When I was a kid I remember I used to fight with people a lot about topics I really knew nothing about.
It usually went a little something like this…
I would over hear my parents or other adult family members talking about a topic that involved religion or politics. Sometimes it my be something less serious like entertainment or sports, but the big two are always the big two. So I would hear discussion about something and not really think about it. Not question it. Not research it on my own.
And then later on…sometimes weeks or months later, the topic would come up around friends. I don’t know how the topic would come up among a group of kids, but if it was something in the media or something that most adults were discussing then the topic would always come up among childhood friends.
And since I didn’t really know anything about the topic, I would regurgitate the only things that I had heard. Stuff that my parents or other adult family members would say to each other.
A lot of times I would defend that position so hard that it would cause fights with friends, classmates, or anyone else involved in the discussion.
Now, what I was saying was not always the right or wrong position to take, but it did not matter, because I did not know enough to have a position. I was forming opinions based on limited and often times biased information.
So fast forward twenty six years or so and now I have a teenager and a nine year old. And naturally they are both curious about what is happening in the world.
But I have made it a rule for them that they are not to talk about politics or religion with their friends.
And I have told them that the reason they are not to talk about religion or politics with their friends is because they do not have enough information to form educated opinions about the topics, and they are too young to be fighting with friends over these things.
They can ask any questions they want of adults, but they must ask the question of more than one adult. They need to get different perspectives and see what the different answers are.
They need to do research. They need to find the information they are looking for so they will better understand the issues and topics at hand.
They are not to form opinions based on what a single person says. Not what I say or what their step-mother says or what their grandparents say or what anyone says.
They are to take in the information, think about it, and seek out more information. They need to experience as much as they can about something before they talk about it like they know what they are talking about.
My 13 year old understands why I tell him these things and he is always happy to ask questions. He had about a dozen of them this morning even before he left for school.
My 9 year old also understands, but he doesn’t care about any of that right now. I can tell he is hearing and listening, and he asks questions when he feels the urge, but he is happy watching YouTubers and Impractical Jokers.
Today is a tricky day for discussion and debate.
I just have to practice what I preach.