While it's true that young people do need the guidance and direction authority figures provide, they also deserve to have people in charge who think rationally and are willing to explain themselves. If we're going to teach our children not to trust just anyone, we need to give them good reason to trust us.
An African-Canadian woman I know became very tired of being asked which "island" she came from. Her family had lived in Canada for many, many generations, so her answer to this question was "Toronto Island." But what happens when a child is quizzed in this way? If we are not careful, our children will learn to internalize the assumptions that others make about them.
Teachers are supposed to be experts. We chase monsters from under the bed, but we're not often prepared to admit to one of our own greatest fears as care givers and educators: that we don't have all the answers. There are many good things that can come from admitting you haven't got things sorted out yourself.
If we want our own children to learn to be courageous defenders of rights, we must first engage them in thinking critically about those rights. While adults may feel uncomfortable talking to children about the place of religion in society, we can still teach our children that people whose beliefs and practices differ from their own are deserving of respect and understanding.
I've been watching the discussion of millennial citizenship on the HuffPost. It's a spirited exchange. Perhaps it's worth taking a step back and re-examining what we mean when we talk about political engagement; at the core, I'd submit, are principles that apply regardless of age or demographic. It's the ability to engage in critical thought that makes us "citizens," rather than mere "consumers" or "taxpayers." It's the ability to follow a line of reasoning, to view an argument analytically, to evaluate the evidence on which it's based and determine whether it makes sense.
I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I tell people I write materials that introduce politics to children. It's a subject that can make even a mature adult's palms sweaty, and on the surface, it seems like the last thing anyone would want to bring up with their child. You really should and here's why.