OHBD 2015

OHBD 2015

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Motherhood Challenge: Teaching Your Kids to Think Critically


There are so many, many things I want to teach my children before they go out on their own in the world and I can’t be with them every day.  When they were infants, I helped them learn to communicate their basic needs. When they became toddlers, I taught them how to stay safe if they weren’t with me. As they continue to grow and mature, I shared how they should to relate to others and how to be their best selves.

In recent conversations with my teenager about what I desire for him at this phase, I find myself focusing him more on developing and embracing critical thinking.  This skill will help him navigate the challenges I know lie ahead.  I don’t want him to just accept something he hears or reads.  I want him to consider the agendas of the sources, to fully understand the opposite position and then draw his own conclusions.  He is often frustrated by my questions that are part of this effort, “How do you know that is true?”  “Where is the data?”
These recent talks took me back to an earlier conversation with him when he was in third grade.  We were listening to NPR on a ride home and the topic was capital punishment for a felon convicted of heinous crimes.  When I stopped the car, I could tell he had been listening intently.  I asked him what he thought.  He quickly said, “He was an evil man. I think it is right that they give him the death penalty.” 

I didn’t like how quickly he accepted what he had just heard as truth without giving it more mind share.  So I asked him, “What if the man was your dad.  And you know he didn’t do it but the jury convicted him anyway.  Would that change your conclusion?”  I could tell he was thinking now.  His brow furrowed and he did not respond for some time.  I felt comfortable I made my point and he would give the opposite response now.  I had my pat answer ready, “See when your perspective changes, your conclusions often do too.”
However he explained instead, “I am really glad I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions because now I don’t know what is the right answer.”  I was floored with his ability to grasp the complexity inherent in this discussion.  It was now my turn to give thought to what was an appropriate response.  I told him candidly, “I don’t know the right answer either.  But since most human systems have flaws, I have a hard time supporting the death penalty because we could get it wrong.”  He nodded and went back to lighter topics typical to an eight year old.

We since have had deep discussions on a number of topics including science and religion digging into hypothesis versus facts.  He likes to challenge me.  He will more likely take the opposite position than agree.  He often presents something he has read or heard as “fact.”  I found a great quote I shared, “Facts are the hypothesis you believe.” 
He recently took up composing songs while we had more down time on vacation.  He asked me about what types of things he could write about.  He recognizes he doesn’t have much life experience and has grown up mainly the child of privilege.  I explained, “We all have areas where we struggle; questions we can’t find answers to, or things we don’t understand.  You should write about those that are personal to you.”  I told him. “A good test of whether you are writing something worth someone else reading is whether you feel uncomfortable sharing what you wrote.”  I found for me when I put a bit of myself on the page, I feel it immediately and it often elicits an emotional response.  And those posts generally are the ones that elicit a corresponding reaction from my readers. 

He came back a few days later and wanted to sing me a song he had written.  He was clearly both anxious and uncertain.  I sensed he had put quite a bit of himself in this piece.  When he sang, his words spoke to me and put expression to questions I struggle with still.  He also gave me a precious glimpse into the depth of thought that occupies his teenage brain.  Again, like when he was eight, I was amazed and taught a beautiful lesson by my son while in an effort to teach him.  I am proud of the young man my first born is becoming.  I got permission to share his song below.

Science V. Religion by Vestigial WisdomShare
CHORUS:
I am so confused by these ideas I amuse
What is true, what is real
Believe in God that is the deal

VERSE ONE:
Life is crazy
Able to faze me
Sun is blazing
Light years away
Should I pray?
Did God create the world in 7 days?
It is the most complicated maze
My mind is in a daze
Romeo and Juliet all of Shakespeare's plays
Are great to demonstrate
The questions...what to make of what is on our plate
Be yourself or be a fake
Can't have your cake,
and eat it too!
My ideas and dreams just flew
Like the finches
Who inspired Darwin, their beaks unique by inches
Evolution, confusion, dilution, absolutely no resolution
We cannot understand how we came to be
So we just try our best to shamble up a theory
The Big Bang is hard to see
Making my eyes bleary
The Bible can also not be looked at clearly because...


CHORUS:
I am so confused by these ideas I amuse
What is true, what is real
Believe in God that is the deal
VERSE TWO:
We came from fish
That walked out of the ocean
What a wish
What an insane notion
The physics, the laws of motion
The chemistry, the Hogwarts potions
Too hard for me to understand
My brain just crammed
With questions, my mind is jammed
Sarah Beth's
It is a mess
Baptized, I know I'm blessed
I'm on an information quest
I'll never have all the answers right
Thats alright
I just hope to make it right
Do science and religion need to fight?
Either way, it takes a leap of faith
God, Jesus, and the holy spirit
I wish they would appear it,
Would make things easy
I don't fear death, I'm just a little queasy...
About the unknown
Look how much our world has grown
Billions upon billions of years old
Minerals
Silver and gold
A domineering deity
Is it possible?
Some believe
Answers is what I truly need but...


CHORUS:
I am so confused by these ideas I amuse
What is true, what is real
Believe in God that is the deal