Most of us are old enough to remember coming down to find our father at the breakfast table reading the newspaper. It was simply part of the routine, as it had been for generations, of the informed citizen. You read the news. Maybe you also remember them listening to talk radio in the car, or tuning into the nightly news on TV.
While this was certainly admirable, the reality is that the news environment has changed. 24/7 news networks, the decline of objective coverage, the internet news machine, podcasts, and social media have flooded us with information. Most of it is inaccurate, all of it is sensational. Which is why it is essential that, as a father today, you adapt your habits and teach your own children a bit differently. Because now being informed is not about having information, it’s about having perspective. It’s about being able to see the big picture, to understand history and context.
Hugh Jackman recently spoke about his news habits in a way that ought to inspire other dads:
Right now, I’m trying not to get caught up in the breaking news mentality, so I listen to NPR News five-minute segments. And I like the New York Times‘ Daily podcast, although I’m even trying to back off from that for a bit. I’m trying to get a wider view of life and what’s happening, because once you get down, all these things seem really, really important. The other way I’m getting my news—and I highly recommend this—is me and my son are going through the whole Ken Burns catalog. We finished the whole Civil War thing, and now we’re just about to finish the Vietnam thing. Now that’s the way you should understand events and humanity—with that sort of 30,000-foot view that he has, and that sort of detail.
This is fantastic. We should be tackling similar projects with our kids. If they’re young, get through the Great Illustrated Classics series with them or, as we’ve talked about, all of Aesop’s fables. If they like theater, take them through Shakespeare’s plays. If they like movies and documentaries, Ken Burns is perfect. Commit to visiting every National Park in your state together—or every major battlefield. Listen to the Hardcore History or the History of Ancient Rome podcast on trips in the car.
Your job as a dad is to get them to understand events and humanity from that 30,000-foot view. It’s not to memorize trivia or fill your house with anxiety and fear from every breaking news report. Teach them to see the big picture. Help them gain perspective…and wisdom. Do it as a family.