There’s a serious problem that our young people are facing today, and I believe that there’s more we can be doing to support them. The problem is peer pressure. I’m sure many of you have heard of the ‘Say No To Drugs’ Campaigns and similar things to them. And I think they are great, and have had incredible success. However, I feel as though many of these campaigns, and many of the solutions we try to offer our young people focus on a particular area. But I am now beginning to explore other alternatives. And I’m beginning to believe the solution should be centered around changing a mindset.
As of late, I’ve started doing a lot of research about the Nazis, Hitler and that whole time period. The reason being is because it’s just so hard for me to wrap my mind around how it got as far as it did. One of the tactics the Nazi group used was formulating a group called Hitlers Youth. Ages ranged from 14-18. And then had another division for 10-14. He recruited from when they were young. A period that really lays a foundation to who they become. And it really began to make me think. How could this man and this group get a young person to give up their parents to the soldiers as a young girl named Elisabeth Vetter did?
And as I began to read more stories, I began to realize something more deeper. When you remove or inhibit a young persons or anyone’s, ability to ‘think critically’, you open the door to a bad situation. I remember a conversation that I had with a young girl, 18, sometime last year who had tried cocaine for the first time. I asked her why she tried it, and her answer got me more upset than the fact she even tried it. She said to me ‘my friend said the feeling is amazing!’. So I asked her ‘well did you even check out what it does to your body?’ She said ‘Nope. I trusted my friend.’ And I remember her giggling afterwards. And that was it. I was furious because in a generation where we have a world of information at our fingertips, our decision making process is still so dependent on other people. And yes for some of you reading you’re probably saying ‘Oh I would never do cocaine. Ever.’ But you missed the point. It’s not ‘what’ you’re doing. It’s ‘why’ you’re doing it.
Because I love business, I began to think of things from this perspective. When a business wants you to purchase a product, think about what they do; market research, spend thousands of dollars in some cases millions, use graphics and images, get it in your face, trigger emotion, all to get you to buy into what they have to offer. But whats the most effective form of advertising? Word of mouth!! And look how it only took her friends vague recommendation to get her to try a drug. So how do you combat that?
I believe the issue is that we strip our young people of their ability to think critically. From parenting, to school, to the workplace and then we complain when they blindly follow the new trend or do what they’re friends say. Look at it like this when they blindly follow what they’re parents say it’s ‘obedience’, when they blindly follow what their teachers say it’s ‘obedience’, when they blindly follow what their employers say, it’s ‘obedience’, when they blindly follow what the governments say its ‘obedience’. But when they blindly follow what their friends say, it’s ‘peer pressure’. How can we expect any other response when everywhere else in their life they are required to blindly follow?
Obedience is great! But why can I not respectfully challenge decisions made? Or someone else’s opinion? That’s apart of me thinking critically.
I remember when I was in Grade 11, I had a math teacher who didn’t like to be challenged. I wasn’t one of those disrespectful students, but if I didn’t necessarily agree with something you were asking me to do, I would challenge it. Or if you did something to me I didn’t appreciate I would challenge your decision. There was an incident where I was asking to borrow a calculator from the student beside me during his lesson. He stopped the lesson and said (I’ll never forget this, I was so embarrassed) “Chris, you of all people should be paying attention when you’re failing with a 46%”. Obviously I was pissed. So after class, I asked why he would do that, and we went back and forth. And all I remember his main point being ‘because he can’. Things just got sour after that. I’m sure all of our parents have said ‘you have to listen to me, because I’m you’re parent”. True. But perhaps I should also listen to you because you have a valid point or a fair argument?
As an employer, I encourage my staff to respectfully challenge me. If I have to document them, I allow them to state their case. If I make a decision, I don’t mind if they ask ‘why’. I want them to think critically. As their leader, I’m not interested in developing drones. I want critical thinkers who respect my authority.
I talk to young people all the time. And whats always recurring is that they don’t think for themselves. But I believe if we invest more into changing their mindset from blind ‘doers’ into ‘thinkers’, I really believe our youth in a much better place. Look out for a campaign my organization is developing called “Think Critically”, really focusing on getting young people to think more critically.
By changing their mindset from blind ‘doers’ into ‘thinkers’, I really believe we put our youth in a much better position.