Critical Thinking and our Youth

I have been viewing the independent documentary, Jesus Camp, on YouTube, and reading the comments on there as well. In addition, I watched a discussion with the directors of that film. All in all, I think it is a very well done documentary.

In reading through the comments, one thing has struck me. Many accuse the evangelicals of “brain washing” these kids, and the old canard makes its way back once again with a few arguing that children should not be exposed to religion until they are old enough to think for themselves. Ahhh, yes. And at what age do we believe that to be?

I am not being flippant here. The question that comes to mind, for me, is when do we stop teaching our children only how to read, write, and do math, and instead instill in them the tools necessary for critical thinking?

Is that at age 3, when they start asking the “why” questions? Is that not their first attempts at seeking to critically explain the world around them?

Is it at age 8, when they have started school, and are now beginning to see that not everyone looks the same, dresses the same, or likes the same foods?

Is it at age 12, as they enter puberty, and notice that boys and girls are different? As they begin to grapple with the changes in their bodies (or wonder why their’s hasn’t changed yet?)

Perhaps it is 16, when we tell them they are now old enough to drive a car, or 18 when they can vote and join the military, or 21 when society says we can now trust you with alcohol?

Perhaps it is not so far fetched to assume that religion can play a role in all aspects of growth. That it isn’t a bad thing for children to grow up with the sense of worth that comes from knowing that you were created, and that God loves you in a perfect way that your imperfect parents cannot.

Perhaps it is not a bad thing for children, at all ages, to question, and challenge, the accepted views of the world, to say “maybe evolution isn’t the best explanation for the world around me.”

Maybe we should focus more on instilling and developing critical thinking skills in our children and less time “protecting” them from having to think critically.


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