Jake Meador on engaging with an anxious, easily triggered generation:
…be intellectually serious. Read widely and read well. Allow yourself to be corrected by what you read. Change your mind about something. Have friends who will argue with you. Acquiring that intellectual grounding will be fun, in itself, but it will also equip you to be a trusted, valued leader in your community.
Charlotte Mason believed that children should be taught that it is their responsibility to form their own opinions. If you don’t form your own opinions, you will pick them up from somewhere. These days, that somewhere is likely to be social media. But as Alan Jacobs argues in Breaking Bread with the Dead, to draw our principles from the fast-paced world of social media is to reduce our temporal bandwidth to the point that we can’t help but be blown wither the endless newsfeed goes.
The solution – argued by Charlotte Mason, Alan Jacobs and here from Jake Meador – read. Broadly. The wider you go, the more you can draw from as you form your opinions and principles and the more stable you are in the frenzied rush of online conversation.
But with that solution, two thoughts.
First, don’t just read broadly. Read broadly to your children. Give them as wide and deep a well of ideas to draw on for themselves as they grow up. I don’t know what kind of a world my kids will face, what sorts of ideas and opinions that will challenge them. In the face of the unknown, the best I can give them is an foundation in many sorts of books and “many vital interests” as Charlotte Mason says.
Second, if you struggle to make time to read, or aren’t sure where to start, start with reading those books to and with your kids. Good books count, even if they are written for a young audience.
Finally, a recommendation. I’m working very hard to finish my reading challenge from The Literary Life for this year. It’s my third year completing the challenge, and I’m very excited to start next year’s version. If you need a bit of encouragement to break out of your literary comfort zone, I highly recommend the challenge.