Monday, June 14, 2010

New Ideas

On my first day of Media Studies at college, my tutor did a little exercise. He asked us all what newspapers we read.

At the time, I read the Daily Mirror, a middle of the road paper somewhere between a broadsheet and a tabloid. When I mentioned this, one of the 'trust fund' kids snorted. The tutor asked him what was funny and the guy made some comment about how the Daily Mirror wasn't 'real news'.

At this point, the tutor told us the whole point of the exercise. That we tended to be dismissive… and avoided or preferred certain media based on political affiliation and class. Then he said something that has stuck with me ever since: If you go through college and come out the other side with the same ideas and preconceptions, or not looking at things in a different way…you've kinda missed the point.

Now, what inspired me to write this post was a conversation Sunny and I had in the car today. Basically, it was about the parents who homeschool their kids because they don't agree with the religious or political viewpoints taught in schools (Intelligent Design in Science Class, President Obama's address to students, etc, etc).

For me, the whole point of education is to expose our kids to new ideas. New ways of looking at things.

However, today, it appears that parents want schools to teach their kids only their values and points of view. Education isn't about producing independent adults capable of reason and rational thought… but instead to create kids that are basically clones of their parents.

If you'll allow me to wax philosophical for a moment, ignorance breeds fear and fear, more than anything, breeds hate. Just look at the number of people who assume Muslim = Terrorist today. Maybe we should teach kids about world religions, what their beliefs are and how they work in an academic sense, rather than 'This is why our religion is correct and all other religions are pointless because they're wrong" there wouldn't be so many hate groups or people walking into crowded places with bombs attached to their chests.

It's the same with politics. We have generations of people who are liberals or republicans because that's what their parents and grandparents were. It begs the question, if we're so sure that our points of view are the correct ones, why are we so afraid of our kids learning about the other point of view?

What we're doing is teaching our kids that the world is black and white with no shades of grey. We are right, everyone else is wrong and anyone who suggests otherwise is evil, misguided or just trying to deceive you.

Imagine trying to negotiate something important with someone when both of you have that point of view.

As a perfect example of this, look at healthcare reform. There are upsides and there are downsides to both ideas, but the vast majority of people just immediately reacted to the word 'socialism'. Basically, Socialism = Communism = Bad. I even saw one protest sign that said "Don't steal from Medicare to fund Socialised healthcare". These people were so set in their point of view, that they didn't even realize that Medicare IS socialized healthcare for the elderly.

Basically, it's dangerous. When we teach kids that this is the way things are, this is the correct way to think and this is the wrong way to think, we just stop.

It just amazes me that no-one has realized that all the revolutionary, visionary thinkers of the past hundred years tended to be people who went against the norm, against conventional wisdom and were revolutionaries in their field because they challenged the accepted way of thinking about things.

When we only teach our kids our ideas, what we're really doing is making sure they're not learning anything new.

In closing, what's better? Having a kid believing in something because of total ignorance of the alternative…or believing in something because they learned both sides and decided for themselves what's best?

Personally, I'd rather have a child grow up with beliefs totally opposite to mine that they arrived at independently after weighing their options…rather than have a kid who parrots my beliefs because I told him to.

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