Do Kids Know Too Much Too Young?

As a humane educator, I’m always walking a delicate balance between exposing youth to global problems that are often horrific and igniting their commitment to use their one precious life to make a difference. Recently, after teaching 6th and 7th graders for several mornings, I wondered if our society in general is creating a kind of apathy among most kids such that they do not feel that it matters much what they do. They know so much. Before I taught about child labor, for example, they were well aware that their shoes and clothes might have been produced in sweatshops by kids their own age. And most of them weren’t inclined to change their habits or choices.

There is a danger in the over-exposure to atrocities and problems among adolescents. They become inured to bad news. This is not true of all children, of course, as the young heroes of our time illustrate. But, when one is exposed to a grave problem in adolescence that shatters one’s innocence and sparks one’s passion for justice, the seeds of changemaking are planted. When instead, the slow seepage of too much bad news and too much destruction pervades one’s awareness, a dangerous apathy can emerge.

I don’t know the answer to this dilemma, nor do I always know how to walk that delicate balance as a humane educator, but I fear for the future if we do not find a way to educate the next generation about the problems we face, provide them with the skills for solving them, and motivate them to choose lives of compassion, service, and courage. I welcome your thoughts.

Zoe Weil
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times

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