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Your Child's Intellectual Inventory
Access is not assimilation
I keep encountering a worrying trend among children, and within the broader social dialogue, as well. Simply put, people of all ages seem to be mistaking the availability of information for knowledge in their possession.
At Issue: Access is not Assimilation
The assertions are all variations on a theme, and I’m sure that you’ve seen them, as well, such as: “Why should I learn X, when I can just search for it, if I need it.”
The reason, of course, is simple: your brain can only create with what is in your head.
Here’s a simple scenario to illustrate the point: if your child becomes stranded with a flat tire on the side of a deserted country road someday, out of cellular range, all the how-to-change-your-tire videos in the world are not going to help your child.
Your child will either know how to change a tire, or they will be in for a very long walk / wait.
This isn’t just a practical skills problem for our children, either.
Your child’s ability to differentiate themselves intellectually and with action will absolutely come into play throughout their lives.
Their distinguishing thoughts and actions will be a function of many things, but the breadth and depth of your child’s intellectual inventory will always serve as the foundation upon which other skills build.
It doesn’t help, of course, that the social and technological tides are heading in the opposite direction, encouraging our children to take the easy path, and to allow technology to know and do for them, rather than insisting upon their own ability to know and do for themselves.
So, let’s talk about what we can do to be bulwarks that give our children the space and encouragement to build their intellectual inventories now and into their future.
What We Can Do
You don’t need to be a polymath yourself to be a cheerleader for your child’s efforts to build their intellectual inventory.
First, make sure that everything about your family culture reinforces technology as a tool, rather than a crutch.
This should be easy for most of us now, but in the future, there will be more and more pressure to let technology do everything for us from reports and presentations to everything written and drawn.
A simple litmus test is: what percentage of a given amount of work was created by your child’s brain, versus technology? If the majority came from your child, great. If not, you will need to really think about your family’s technological boundaries.
Second, make sure that your child is using technology to build their intellectual inventory.
A hammer is not a house, but a hammer can be used to build a house.
Similarly, information available online is not your child’s intellectual inventory, but the information available online can be use to build our child’s intellectual inventory.
The information available online is a treasure trove of knowledge unlike any available at any other point in history, and our children are incredibly fortunate to have so much information available at the cost of a few keystrokes.
Access is not assimilation though!
Take inventory of your child’s intellectual inventory. What do they really know? How does that align to what you know is important to know in the real world? Think about the future, and try to imagine what knowledge will be critical to their path.
As an aside, we have done some great exercises along these lines as part of the Launchpad23 Proactive Parenting Series, so if attending those is an option for you, keep an eye out for our 2024 lineup.
The great thing is that no matter where your child’s intellectual inventory is now, they have the tools to build upon it.
The very best way to do this is to start with your child’s interests. Do they love dinosaurs? Encourage them to go deep. Do they love space? Encourage them to go deep. Do they love art? Encourage them to go deep.
If your child doesn’t know more than you in multiple subjects by the age of five, redouble your efforts along these lines, because their interests, and the practice developing deep knowledge around those interests, are critical skills that will keep them intellectually curious, capable, and thriving throughout their lives.
Finally, make sure that your child knows why they are building their intellectual inventory at a visceral, experiential level.
They are building their intellectual inventory for what that inventory enables: action.
That action can be creative, or literal, but make sure it is happening, because knowing and doing are not the same thing.
In the application of knowledge, our brains come alive. Our intellectual inventories become interconnected webs that don’t just regurgitate what is there, but rather create entirely new ideas and concepts.
Those new ideas and concepts, brought into the real world through action, are the seeds of your child’s ability to differentiate themselves in the future. Water them with encouragement, and take pride as they grow, even if you cannot currently see the path between those interests and the future happiness you want for your child.
Build Your Own Intellectual Inventory
As alluded to above, if you do your job well supporting the development of your child’s intellectual inventory, your child will quickly exceed your knowledge in an ever-increasing number of areas.
In this case, it is all-important that you don’t let your lack of knowledge cause you to sit in the stands watching your child’s growth as a passive observer. Rather, build your own intellectual inventory in the subject at whatever level you can.
Your goal is not to show off to your child how much you know about their interests, nor to maintain knowledge superiority over them, but rather to stay fluent in the language and concepts of their interests, so that they can approach you with their ideas, and share the magnificent intellectual journey they are on.
The best part is that it is just as healthy and beneficial for you as it is for your child, and what better incentive can be offered than a win-win proposition!
Golden Tools: Assimilation and Action
As discussed, our children need more than just access to information. They need to assimilate that information in order to make use of it, and the action of using their knowledge is what gives our children the chance to differentiate themselves with their creativity and concepts.
It definitely isn’t the easiest parenting path, but if we strive to give our children these golden tools, we can rest assured that our children will thrive.
Sure, me writing and you reading technically count as a form of communication, but it’s more fun to interact. Let me know what you are thinking, and until next time, keep moving forward.