Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sara Lampe, "Out of the mouths of babes"

Steve Helms wrote a letter to the editor of the Springfield News-Leader in response to Sara Lampe's "Voice of the Day" column. Find Lampe's column here, and Helm's letter here.

He writes:

"I almost got the impression that we would be better off if no one over 12 years of age was in charge."

I too "almost" got that impression. We can trust children to be more honest, simple and blunt about the truth, about what is important than adults? My gosh, the implications!

Think about the education of the fourth grade children to whom Ms. Lampe directed these sober questions. Think about their life experience. Think about the insight their lengthy lives have afforded them.

I couldn't help but think that this is part of the problem with our national conversation today.

We'd all like to take everything down to its most basic and simple foundation and decide whether it is right or wrong, whether it should be the ultimate priority or secondary.

What is interesting is that sometimes doing the things that you think will help someone isn't the thing that will help them in the long term.

I used to try to start garden plants inside the house in a sunny window. The seedlings would shoot up, sometimes spindly, sometimes seemingly healthy. What my experience was, however, was that the first time I set the tray of seedlings out on a sunny day the elements to which they'd never been exposed would kill them and it didn't seem to matter how spindly or healthy those plants seemed to be. They couldn't withstand the smallest wind because they had been so protected inside the house.

Likewise, my mother is in poor health. The most helpful thing to do would seem to be to make everything easy for her, make her comfortable, expect less of her, but in the long run doing those things has the opposite effect. Making things easy for her causes her to get weaker, rather than stronger, feel worse rather than better. I learned this from experience.

Sometimes the most simple things aren't the most healthy or the right things to do.

Children come up with simple ideas because, through no fault of their own, they are young and simple. I'm not saying children are stupid but certainly one could admit they are less than informed about complicated issues and therefore their solutions to the complicated problems that face our country and our world are overly simple. I expect an adult to consider the more complicated aspects of an issue.

Lampe wrote:

"A good bit of my 31 years working with children was spent talking in order to teach ideas. The children I taught also taught me, however. When I stopped to listen to children's thoughts and ideas, I was always amazed at the clarity and truth of what they said. Children speak simply and honestly about what is right and what is wrong. I believe there are many lessons to learn from children if we stop to listen."

Considering that these children have been exposed to a teacher's ideas and that teachers have spent a great deal of time "talking in order to teach ideas" to these children, should it be a surprise that a teacher would be amazed when the teacher's ideas are repeated back in the simple and limited language of a fourth grade child? She certainly would be "amazed at the clarity and truth of what they said."

I was amazed at the juvenile thinking that went into Lampe's column. Of course we should listen to children, but to pretend that their opinions or voices are somehow more clear, truthful and honest and that they understand right and wrong better than adults or are more trustworthy than adults who have considered the complexities surrounding any particular issue is silly.

Lampe writes:

"The old expression, "Out of the mouths of babes" comes to mind. Children tell the truth, and the truth is sometimes hard to hear."

One would think so, especially when the one listening or a like minded teacher has put the words in the mouths of those babes or, at least, influenced their conclusions.

The words of children might be difficult to swallow by those who have put more in depth thought into the issues they are speaking about. Perhaps not because one disagrees with the foundational idea put forth in their words but because the adults listening realize the issue is more complicated than the fourth grade child can articulate or grasp and that there is no consensus on the best way to resolve those issues.

I would also add that what Lampe seems to celebrate when coming from simple children has oftentimes been written off when coming from political opponents of the Democrat party as too simple, as not considering the "shades of gray." Is Lampe attempting to disregard the complicated arguments put forth by more conservative adult voices by offering to over simplify the issues in reducing them to the foundational concepts of a fourth grade child? Interesting.


Momma Twoop said...

Wow. Just read Lampe's column and I have that warm fuzzy feeling that means....absolutely nothing.

It's awfully cute when little Timmy wants to feed the hungry and medicate the sick, but does little Timmy realize that funds for such things must be taken from his family in order to do so? What if it meant, as it does to many, that little Timmy's family couldn't afford all they needed because their resources were being confiscated to help everyone else?

