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Save the Tree Octopus?

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In this day and age, it is important to help our children discern truth from error. A friend recently sent me a news story entitled, “‘Tree Octopus’ is the latest evidence the internet is making kids dumb, says group.” A group of researchers did a study with students to determine their critical-thinking skills by having them research information on the tree octopus. Of course, the animal is not real but the researchers directed the students to a website that they had designed all about the infamous tree octopus. I looked at the site and admit that it is very well done. According to the researchers, many of the students fell for the hoax and some failed to believe the tree octopus was not real even after the researchers told them it wasn’t real.

The author of the news article states the following:

But is this really a “learning crisis” that’s “caused by the internet?” Or, for that matter, is it a problem that’s really specific to the internet at all? Indeed, the paucity of critical thought in our nation’s schools has bedeviled experts for a very long time—long before the internet made its sinister appearance on the scene.
I would agree that the problem is not the internet, and while I would say that schools have played a role in engendering critical thinking skills, I think the biggest problem lies with parents and churches. How many times have we as parents or as teachers in Sunday school classes told our kids the “story” of Noah and then showed them pictures of the ark that look like an overloaded bathtub? (Or how many of us remember this from our own childhood? )We expect them to believe that what we are telling them is truth but the impression we give is that the Bible is just like any other storybook on their shelf—one of fiction, myth, and fantasy.

In our home the phrase “Bible story” is not used. Instead, we talk about Bible accounts, events, and history to emphasize the historical, truthful nature of Scripture. We need to show our kids that what we believe is not based on some blind faith like the concepts of millions of years and evolution are. Instead, we have a reasoned faith based on the Word of God, the history book of the universe, that has only been confirmed and never falsified by science.

A few weeks ago, several grandparents spoke to me following my presentation in the museum on the relevance of Genesis. They were very excited about the information I presented because they had never really thought about the relationship of the historicity of Genesis to biblical authority. One grandmother in particular was mortified that she had been using many of the “Bible storybooks” with her grandchildren and never thought about the impact that this might have on their belief in the truthfulness of God’s Word. I was able to direct her to some of our resources that will be useful in conveying to her grandchildren the history and reality of the Bible.

I know many of my blogs focus on the topic of teaching children the authority and truthfulness of the Bible. The reason for this is that I see it as one of the most important gifts that parents, Sunday school teachers, and others who interact with children can give them. As both a mother and children’s Sunday school teacher, this message is near and dear to my heart.

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