All software is useless if we don't invest in the greatest software in the world… the human brain. The software within our children is the most important software being created. We can't program it. We can't carve it. But what we put into their minds, determines the future for all of us. But what should that be?
1. How to Seek and Tell the Truth
Our future-holders should be savvy, skeptical citizens. They should be able to check out the truth. And be able to tell it.
For a citizenry hell-bent on lying to itself has no hope of creating a peaceful paradise.
In his book, How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think, Andy Andrews concludes that 11 million people were killed in Nazi Germany with one simple strategy:
You lie to them.
And that is what the Nazis did. First, they moved the Jews to a particular area of town “for their safety.” Then, they had them wear a mark “for their safety.” Then, they enclosed the areas of town with razor wire, “for security.” Finally, the Jews were shipped to another place “for the good of the city.” Finally, as they had their babies ripped from their fingers and their jewelry was thrown into a pile, and they were led to the gas chamber, the truth was evident. It is too late to stand for the truth when you are being led to the gas chamber.
And even after the end of the war, many German citizens refused to believe that the concentration camps happened. The lies were so strong that the lies held good people captive in fear and ignorance.
A country hell-bent on self-deception gets the leaders they deserve. Lying leaders constantly change — chameleon wordsmiths who tell a country of desperate citizens what they want to hear.
It can't last. Eventually, the house of cards will fall.
For justice cannot thrive where lies are the norm and truth is the exception. Truth should be cherished. The truth is the foundation of a just society.
2. How to Disagree
But there's a problem with the truth. The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first. Throughout history, this has caused problems for the truth-tellers.
Scientists of old served their time, died in prison, and died paupers for speaking the truth. It still happens today. Politicizing science perpetuates errors and prohibits discourse.
Our greatness in the future will not be determined by our ability to agree but in our ability to disagree agreeably. For where two humans gather, you have differences. Differences can cause disagreement.
Even as some people are becoming more vitriolic and hateful, others are just becoming quiet. I don't know which scares me more, idiots who tell everyone stupid things or good people who say nothing.
George Washington said,
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
3. How to Hate the Right Things in the Right Way
But disagreement doesn't always have to cause hate. Hate is a like a hangman's noose: a short trip with a long drop at the end.
The worst evil this world has known happened when hatred hung its banner high.
Unless you're hating injustice. Unless you're hating lies. Unless you're hating actions that hurt the poor and oppressed. But hatred of another person or people group when perpetuated and nurtured breeds genocide, discrimination, and depreciation of the nobility of humankind.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
4. How to Break Out of the Echo-Chamber
Our future-holders must know how to break out of the bubble. As Facebook, Google, and other sites we use watch our behavior, they give us more of what we like. They give us less of what we don't like. This is called the “filter bubble.” Some even blame the filter bubble with the polarization of society.
Filter bubbles hide dissent.
And those brave truth-tellers who don't get “likes” will be doomed to anonymity as the world reacts to popular mistakes and ignores the unpopular truth. The majority might rule, but the majority can be wrong. We must intentionally seek out those who are different from us.
5. How to Shield Their Privacy
Many future-holders are stealing their own privacy. They're giving away their most precious, private moments one snap, tweet, and pic at a time. It only takes an instant to send their most private selves into the cloud. There, other nameless faces will treat them as just another bit of naked skin.
And yet, many future-holders are blindly biting away at their privacy one bit and byte at a time.
6. How to Know and Love People
Our future-holders already know one thing very well — how to take a selfie. They know their best side and can snap a magazine-ready pic in their bathroom mirror in and flash.
You can look like a diva but have people happy when you leave-a. 😉
Poor manners. Rudeness. Unkindness. Disrespect. If we can't look another human being in the eye and carry on a mutual, respectful conversation what future have we inherited?
7. How to Find Contentment
Oh, the quest for beauty! Reality doesn't measure up to the airbrushed beauties our future-holders see in their magazines. I remember seeing Cindy Crawford on a television show. The host asked,
“How does it feel to look like Cindy Crawford?”
Cindy quipped something like,
“I don't know. I look at magazines and think I don't look like her either.”
