea to make the classified documents public in the first place. But, without a doubt, there are grown men and women rocking themselves in a corner over the revelations and wishing they could have a do-over. It happens to everyone; it’ll happen to you (hopefully, with far less at stake).
3. Guns are scary
A frightening chunk of these secrets center around Iran and nuclear weapons and delicate political relations with leaders of the Middle East and the war in Afghanistan. Bottom line: if you’re going to play with guns, play fair. Better yet, role-play disagreement without invoking weaponry of any kind.
4. Talking behind your friend’s (and enemy’s) back can have embarrassing consequences.
Let’s see: Vladimir Putin was called an “alpha-dog,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, “arrogant and vain,” and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “feckless and vain.” Yet the American diplomats who wrote that still have to look these guys in the eye, work together, negotiate — all of which would be much easier without having made these digs.
5. If you ignore (4), be prepared to stand by what you said … or apologize.
Not easy either way. But a lesson in choosing words carefully and/or falling on your sword (that’s a metaphor, kids. Don’t try that at home!)
6. In this age of easy-to-share information, anything can be, well, easily shared! (Plus, see 4.)
This WikiLeaks scandal has the feel of an email “reply all” error. Kids, the Internet, like some foreign leaders, is a powerful ally with a bit of a dark side. So before you go posting pictures, writing stories, making unforgivable comments, and otherwise plotting and scheming to take over/save the world, think about how easy it is to steam open sealed email and send it via carrier pigeon to 3 million of the smartest people you know.
7. People, they talk.
You know how Emily said your shoes looked stupid and Noah told on you for pinching Jack? Right. That’s gonna happen. It hurts, it’s confusing, but, baby, that’s life. You don’t have to like it. You just have to live with it. And with whatever the fallout of it might be.
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