I think you hit the nail on the head, Jacke. The 'votes' from the children merely reflected what they have been taught/indoctrinated to believe. Fourth grade minds aren't developed enough to understand the complexities and multi-faceted aspects of serious issues as adult minds are (or should be).

I have asked my children before what kind of "rules" they would implement for the world if they were able to do so. They wanted "free" everything for everyone! "Free" Nintendo Wiis all around! "Free" ice cream they all screamed. "Free" go karts, bicycles, HumVees, skateboards, motorcycles, and doctor/hospital visits. They threw that last in, I'm sure, because they've heard their father and I discussing paying off the medical bills for their births, something we'll be working on probably until the day we die. :)

When I asked them who was going to pay for all the "free" stuff, they stared blankly. I told them that "free" stuff was never actually free - someone had to pay to have things built and shipped around the world. "Guess who will have to pay for all the 'free' stuff for everyone," I said. When they asked, I said "YOU." I showed them a pay stub, showing how much money had been earned, and how much was actually brought home. They couldn't understand why a person couldn't bring home all the money they earned. I gave a quick rundown of the many things our local, state and federal taxes pay for and also told them that much of the money taken from everyone is used to pay for "free" things for others. They said, "but that's not free." My point exactly, I said. "Free" things aren't actually free because someone has to pay for them. Lesson learned. :) It was a very valuable lesson, too.

Excellent piece from you, Jacke!!!

Jacke M. said...

Momma Twoop wrote:

"I have asked my children before what kind of "rules" they would implement for the world if they were able to do so. They wanted "free" everything for everyone!

...I showed them a pay stub, showing how much money had been earned, and how much was actually brought home. They couldn't understand why a person couldn't bring home all the money they earned...."


Thank you for being a good Mom! Thank you for going more in depth about the viewpoint of a conservative as opposed to the more liberal idea that big government should make everything fair, or everything seemingly free just because it FEELS good to think they are doing that. In reality, nothing IS free and the answer isn't easy.

It was difficult for me to refrain from asking the question...Are Democrats, such as Sara Lampe, debating on a simple 4th grade level? :O

You added much to the discussion.


Momma Twoop said...

Aw, shucks. Tankee, Jacke!

I think kids aren't given enough of the right kind of information these days, the lesson I gave them about "free" things not being free being one example. Another example would be the notion that everything must be "fair." I had that conversation with my oldest when she was in fourth grade. The school was debating whether or not to do away with the Honor Roll Awards and Breakfast. The thought was that those who didn't make the honor roll suffered a hit to their self-esteem. My oldest told me she thought it was "unfair" to award students because they made good grades and not have some kind of celebration for those who did not. I asked her who she thought deserved honoring, those who worked hard, took pride in their work, studied hard, turned their homework in on time, etc., or those who did just what was needed to get by, those who waited until the last minute to do their homework, if at all, and those who didn't take pride in their work. She was clearly flustered at this question. LOL I told her that she might think it was fair to be honored for doing nothing special, but that it wouldn't be fair to those who DID take the time and make the effort to excel. They deserved that recognition because they worked hard for it. Put in another context, I asked her if she cleaned her room while her brother played a game and did nothing toward cleaning his room, should I reward them both with an ice cream cone, or should I make her share her reward with him, even though he didn't do any work. THEN she understood. LOL She answered as any child would - that it wouldn't be fair for her to be forced to share her ice cream with someone who didn't do the work and didn't deserve it. I said it was the exact same way with grades. It was okay with her then that some kids - those who deserved it - were honored with awards and a special breakfast. She learned that what can be viewed as "fair" for all is generally always unfair to some.

A lot of this "feel good" stuff, like "free" stuff for everyone, that cannot be applied in any real way in life are taught in school these days.

Momma Twoop said...

P.S. LOVE THE NEW LOOK!!! And ain't that a cute jackhammer on the banner!