The Myth of Rightness

Rights and wrongs are relative terms not absolute. As an adult when we question absolute we call it out of box thinking. When a child does not confirms to absolute we label it wrong thinking.

What is the opposite of horse?

Think about this question and try to answer it. Does this question surprise you, perplexes you, frustrates you, and even enrages you?

The reason it does this to many people is because it doesn’t have a right answer. Also, it defies our conventional thinking.

We want our children to do the same – to confirm – generation after generation. It is ironical that at one level parents think that innovation and creativity can wait. And on another level, a lot of parents want to send their children to creativity camps, to classes which boost their thinking power. But wait, isn’t the child who thinks that, the way to enjoy an orange is by poking hole in it using the end of a spoon and then squeezing out the juice, being creative thinking? When somebody asks for an opposite, we expect it to exist on a factual basis.

Unfortunately our mind has been trained to think ONLY of right answers. Conformity is so comfortable, that our mind, primarily designed to be like a bird, who has willingly got itself caged.

Isn’t the child who thinks that, the way to read a book is to lie down in his bed with his legs in the air and favorite songs blaring in the background bring creative?

Children of six years age were doing a puppet show and a father happened to watch it. After the show the father quipped, “You know you have done a mistake – The flower (puppet) is much bigger than the tree (puppet).Trees are much bigger. I asked him two questions.

One, “If you hold a flower near to your eye and a huge tree is 500 meters away, which will look bigger, flower or the tree?”

Two, “If you are really hungry and you see some biscuits and outside your car is parked – which is bigger for you – the biscuits and the hunger or the car? Size is not absolute, its based on perception.

The other day a parent came to see our library, and commented,” You have not grouped books as per age. My child is small and may not be able to pick the right book.” I replied, “Who says which is the right book for your child? What will happen if she picks up a book which you or me thinks is not as for her age? Will she not learn – anything?

We as parents seem to be locked in this drive to constantly correct our children. If your child wears right shoe on left feet, what will you say or do? Most of us immediately remark to the child (as if the child cannot feel the difference).

But to me, trying out one’s ideas, stretching one’s ability to perceive and think is creativity, exploration, brain development, confidence and success.

Let me also quote the famous experiment of Jean Piaget (one of the foremost thinkers and researchers into child’s processes of learning and development):

Piaget asked children, “What makes the wind?”

Julia: The trees.

P: How do you know?

J: I saw them waving their arms.

P: How does that make the wind?

J (waving her hand in front of his face): Like this. Only they are bigger. And there are lots of trees.

P: What makes the wind on the ocean?

J: It blows there from the land. No. It’s the waves…

Piaget recognized that five-year-old Julia’s beliefs, while not correct by any adult criterion, are not “incorrect” either. They are entirely sensible and coherent within the framework of the child’s way of knowing. Classifying them as “true” or “false” misses the point and shows a lack of respect for the child. What Piaget was seeing in this dialogue was coherence, ingenuity and the practice of a kind of explanatory principle being thought by the child, though it might not match with our adult way of thinking or KNOWING.

Piaget’s work strongly suggests that the automatic reaction of putting the child right may well be abusive. Practicing the art of making theories may be more valuable for children than achieving meteorological orthodoxy; and if their theories are always greeted by “Nice try, but this is how it really is…” they might give up after a while on making theories.

Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves.

Jean Piaget

So, what is the opposite of horse?