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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tell Me How You Really Feel

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You are not your parents. The 2004 Gallup post-presidential election polls show that more than 70% of youth vote just like their parents, probably because they believe they share the same political stance. And even outside of politics, religious practice, racial bias, speech mannerisms and even family behavioral dynamics (remember Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle?”) become perpetuated from one generation to the next. It makes sense, considering that most of us will hear one consistent viewpoint at home. All people can give advice, teach about the world, and pass judgment on what they experience, but when raising children, parents have the unique opportunity that their audience rarely can or will contradict them. Parental cues become gospel truth – a power both awesome and terrifying.

It is impossible and often impermissible to grow without rejecting yourself and what you know. While involved parents cannot help but share their values with their children, they can also teach the much more powerful idea of independent thinking. Locating facts in biased narratives and constructing a personal understanding of truth is the “critical thinking” foundation American schools seek to impart. Development and learning happen when you can admit that you don’t know the answer, that opinions are just beliefs, and that you are willing to listen to something new. For parents, this means not only accepting, but also promoting when your children reason differently from you. For children, my peers, this means seeking out a variety of viewpoints and understanding what they mean to you in your life.

The process of self-discovery takes effort and it takes time, but nothing can bring you peace, prosperity, and pleasure like being true to yourself. These steps may help guide each of us (of any age) to rediscover who we are.

1. Identify your background: everything you assume because of how you were raised or where you have lived.

2. In the words of Yoda, to “unlearn what you have learned” means to distinguish these assumptions or cultural norms as something placed on you, not made by you.

3. Admit to your own fallacies, for you just don’t have all the answers. Based on how much we collectively still don’t know, not even the sum of humanity has all the answers.

4. Listen and find what speaks to you, then be able to explain why it defines your opinion. Listen to any and every viewpoint, no matter how different, outrageous, or even offensive. And if you conscientiously think another person’s opinion is harmful or dominating, you cannot hope to help that person grow without also understanding the assumptions and personal process behind it. Then share your insight or something like my tips here. Take great care with your thoughts, and I hope that my viewpoint may help you to find your own, because only you should make your opinion.

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