Critical Thinking for Children #2

In the first of this series, I started with a PBS series about ‘The Human Spark’ with Alan Alda which delves into how the human brain works. This was done not by looking at adult brains per se, but by observing how children behave so that they can see what it is that might be hard wired into our brains and compare humans to chimps etc. That lead me to think about how I got to be the me that I am today.

The second thought on seminal moments in my life came when I was in third grade. If you’re following along, that is one seminal moment every 2 years so far, but there were others. In this instance it was the lesson that we are responsible for our own actions. So much for not having free will. Being responsible for all that you do does not require that you think everything through like a chess game, but you have to be prepared for the consequences of your actions.

You can’t destroy the art work of another without expecting retaliation. You can’t misbehave without expecting punishment. This is what prison is supposed to teach us, but by then it is often too late to learn the lesson. Teach your children early that they are responsible for their own actions. They do have free will and there are consequences for all that they do. For many things there are good consequences, so we want to do these things, or not do the wrong things, and there are bad consequences when we misbehave or don’t do the good things that we are supposed to do.

As humans, we are born simple and capable. We are also born into a social contract that we cannot easily extricate ourselves from. We must play nice, help others, be cooperative, and work for the common good. This is the social contract that is written into our brains before we even take a breath of air.

Some examples?

  • If you never clean your room, it makes mommy unhappy. Do you want to make mommy sad?
  • If you hit other children, you will be punished. If other kids hit you, wouldn’t you want them to be punished?

Yes, I know it’s not easy. I’m simply trying to relay some of how I got to be the me that I am today. How it is that I came to be a critical thinking person (most of the time).

It was understanding the social contract very early in life that sticks with me today. That understanding interacts with all my social interactions today. I don’t simply have a list of people I like and a list of people I don’t. I actually look at all of the ‘society’ and how we all fit into it to guide my interactions. Well, most of the time. Focusing on like and do-not-like is divisive and drives your interactions into an us and them mentality. An awareness of the social contract and how well other people are adhering to it is important. At least it is to me.

Be. Be aware. Being is not done alone.

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