children

children

It's hard to think of someone so beloved as American educator and television personality Fred Rogers (1928–2003). From 1968 to 2001 he hosted the children's television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He was a lifelong advocate for the needs of children, even bringing his signature mix of clarity and compassion to the United States Senate when it was needed.

The best way to nurture children's inner lives, Sylvia Boorstein says, is by taking care of our own inner selves for their sake. At a public event in suburban Detroit, Krista Tippett draws out the warmth and wisdom of the celebrated Jewish-Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. And, in a light-hearted moment that is an audience pleaser, Boorstein shares what GPS might teach us about "recalculating" and our own inner equanimity.

More and more people in our time are disconnected from religious institutions, at least for part of their lives. Others are religious and find themselves creating a family with a spouse from another tradition or no tradition at all. And the experience of parenting tends to raise spiritual questions anew. We sense that there is a spiritual aspect to our children's natures and wonder how to support and nurture that. The spiritual life, our guest says, begins not in abstractions, but in concrete everyday experiences. And children need our questions as much as our answers.

Psychiatrist Robert Coles has spent his career exploring the inner lives of children. He says children are witnesses to the fullness of our humanity; they are keenly attuned to the darkness as well as the light of life; and they can teach us about living honestly, searchingly and courageously if we let them.

American ideals and rituals of marriage, family, and divorce are infused with biblical messages. But what does the Bible really say, and how has it been taught across the centuries as the institution of marriage has changed dramatically and often? A rabbi and Christian theologian help us explore the nuances of Jewish and Christian teachings and reveal the striking practicality of Jewish tradition across the ages and the surprising ambiguities of the New Testament.

Our culture's acrimonious debate on the morality of gay marriage has been framed in religious — largely conservative Christian — terms. We go behind the rhetoric to explore the human confusion, hopes, and fears this subject arouses. We'll name hard questions that these religious people on both sides of the issue are asking themselves, and that they would like to ask of others.

Maria Montessori, the great 20th-century educational pioneer, observed that children have an intuition for religious life at an early age that is matched only by their capacity to acquire language. During this holiday season, Speaking of Faith explores the spiritual wisdom and intelligence of children—including their ability to process the difficult realities of life.

Our delightful exercise with 10 of the 27 drawings that comprise the "wug test." Try them out with the kids in your life (or, yes, even by yourself). They'll demonstrate how children as young as three or four can internalize complex grammatical codes no one has necessarily ever tried to teach them. And let us know what surprised you!

This week we interviewed Jean Berko Gleason, a psycholinguist who is now a professor emerita at Boston University, about how we learn and use the most valuable of skills: human language. She's best known for her wug test experiment, revealing that children develop general systems to learn language.

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