We can't solve the world's problems for our kids, but we can teach them to ask the right questions
5 critical lifelong questions to teach your child
You are your child's first teacher. But in our fast-paced digital and social media world, children are soaking up information from other sources like never before. Is the information sticking and is deep learning happening? Most importantly, are ideas being translated into meaningful change? This week's 6th E.M.P.O.W.E.R.E.D challenge, focuses on Educating ourselves around social-environmental justice issues and moving beyond platitudes to deeper perspectives. This means deepening one's learning around topics such as climate change, racial injustice, historical oppression, systemic injustice, the black lives matter movement, the effective altruism movement, animal rights, women's rights, disability issues, LGBTQ2S, equity, diversity and inclusivity, anti-bullying, and so, so, so much more (one of the reasons I am do a PhD in Social Justice Education is to learn about these issues deeply and be a vehicle to distill and mobilize the information to you). It can be overwhelming, especially for parents who are trying to navigate these complex issues within the context of a digital world. Furthermore, as socially conscious parents, many of us yearn to find answers to global injustices so that our children don't bear the burden. Alas, we may not have the answers or solutions during our lifetime, but we can teach our children to ask the right critical questions, so that they can navigate their own answers to the inevitable challenges that come their way during their life. Although the way we navigate information is changing so much, as an educator I believe that some core principles of learning remain the same and are more important now, more than ever. Firstly, when guiding your child, start with a topic that is relatable to your history, culture or their interests. Secondly, teach them these five key questions to navigate information through a critical lens:
1) What is the message being relayed?
2) Who is relaying the message, why might they be interested in promoting their particular message and why might it be particularly important to pay attention to their voice?
3) What are some possible gaps to this message or other perspectives to consider?
4) How does this message contribute to meaningful change, whether directly or indirectly? (our brains can only take in so much, so if it's not actually shifting the needle, then don't waste time on it!)
5) What can I take from it and how can I implement this message in my own life, practically and/or morally and ideologically?
These are big and complex guiding questions, but when they are introduced consistently to children from an early age and embedded into daily discourse, then deeper learning develops, as they develop.
Finally, it's also important to consider various sources of information that could benefit your child. In Good Hands seeks to advance intergenerational equity and a big part of this is intergenerational knowledge. Children can learn a great deal from family and community members of different generations, particularly elderly people. They learn not only from what is being said, but from the interaction itself. Similarly, they learn from spending time with groups that are different from them and that can open their perspectives and life experiences. Spending time with people with disabilities, at a homeless shelter, an animal sanctuary, or in a different country or culture, can be great forms of learning, when done respectfully and not with an 'onlooker' or 'saviour' mentality (more to be said about that in another post). Consider that learning is not only through reading books, online media or learning information in the traditional sense. Young children learn a great deal through play, and the arts is one of the best ways to promote deep, instrinsic learning. These are the types of learning that actually create growth. Most parents can relate to going through years of university or higher education but barely remembering any of the textbook information learned over so many years. Conversely, there are certain life experiences that we do remember as being pivotal in shaping our identity, altering our perspectives or causing us to grow and learn in deeper, lasting ways. Children will not remember their best day of reading a text book, watching a tv show or liking an Instagram post, but they will remember those times spent volunteering, exploring nature, or the smell of grandma's cooking. Use those moments to integrate deeper learning through conversation and intentional participation.
This week's E.M.P.O.W.E.R.E.D. challenge on Education is an entry point into the value of learning and educating oneself about an important world topic. It's not possible to engage in deep learning in one week through one worksheet activity (the workbook is simply a introduction to the basics), but, as your child's first teacher, you can embrace the concepts discussed in this blog post as a jumping off point to guiding your child towards being a more open-minded, critical, lifelong learner.
In the comments below, please let me know if these guiding questions are useful for you and what topic you want to learn more about and want to teach your child more about, as a socially conscious parent.