This was originally written and posted in September of 2014 on a different site, but its a good starting point for where I want this blog to go. Enjoy
Why do we fabricate? Why do we make up stories in lieu of the truth when a child asks a question? It seems to be a thoughtless action to give the child a simple answer to quiet them regardless of the truth. An easy excuse would be that the child would not understand the actual answer. This may seem valid at first. After all, children are less experienced and less learned than the adult they are interacting with. But it is because of the inexperience that the right answers matter. When a child asks you “What is lightning and thunder?”, you have a responsibility to give them the correct answer.
Some may scoff at the idea of telling a 5 year old that lightning is caused by electrical discharge in the atmosphere. You may think it a waste of breath to explain to the same child that light travels faster than sound, which causes the lag between seeing and hearing the lightning.
Why lie? Why should I give a useless answer and blow it off? The curiosity may be fleeting. He might not even retain the exact answer. But giving a layperson’s explanation of a common atmospheric event is better than the alternative. Would it be better to tell the same child that the sound and light show is caused from angels bowling? That when it rains the angels are crying? I would rather stay silent.
We have to realise that small things can add up. Your child friendly answer to one question might seem innocent today, but what about years later when you have wasted potential moments to educate a young mind about the world around us? We run into this problem in the classroom where teachers have to force the fairy tales out of our children’s heads. The readers that know me will know that I don’t have children of my own, the 5 year old in the story is my brother. I will continue to use the phrase “our children” and “we must” because even if I never have children of my own I will one day be dependant on yours. I don’t want the subsequent generations to be raised on half assed answers to the questions cropping up in our daily lives.
Humanity has for many generations made up fantastic stories and tales to explain the cause for certain events. These stories have given way to the actual, provable answers over time. One way to curb the prevalence of such fairy tales is to halt their spread altogether. The next time a child asks you a question give them an answer, not a story. If you don’t know, look it up together. Research has never been easier in all of human history. We have our entire species’ collective knowledge IN OUR POCKETS! Utilize the technology and let’s help our children become brighter than we could have ever imagined.
In the end all we have is knowledge. Fairy tales won’t fix your car. Prayers won’t cure AIDS or feed the obscene amount of people starving around the world. We have to work together to improve our condition. I implore you all to think twice before passing 2000 year old metaphors or old wives tales around as fact to our children. They’re our only hope.