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Thursday, September 12, 2019

How to Stay Sane: A Three-Part Survival Guide

Part Two: The Pint-Sized Political Protégé

(or: Don’t Raise Your Kid on Pundits)

a. Students of politics don’t become thinkers.
Students of history do, and students of poetry. Politics (today) tells a person exactly how and what to think. It often obfuscates purposes. It hides in hedges, stalks, pounces, and stands to gloat over its human prey. History, however, feels no hurry. It has time to indulge in precise definitions and thoughtful comparisons, to weigh factors and to sleep on ideas. It puffs a pipe on a hillside and blows smoke rings into the air. Poetry, its rightful partner, fills in the contours of the landscape behind the facts, tempers the chill of reason with pathos. It watches the smoke rings and tells us their shapes.
Teach them to think, and they will think well, and independently, about politics.
b. Children are developing.
Political diets offer them a sense of ownership of ideas and opinions that their own slender experience could never have concocted. And ownership of the ideas and supporting arguments (without the attendant experience) breeds the kind of confidence that is an impediment to learning. Too firm too early is a death knell to further development and nuance. Wisdom, like maturity, is always marked by growing knowledge of our own deficiencies and fallibility. A diet of political talk inculcates the opposite: entrenchment of absolute positions. If you or your children leave a political program or discourse feeling smug, your programming probably cannot instill true wisdom.
Image result for little rascals he man woman haters clubI am not suggesting we abdicate our responsibility to influence our children’s development. My children know, obliquely, what I think about many things. When we discuss any issues, I give (obliquely!) a bit of my view, and a bit of the reasoning, and then I also tell them what other people think. And if they react strongly against the opposing view, I temper their reactionary instinct with some of my opponent’s reasoning. I reiterate why I disagree with those views. But I must leave them with a thoughtful, human perspective on those holding such views, because…

c. Education is not indoctrination…
…it is the development of taste and judgment. Regurgitation is not discernment. And our taste, and our children’s, must be purposefully oriented towards beauty and goodness.
Stop fearing.
Thoughtful study of history and the Bible and the most beautiful examples that nature and culture have set for us will ultimately shape children into good decision makers. Remember, Biblical exhortations to train up our children are not about passing down set courses of political ideas. They are about reviewing the history of God’s faithfulness. This is a preventative to the fear-based mania of politics. We know our history and therefore we can trust to our future. But we don’t control that future, so we don’t have to stuff them full to bursting of partisan arguments. We can cultivate their minds, feed them beauty and goodness, and they will discern between the ugliness of partisanship and the beauty of true Christian work in the world, works of creativity, works of charity, works of sacrifice. Teach them well.

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