From a very young age, kids are told that they’re not capable of making decisions for themselves. Moms and dads like to speak for their children, teachers like to tell the kids to sit down and be quiet, and older people generally think that teenagers are all either going to murder or have sex with anything that moves. Fortunately, the story goes, as soon as you get older (18, 21, or something like that), you magically have conferred upon you the wisdom to make your own choices.
I understand the general sentiment here. I doubt anybody thinks that kids have the experience to make all of the decisions that affect them. However, kids are able to make decisions from a very early age, and as they grow older they get better and better at it.
The reason I bring this up is that when we tell kids that only adults can fully make good decisions, we clearly show ourselves to be out to lunch. Here are some examples from the past week about how we adults do a staggeringly poor job of making good choices:
- Ted Cruz gave a big speech in front of the Republican National Convention to not endorse Donald Trump for president. I completely understand why Mr. Cruz would loathe Mr. Trump, but it’s hard to imagine why he thought he had been allowed to speak in the first place.
- Wikileaks showed that the Democratic National Committee, while trying to appear unbiased, actively tried to torpedo Bernie Sanders’ presidential run. And, by the way, badmouthed their donors while doing so.
- Members of both parties have been fervently ranting about how awful Hillary Clinton is. I don’t like her either, but screaming/heckling during the conventions doesn’t make anybody look like they’re interested in making a good point.
I give these examples not because I’m a fan of either Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton, but because these examples show how seriously we adults treat the election of the next president of the United States. Yep, we seem to think that screaming about how Mr. Trump is a Nazi, or about how Ms. Clinton is a criminal, is a good way to select the leader of the free world.
How can a kid not feel like we’ve been pretending to be rational the whole time?
Here’s a challenge for everybody during the next few weeks and months:
- Let a child make a decision. It can be a big decision or a little one, but make sure he or she actually gets to practice thinking for themselves.
- Let a child see you being reasonable. If there’s something you need to figure out, let a child see that you’re using reason to solve the problem. That is, after all, what we want them to do.
- Special election challenge: Don’t be an idiot. If you’re a supporter of Mr. Trump, try to make your case without referring to Ms. Clinton as corrupt or as a criminal. If you’re a supporter of Ms. Clinton, try to make your case without calling Mr. Trump an inexperienced loose-cannon. In other words, try to focus on what you believe, rather than on what you hate.
And, as always, get out of the swimming pool if you hear thunder.