One of the beautiful things about children is their curiosity. Life is new to them and they think and wonder about things all the time.
We have all noticed how frequently they inquire why things are as they are. But what happens to a society when its children stop wondering? When the answers to questions become a click away, does the actual thinking process in children become compromised?
The mental process of thinking, pondering and reasoning calls for something in short supply today - time. Good teachers understand that when they ask a student a question, they must allow for processing time because the physiological development of a child's capacity to think has not reached full maturation. Simply put, kids need more time to process than adults. Unfortunately, modern media doesn't want to wait. In today's marketing bombardment, selling products to kids or their parents calls for image to trump information. The feel good takeaway has become the norm in sound bite advertising and consumer processing time disrupts this flow. We have become a "right now" culture and waiting is not only passe, it's irritating. Nobody likes a slow computer, a slow movie, or a slow coffee pot. Patience, once a virtue, has become replaced by velocity- we demand immediate delivery of information and services and we're training our children to live that way.
When the demand for information surpasses the natural pace of human thought, we have to wonder about the cost, not only to our children, but to society at large. Benjamin Franklin wondered about losing most of the heat up the chimney; his wondering gave us the Franklin stove. Mark Zuckerberg wondered about personalizing the computer and Facebook was born. American innovation has rested on the concept of thinking and wondering to improve the human condition. When a society diminishes its wondering because individual curiosity is no longer necessary, will that civilization's lifespan be near completion?
A low thinking culture affects our children the most. In their formative years, when kids need touch, spoken words, human interaction, books, and most importantly, time to ponder, we are providing them with digital stimulus way beyond their capacity to digest. We may be innoculating them from the very cognitive development they require to become adults.
It is most unfortunate that our society has come to value answers more than questions. Asking questions, in true Socratic tradition, is essential for proper cognitive development. When a child muses "what if I do it this way" or, "if I add one more, what will happen", that child's brain is exercising the same way his legs are when he rides a bicycle. Children need a hypothesis to ponder not another button to push.
Kids that wonder out loud soon learn that the world is full of people with gadgets who want to short-circuit curiosity. Well-meaning friends are quick to provide information that answer questions and solve problems. For some of us, we don't have a problem and are not looking for a solution. We actually enjoy a good wonder. The cognitive process of thinking, musing, and pondering things is good for the brain - isn't that why we have one?
A life of beauty and creativity requires wonder and wonder requires time. Slow is the natural rhythm of childhood. We have been created to think deeply, it is this ability that allows us to pursue our Maker and comprehend His majesty.If a child fails to exercise his mind in his early years, will he be forever relegated to superficial thinking? We all want children to reach their potential, why not their potential to think deep thoughts? Wonder is a gift from God that no man or gadget should take from us.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11a)