By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
These are polarizing times. The days of civil conversation around delicate issues are long gone. Social media is a blessing and a curse. As a graduate school educator, it is a blessing if you need to have evidenced-based research in an instant. It is a curse because so much of what is posted is opinion, at best masquerading like it is evidence-based research.
Critical thinking is a thing of the past. Too many people believe whatever they see online, especially if it supports their own position. What happened to the days of genuine give and take conversation? What happened to agreeing to respectfully disagree?
We are still reeling from the pandemic; especially our young people. Mental health and human relations have really been impaired.
No one was prepared for the pandemic’s aftermath. We are still not well equipped or trained to navigate into the future. This present generation of young people is profoundly wounded mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are failing to prepare them to deal with the divisive world we have created and are living in.
Our schools are central to empowering the next generation to wellness and wholeness. Instead of always ripping at our schools and our teachers, we need to work harder at collaboration. We need to be committed to a holistic approach to learning — body, mind and spirit.
Our children should be exposed to evidence-based material in every subject area. We need to be more conscious of the impact, for better or for worse, of the smart phone. That little device can build people up or with the push of a button destroy someone.
At what age should children have a cell phone? What restrictions should be imposed? Should elementary and middle school students have cell phones in class? Should we create universal guidelines in this regard?
The other issue that needs to be addressed is how parents parent their small children with tablets to keep them busy. How and where do our children learn about human connections? How do they learn about their feelings and how to express them?
There has to be a partnership between parents, school and community. Together we need to foster positive human connections grounded in love, respect and radical inclusiveness which our nation is founded on.
Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.