I am raising my children to be critical thinkers. This is actually more difficult than it sounds, because indoctrination is easier than education. Telling a child to look in the dictionary when they ask how to spell a word is easy. Telling a child to brainstorm pros and cons of a decision, then assign value and weight to them, less so. Especially when given a lack of world experience. And when you teach your children to think for themselves, you have to be prepared for them to side against you on a great many things. When I was released into the world I had the same political party as my parents, the same values as my parents, the same religion as my parents, and the same motivations as my parents - every mother and father's dream, right?
When we first discover our values do differ from how we were raised, or when our experiences differ, we tend to compensate - learn; grow. We find out often far too late that our parents were wrong about quite a few things. And for those of us who think, we understand our parents were simply regurgitating how they were raised - allowing for the caveats above - and passing it on to us. It is entirely possible not only were our parents wrong, but so were their parents! If this all stands to reason, then I have to assume I will be wrong about things, and that my children's experience will also differ from my own.
So its not enough to tell them what to think. They're going to need tools to survive and thrive in this world. So I want to teach them HOW to think. I want them to draw their own conclusions, whether they're radically different from my own or not. I teach through examples, and recounting my own experiences. An interesting by-product of this has been a surprising capacity for inclusiveness; compassion. When you explain race and politics and nations and religions are all invisible constructs, they tend to not matter. There is no, "us" and "them" mentality which so many adults seem to struggle with every single day on social media and the news.
When Colorado legalized marijuana, I was asked about drugs. Having never smoked it myself, I had to read up on it - educate myself outside my institutionalized upbringing, and without bias. I then simplistically explained to them in my experience, smart people seemed to be able to smoke marijuana without ill effect, but dumb people thought it made them smart, which caused them to do even dumber stuff than usual, and that was where the problem manifested itself. This places the responsibility upon them, and arms them with far more usable data than the unsustainable and unjustifiable, "Just say no." Ignorance is never an effective tool. Never.
Then the world changed.There was a study released
which proved duress
as the problem with addiction - not the substance. Recreational uses do not "abuse" drugs. Marijuana is not a "gateway" drug. Its all pscyhophysiological! So I relayed this new information to my children, reminding them its never as black and white as it sounds. Using family members as examples, I told two near-identical stories of two brothers. In each story, the brothers received the same level of attention from their parents. The same rewards and the same punishments. They had the same opportunities. But in both cases, one brother responded to these experiences with aplomb while the other was absolutely tortured by them. Again, the responsibility falls solely upon them to decide what kind of person they are before embarking upon potentially risky behavior. To bring it all back home, I pointed out the difference between the two of them. Something as simple as diverse personality types gives rise to perceiving the same information differently from one another, gleaning dissimilar parts because of it, each analyzing and synthesizing something unique, and drawing vastly different conclusions.
And this is the easy stuff. Our values should never be fixed, immutable anchors. Experience gives birth to untold data, all of which should be captured by our filter and applied accordingly. If we cannot modify our worldview based on updated, new information, and have no process in which to examine and dismiss outdated information, we can never change. How are our children supposed to be the change we want to see in the world if we're telling them what to believe, rather than how to think?