For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about openness—the malleable mindset—and how to cultivate it in young people. I come at this, it should be said, as an educator, and I’m finding that outside the institutional setting of a college classroom, it’s tough to sustain my go-to strategy of regularly raising questions and pushing my students toward intellectual discomfort. There are a couple young people on my radar who particularly concern me, whom I’d like to see broaden their horizons, but who have a habit of closing off discussions right when things start getting challenging. Because my work in youth development walks a fine line between the intellectual and the personal, I have to be particularly careful about not overstepping my bounds into clinical work. I firmly maintain, however, that the same set of critical thinking skills that help young people make sense of their world will also guide them in their journey inward, so they can make a place for themselves in that world.
Currently, I’m plodding along, hoping that one of our sporadic conversations might awaken something inside them. As a teacher, I’m consistently having to make peace with the fact that I can never know which seeds will eventually bear fruit and when. But I’d really like to go about this more effectively, so please, if you have any wisdom to share on opening young minds, do let me know.