Recently, my son and daughter were having an argument over the appropriate age to carry a cell phone. This was one of those times that I just held back and listened. My son argued that since he had to wait until he was twelve to receive his iPhone then so should she. The response of my nine-year-old daughter Abby was curt but clever. Negotiating she asked, "Daddy, if I get a less expensive phone, could I receive one when I am eleven?" Before I could answer, my son's response was quite revealing. "By the time you receive a cellphone," he said, "there will be something even better and less expensive than an iPhone." He went on to describe an elaborate array of new features to be anticipated on future models limited only by his creative imagination.
My son revealed a belief that has been common to our culture for the last century – a belief in progress. Like so many Americans, he has come to assume that progress, especially with regard to technological advancements, will always be forthcoming. Take a minute to remember the earliest electronic device that you can recall from your childhood. I can remember my fascination with the VHS machine which revolutionized the way we watch movies.
I can also remember our family's first cordless phone, our first computer, and our first microwave oven. Americans believe in the idea of progress. This belief and its benefits are not simply reserved for an elite class of the socially astute, but are available to any member of our society, including children.
Historically, our country rewards hard work and practical ingenuity, which is the direct result of this belief in the American idea of economic progress. This belief is usually driven by an individual's desire to get ahead in this world. However, I would like to explore a completely different advantage. I often wonder how current social and economic policies positively or negatively affect the critical thinking of our children especially regarding their desire for financial independence.
My daughter's economic prowess by opening negotiations with her father is very natural within our family. When I was a younger father, it used to annoy me when children would haggle over the possibilities of future economic benefits. As a result, I would generally initiate a discussion about the dangers of materialism, selfishness, or greed. However, I now believe that there is great value in allowing a child to formulate alternative options when discussing the possibility of future economic rewards. Why would I ever want to squelch her developing business sense?
Americans have spent centuries developing a culture that encourages citizens to take part in solving social and economic issues, and historically we reward those who do. My son is also a byproduct of this way of thinking. With a sense of wonder in his eyes, on a daily basis, he shares with me innovative ideas to potentially improve on current trends in technology. In the past, children in our country have engaged in this way of thinking so frequently that it has often gone unnoticed.
I personally want my children to keep their modern minds open to possibilities that will enable them to pursue personal happiness and potentially benefit others in the process. My fear is that current economic trends evidenced by an ever increasing number of socialistic policies will eventually undermine the next generation's powers of negotiation and creative genius while simultaneously extinguishing their faith in the American idea of economic progress.