So many people tell me that they send their kids to school so they meet a wide range of people. The problem with that idea is that kids do not learn open-mindedness by going to school because school can’t have a ratio of thirty independent thinkers to one teacher. It would be chaos. Here’s how really to teach open mindedness to kids.
1. Open-mindedness doesn’t come from racial diversity.
First, I want to tell you that diversity is largely socioeconomic. Public school is location-based, which means you are going to school with kids who live near you. So unless you live in New York City you are unlikely to get any sort of real diversity. The world is still segregated because housing is segregated economically to protect property values.
2. Open mindedness comes from an open learning environment.
If you send your kids to school there is only a limited list of things you will expose your kid to. Rogue teachers get fired for not teaching to the test. Fringe ideas are not part of the national curriculum. There is no opposing view to the core curriculum.
Also, an important part of developing critical thinking skills that are essential to open mindedness is teaching kids there is not one, single right answer. But this cannot happen in a test-based environment where kids need to learn a right answer to pass a test.
How do kids develop an open mind if there’s no right answer? They enjoy unstructured parts of the day for thinking, because kids gain open minds when they are not under time constraints.
3. Be open minded yourself if you want an open minded kid.
I realized this when my son became interested in paleontology. It started with a collection of fossils and blossomed into an obsession with the disappearance of the neanderthals. It is somewhat of a mystery why humans survived and neanderthals didn’t. As I listen to my son’s insane theories to explain the mystery, but I remind myself that kids learn open-mindedness by experiencing the pleasure of someone else listening to their ideas.
As a bonus, some of my son’s theories are not insane but are based in facts, and I’m learning a lot. For example, did you know that neanderthals were short and thick, helping them stay warm in cold weather, but then when the planet warmed and savannas emerged, hunting by throwing a spear was most effective, and neanderthals didn’t have the shoulder flexibility to throw a spear.
My son was talking with Jeanenne, the person who helps me with the house and the kids. My son says, “I asked Jeanenne if she thought neanderthals mated with humans and she said no.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“She says the theory of evolution is just that, a theory.”
“That is so stupid.”
My husband, who grew up in rural Amercia—actually, right on the land we live on—says, “She’s a Jehovah’s Witness. She doesn’t think one species can evolve from another species. She thinks humans did not evolve from other species.”
“Mom, is that true?”
“I guess it’s true she believes that.”
“No. Is it true that that’s how it happened?”
” No. Evolution is true. For sure. Neanderthals and humans mated. For sure.”
“Why does Jeanenne think it’s not true?”
“Because she’s close-minded. She can’t handle hearing someting that does not make perfect sense with what she knows, so she closes her mind to new information.”
I’m on a roll now and I add, “So don’t talk to her anymore about anything like this.”
And my son says, “Mom, we can’t do that. That would be close-minded.”