Kids Say the Darndest Things
I am horribly behind on my British TV. But recently my local PBS station has started airing episodes of Outnumbered. If you haven’t seen this show, I recommend it. It’s about a family of five: mom, dad, and three kids. Most of the hilarity comes from the children asking too many questions and making the adults in their lives uncomfortable.
Each of the three children is really good at this, but the daughter, Karen, is by far the best. Here’s a little sample, after the jump.
Totally adorbs, right? Karen is bright and does not suffer fools. She is who I like to pretend I was as a child. Heck, she’s who I pretend I am as an adult! But it got me thinking. I don’t think that kind of thing is adorable in real life children. I get annoyed. I want them to leave me alone.
Part of this reaction is simple. I don’t really like young kids. Maybe that’s not fair. I just don’t understand them. I was always a bit in my own head as a child. I preferred my own company to that of my peers. I’m don’t know if that has anything to do with my lack of understanding of children today. But whatever the case, I have a hard time identifying with small children.
But that isn’t all of it. If it was, there would be no children I like, which isn’t the case. So why do I have a more hostile reaction to inquisitive children in meatspace than I do to Karen?
I think a plausible explanation is that real children who ask a lot of questions is that those children are threatening. This is especially true of they continue to ask for clarification and demand an explanation that is complete and makes sense. Nothing makes you examine your thought process more than having to explain those processes to a child.
The most potent question in the world is, why? Why do you think in this way? Why do we do things in this way? In my experience, it’s easier to ask these questions when you don’t have a lot of experience. Fresh eyes add a new perspective, and it’s not uncommon for people to resist a new point of view.
We as a society and a culture say we want to have educated kids, that education is a virtue. The ability to spot inconsistencies and suss out explanations is a necessary skill if we want to progress. This is absolutely incompatible with a “children should be seen and not heard” mentality.
If you wonder whether this mentality still exists in this country, just look at any attempt to change the science curriculum. We can’t have children learning FACTS and SCIENTIFIC THEORIES supported by EVIDENCE! Kids might start questioning what their pastors are preaching, therefore bucking the established hierarchy. New information leads to new and deeper understandings. When people start questioning how things are and discover a much wider and wonderful world, who knows what could happen?! Gay people will marry! To quote Dr. Peter Venkman, it’ll be “dogs and cats, living together!” Morality will become a thing of the past!
This is all presented as a bad thing, but no one cares to point out that maybe these bright, inquisitive former-children have the capacity to build something better and more just in place of the dusty old rules that education has allowed them to abandon.
Change is hard. Realizing you are wrong is hard. But it does no one any good to shut down the conversation. The next time I am cornered by a young inquiring mind, I will do my best to indulge her, to explain whatever she wants to know to the best of my ability. Hopefully, she’ll grow up with a better appreciation for her worth and her place in the world than my generation did, and I hope she’ll have the presence of mind to pay it forward to the next.