Steve Wiley on Raising Your Kids to Question Everything, Critical Thinking, and Home Schooling with The Daily Show
Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week he addresses the importance of critical thinking and watching The Daily Show with his kids.
Back when I was a kid, my mom used to tell me how everything worked. God was in charge, all powerful, not to be questioned. America was the greatest, partly because God loved us the most, not to be questioned. If something didn't make sense, I was told to trust that God had it all under control, and I wasn't meant to understand everything. I was to consider myself lucky that God had made me an American Christian.
Within this framework of God and country, I was taught a truckload of decent morals. There was an abundance of love, family, and friendship. We helped each other through lots of tricky times and tight spots. My mom, my grandma, and many others worked as hard as they could to build my mind. I had a happy youth.
Yet somehow I still questioned things. More with each passing year. I grew up and became a father, and soon after I was confronted with the question of whether I wanted to carry out the same parental strategy of "trust me, this is how things work" or try something new. Thinking that I didn't need the theories from paragraph one to accomplish the goals of paragraph two, I went a different route.
Nowadays, I'm home schooling with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
A Role Model for Critical Thinking
You see, the overall parental concept I'm going for is to teach critical thinking skills. That means questioning God, country, society, everything. It means subverting the dominant paradigm. It also means I'm a huge fan of the phrase "I don't know" if it applies.
The trick is that I'm my kids' responsible authority figure, and in order for them to remain safe until they are capable of facing this wonderful world on their own, there are a number topics about which I can't be questioned. There are even times where I have to pretend to know stuff I really don't know. It's the inherent paradoxes of parenthood.
With that in mind, I try to stay as open and honest as I possibly can, acknowledge the paradoxes, and try to teach the kids that they should continue to question everything, even their father. One of my new favorite tools to help teach that lesson is The Daily Show.
In my mind, Stewart and his band of psuedo-reporters give the most honest appraisal of the "news" out there. And as a bonus: They are hilarious. If you've seen it, you know this already. Political satire at its finest.
I thought, "Hey, the kids might really learn from this", and slowly but surely, I weened the boys (my little lady is too young) onto my nightly recording of the show.