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Encouraging the Natural Idealism in our Young People

Friday, October 28, 2016    


“When children have their ideals, do not dislodge them; let them grow.” (The Urantia Book, The UB, 48:6.32)

One of the joys of teaching young adults, if you’re fortunate to have the opportunity, is the discovery of the ideals seeking to grow in their hearts. Sometimes I run into cynicism about education coming from teenagers who only want to get a high GPA, learn the rules on how to conform to a conventional work formula, get a degree that will earn them that good job, and then go out and make money. But I also find there are many young adults with ideals that go beyond the materialistic concerns.

As teachers, we can’t teach them what to value; we can only help them learn to be good evaluators of what they discover should most be valued. In their search for excellence, I want the kids I am tutoring to learn how to choose their highest values. Hopefully I can lead them to the “spirit-value sorter—the indwelling interpreter;” (196:3.17) the sorting, getting the order right, is important, to rewrite their stories of purpose if they discover they didn’t choose correctly at first. This kind of work is greatly helped by prayer, or the cultivation of an inner life, but in my secular role, I am limited there and can’t offer that kind of guidance.

“The advances of true civilization are all born in this inner world of mankind. It is only the inner life that is truly creative. Civilization can hardly progress when the majority of the youth of any generation devote their interests and energies to the materialistic pursuits of the sensory or outer world.” (111:4.3)

In my experience teaching history, I’ve seen that their inner lives, or their imaginations, resonate with the statements of our Western civilization’s ideals. They are inspired by the narratives of tolerance and human freedoms that culminated in our historic documents such as the Magna Carta and the American Declaration of Independence.

One of my students wanted to focus on lifting people out of poverty so he wrote an essay on the topic: why does poverty persist in such a wealthy nation as ours?

While discussing the Dalai Lama, another boy responded positively to a suggestion I offered about choosing a life direction of learning kindness and service to the poor.

Jesus taught, “In dealing with children, avoid all deception and refrain from suggesting suspicion. Wisely help them to choose their heroes and select their lifework.” (140:5.14)

In one young man’s writing, he envisioned a world where there was no more hatred. He was eagerly anticipating a trip planned for his class in spring when they will visit the United Nations in New York.

The UB urges us to help them nurture their natural altruism and enlightened unselfishness—love (180:5.10). “Human happiness is achieved only when the ego desire of the self and the altruistic urge of the higher self (divine spirit) are co-ordinated and reconciled by the unified will of the integrating and supervising personality. The mind of evolutionary man is ever confronted with the intricate problem of refereeing the contest between the natural expansion of emotional impulses and the moral growth of unselfish urges predicated on spiritual insight—genuine religious reflection.” (103:5.5)

No one is more caught up in this internal tug of war between emotions and unselfish urges than young people. At times, I wonder if many of them are beginning to feel the roots of civilization are threatened, and that our institutions are not working: “Today the nations of the world are directed by men who have a superabundance of ideas, but they are poverty-stricken in ideals. That is the explanation of poverty, divorce, war, and racial hatreds.” (111:4.10)

Because this stark political reality was so apparent to them, they supported Bernie Sanders in large numbers in our election primaries.

Putting the controversies of politics aside, there is the more important work of character growth. “Even secular education could help in this great spiritual renaissance if it would pay more attention to the work of teaching youth how to engage in life planning and character progression. The purpose of all education should be to foster and further the supreme purpose of life, the development of a majestic and well-balanced personality.” (195:10.17)

And finally The UB suggests what the supreme goal of education should be. “Give every developing child a chance to grow his own religious experience; do not force a ready-made adult experience upon him. Remember, year-by-year progress through an established educational regime does not necessarily mean intellectual progress, much less spiritual growth. Enlargement of vocabulary does not signify development of character. Growth is not truly indicated by mere products but rather by progress. Real educational growth is indicated by enhancement of ideals, increased appreciation of values, new meanings of values, and augmented loyalty to supreme values.” (100:1.3)

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