Contentment doesn't sell products. Greed does. Envy does. Dissatisfaction does. You can pursue happiness and never find it.
Oh that our future holders could learn this truth from classic beauty Audrey Hepburn,
“Happy girls are the prettiest.”
8. How to Manage Their Money
Speaking of wealth, if our future-holders have learned anything, it is that many in the generation who have raised them haven't attended to their future. Many of our future-holders will be left holding the bill. They need the will to care for aging parents.
Some future-holders may move straight from student loan payoff to parental support.
If the big-haired 80's taught me anything, it is that all those credit cards sent to me as I graduated from college were boat anchors that I had to cut loose to sail the sea of success.
Future-holders need a cushion. Their life will be full of bubbles and busts, bulls and bears. They need to brave the storm financially. Good money management is more important than ever for this generation.
9. How to Help Others
Future-holders face a needy world. The world doesn't need more slacktivists (people who think that liking or reposting about a cause helps) but real activists who use their social media savvy and money for good.
If our world suffers from hashtag amnesia, only the socially savvy nonprofits will survive. Causes that don't have ice bucket challenge-like movements will languish and die.
And certain things should always be remembered even without a hashtag.
- How many homeless shelters have the time to start a hashtag?
- How many of the poor can whip out their smartphone and talk about the lack of food and warm clothing this winter?
- The hungry two-year-old isn't thinking about starting a movement; she's thinking about her next meal.
We need future-holders who can hold out their hands to those in need and not just to those holding out their hands in massive social media campaigns.
Charles Dickens said,
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Mahatma Gandhi said,
“A nation's greatness is measured by how it reats its weakest members.”
10. How to Have an Innocent Childhood
But if there's anything that makes me truly angry, it is at the future-holders of today. Yes, I'm mad at my generation. Furious.
For in our classrooms, cribs, and bellies, our babies grow.
They see everything. They hear everything.
I'm afraid that in our desire to be entertained or be aware of the news, we've ripped away their shelter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
We wouldn't send a 3-year-old out in a hailstorm. But I know some who watch Game of Thrones with them!
We wouldn't let a kid go to a cage fight. But we'll let them watch murder, beatings, and violence as we hang out in the den at night.
We've ignored the need that young children have to be sheltered.
I interviewed a child trauma expert recently who told me that when young children see replays of terrorist attacks on the news, they have no concept of time. These young children think it is happening again. And again. And again.
A society that adores cruelty will find itself the victim of it.
I'm afraid we're creating a generation either addicted or immune to violence, sex, and drama. Both options are frightening.
11. How to Be Self-Aware and Self-Motivated
If we see anything in education, it is that self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation are holy grails of success. Metacognition or our ability to think about our own thinking is so important.
But I worry about the blame game. A child cannot control her race, culture, or the affluence of her parents. Most kids can't control the school where they go. But the question is not if injustice will happen in the lives of these future-holders but what injustice and to what extent.
But the more important question is — how will these future holders respond to hard knocks?
Henry Cloud gives a great example in his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, to help illustrate this point.
If I walk out in front of my house and get hit by a drunk driver, it is not my fault. Even if the court blames the other person for my injury, I am responsible for my rehab. I have to struggle to learn to walk again. No one can do it for me.
Will our future-holders solve their problems or stew in them? Will they accept responsibility to make things better even if they are not to blame?
Rethinking our Thinking
The kind of thinking that brought us to today won't lead us to a better tomorrow.
Trying harder is not the solution when the machine is broken.
All innovation is not progress. All technology is not awesome. All futures aren't so bright kids gotta wear shades.
Perhaps a large part of our future is to put together noble truths with leading edge learning.
I have big hopes for future-holders. For the future-holders I teach are incredible people. They are loving and hard working and unselfish. They are funny and bright and engaging. They love those who struggle and help each other when they struggle. They inspire me.
I hope to be a small part of their future success but in the end, the future is in their hands. They hold it. And what the future holds for all of us depends on if we can help them be not only good citizens but good people.
But to get there, we've got to care about the software that matters.
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