Kids want to change the world. They are naïve, uninformed, biased… and wonderfully idealistic, energetic, and brave. Their vision is what moves the world forward. Yet, their force is so often underutilized and undervalued. Most terribly, it can be mischanneled and abused. Giving kids spaces to discuss their ideas, energetically and safely, is not a luxury. It is a necessity. For our future and for our safety.
I had a wonderful political theory professor in my alma matter, Arizona State University. Dr Crittenden treated all his students as equals from whom he expected great conversations –marked by his sharp wit. In class, we discussed the main ‘isms’ – political ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, fascism, anarchism… he would fairly debate students on the benefits and flaws of each theory. He let students explore, he gently prodded blind spots, he smartly presented new evidence… He never told us what to think. He let us discover. He demanded critical thinking and he respected the journey of learning – which included not a few mistaken steps. Our enthusiasm for politics and big visions was permitted and lauded, but also sieved through sharp analysis. We emerged from the class as passionate as we entered, but not as naïve.
Without spaces for discussion, such as my political theory class, kids are left floundering. They are burning with desire for justice, unbelievable energy, and the need to create or find a vision to follow. And burning with no outlet is dangerous. Because they either fizzle out, leaving humanity stagnant, or they can uncritically follow demagogues dressed in sheep skin.
Part of the passion for setting up Thinkers Meet Up comes from a desire to give kids a space to be safe while they explore their ideals. A space where they are taken seriously, but also seriously pushed to think hard, to be fair, to rise to their highest self.