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Teaching the Previous Generations

Most folks think of education as primarily from the older generations to the younger. This is generally true, but there is increasing cross-fertilization in the process where the younger generation teaches the older.

I spent several hours tonight giving my folks a tour of facebook. They’ve resisted getting involved, just as I did. Early in this blog’s history, I posted about my antipathy towards facebook, but, as one friend put it, “I surrendered to the evil empire.” Now my folks are re-evaluating their resistance to it, so they asked me to show them and explain what I’ve learned about privacy and security and pros/cons. They understand it better, see new pitfalls and new possibilities. We’ll see if they take the plunge.

There are many platitudes about learning something new every day, but it is true they are keeping an open mind to new information and willing to change their decisions should that information shift the balance.

Having an open mind means being willing to hear new information, new interpretations and so on, and then evaluating them to see if there is cause to change a viewpoint. It is when we decide we have all of the information, or at least that all of our information is incontrovertibly correct, or that we will hold firm no matter what new information comes, that we are closed minded. This is just as true for people of faith as it is for atheists and agnostics.

The Bible calls us to use our minds and consider evidence in a number of places, and it suggests rather strongly that the young have a role in instructing their elders, as long as it is done with respect and humility. (I Timothy 4)

The challenge for us in this culture is that we tend to worship the youth culture and put our elders out to pasture. This both dishonors them and hamstrings the youth, binding them to their own ignorance. One of the lessons I still keep learning is that my elders understand principles better than I often do, even if they have no clue on the specifics today.

The specifics are what we call facts and information. The principles are what we know as wisdom. It is rather straightforward to teach my folks the facts of facebook in an evening. It is much more involved for them to teach discernment in assessing those facts to their grandkids. It is said, “For most people, history begins the day they are born.” This is surprisingly true. Therefore, it makes sense to pay attention to those whose history books are thicker. It is then a small matter to share with them the quick start user’s guide.

I suspect this intergenerational interdependence was deliberate. Just maybe, the Creator knew what He was doing.


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