I’d like to talk about the importance of critical thinking.

Attention spans get shorter with each advancing generation. It’s the age of instant gratification and approval addiction. Digital natives run the risk of being digital dependents. We are more connected globally than ever, yet never have we been more ill-equipped and unwilling to engage with people face-to-face.

Of course, that cultural immersion in technology can certainly be an asset. Research, if filtered through a critically thinking mind, can be done anywhere at any time. The world is at our fingertips. Creativity has more possibilities than ever before. Coding has become part of the cultural language as early as preschool. There is so much good that can be done in this age that we find ourselves in.

But to do good, the tools need to be in the hands of good people.

Frankly, we live in a divisive time, with the internet serving as an incubator. We can express opposing views behind the protection of a screen. I think there’s a danger of an empathy disconnect when you can’t physically be in the presence of the person with whom you are communicating. If there’s no face on the receiving end of your words, it becomes easier to speak to them like they are not a human being worthy of love and respect.

Respect and empathy must be taught and nurtured. It is everyone’s responsibility to raise up the next generation. It takes a village, as they say. I feel very passionately that we need to foster strong critical thinking skills in our young people well before high school, and certainly before they are old enough to vote, especially when there is so much bad rhetoric being thrown around; especially in an age where there is so much uncredentialed information readily available, an age in which anything can be counterfeited.

Training virtuous people with discerning minds is the key to a better world.

We need kids who are too smart to be duped by bad rhetoric and propaganda, and who have a willingness to work hard in the pursuit of truth. It is my dream that we raise up generations who are so wholeheartedly pursuant of goodness, truth, and beauty that it doesn’t occur to them to be selfish or litigious or lazy.

I want to see a generation rise up who have learned skills with their hands, who are scrappy and don’t feel naked without their electronics and the internet; a generation both content with solitude and silence and delighted by intimate in-person fellowship.

who live for the good of others;

who humbly seek truth and are open to all viewpoints;

who know why they believe what they believe;

who aren’t combative about their beliefs or their identity, and whose identities are not wrapped up in socioeconomics or gender labels or race or social media presence;

who see others for their spirit and character rather than societal labels;

who seek responsibility and shun excuses;

who wish to improve their character every day;

and who are motivated by love and commonality rather than our differences.

It’s never too early to teach kids how to be good citizens of the world, and you don’t have to be a parent or educator to be an influence. Children notice and absorb everything. They see how people treat one another, and will love or hate in the way that they consistently see those around them loving or hating.  They will pick up habits that they are rewarded for.

So read a lot, in front of and with your kids (or your friends’ kids). Encourage them to ask questions. Praise them for being polite. Let them play in a whole lot of different ways to explore what their gifts and interests are. Take an active interest in their individual learning style.

We need people in the world who can think for themselves and love others. Don’t think any idea is too big for them; give them the chance and they will rise to the occasion and become good people.

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