April 19


Today's quotation:

The surest way to corrupt young people is to teach them to esteem more highly those who think alike than those who think differently.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Today's Meditation:

What are we doing to our children when we tell them that things can't be done in a certain way, simply because "that's not how it's done"?  What are we doing to them when we encourage them to "conform" because we want to spare them the pain and anguish that may result when others see them as "different"?  How many of the most important scientific, medical, and philosophical advances in the world never have happened because the people who had the ability to make those advances were convinced that the most important thing they could do was to think like everyone else and to do things the way they were told?

"Go with the flow," we're told; "Don't make waves."  "This is how you're supposed to act in this situation."  What purpose do these admonishments have other than to maintain the status quo, to keep comfortable the people who are comfortably established in their ways of doing things?

Of course, there are completely inappropriate ways of acting, especially those ways that bring harm or shame to others, but shame is often self-defined; one parent may be ashamed at his or her child's behavior, while another may be grateful that the child is demonstrating a bit of individuality and letting his or her personality shine through.

Am I corrupted if I believe that the people who think alike are more admirable and estimable than those who think for themselves?  If no one thought differently, then where would our innovations come from?  How would we ever advance beyond the status quo?  Corruption isn't just moral or ethical in nature--rust is a form of corruption, one that eats away at its host like a parasite, constantly making it less than it was the day before.  The belief that they should hold in greater esteem those who think alike is a form of rust, something that doesn't allow our young people to grow beyond the limitations already established by those who do think alike.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tell young people to think and do as others think and do?

When is it beneficial to conform?  When is it destructive?

How can we encourage our young people to think for themselves?

For further thought:

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.

Malcolm Muggeridge

more thoughts and ideas on conformity



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