On the way home from school yesterday, my son shared with me that one of his teachers insisted he search on the Encyclopedia Britannica website for information on volcanoes, instead of Google. "Google was unreliable," she said.
In attempting to do as instructed, he couldn't find the information he needed on Britannica (amusingly he had no idea what Britannica actually was before the Web came into existence).
When he showed the teacher he had found the correct information on Google and there was nothing on Britannica, without wading through masses of information, she demanded to know if he was arguing with her? According to my son, the teacher grew angry and insisted he use Britannica because she said so.
I think there's a good lesson here in inter-generational politics.
Whether he was right or wrong, if he questions authority politely then that's his job as the next generation, and bravo for him. His teacher should have recognized this.
I want generation upon generation to question those who have gone before. This questioning is what has given us the world we have today. We praise all those challengers in history who have changed our world: Christopher Columbus, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and the list goes on. Why not praise the current children of our generation?
As a writer I question everything through my stories and characters. Can people who do the most unspeakable things be completely evil? Is there any circumstance where you will forgive the worst imaginable deed done to you by another? What would happen if we were faced with an impossible decision? Why would you help a complete stranger?
Through writing I've learned that the world is gray; nothing is black or white. People are gray, and sometimes the wrong answers today are the correct answers tomorrow.
Often I've thought we look for leaders in the wrong places within school systems and workplaces. We look for children and people who conform to the rules, who don't cause any trouble, who don't argue. The opportunity is sometimes missed then to nurture great spirit because I believe the leaders and advocates for tomorrow's greater world will come from those children who ask, "Why must I do it your way?"
The children who attempt more, and fail even more times, are the ones to sometimes note. Here they grow their experience and learn. Failure has always been my greatest teacher and the mentor of every great explorer of the world and society.
The word 'Why' is the most powerful agent of change? We should teach this and have the courage to use this simple word more often.
I shall continue to teach my sons to question the world because I want them to contribute to the future in their own unique way. I believe this is probably one of the best lessons I can impart as a parent, even if sometimes it is my authority they challenge.
We have no way of knowing if we are raising the next remarkable agent of change, do we? So we should think carefully before we answer the next time we're asked "Why?"
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