Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"I don't know. Let's find out."

Lily did something kind of clever the other day, and I asked her "How did you get so smart?"

She thought for a moment and said "Because I try very hard and go to school."

I was talking to my stepmother the other day and she had mentioned a study she had read where it was concluded that being labeled as "smart" can be detrimental at times, because kids tagged with this label believe it is something inherent to them and they're frustrated more than kids without the label when they fail. This is part of the reason we fought so hard to get her into kindergarten this year. (Spoilers, it didn't work). I want her to work and not just think that she's smart enough to get by.

Lily's bus stop is a next to a little local cemetery, mostly disused now and populated by veterans of the Spanish-American War. (And that's one of those lines that sounds like a joke, but really isn't. There are a bunch of military graves of local young men who died in 1898.)

Jen was running late and with me working from home, I sometimes take Lily to the bus stop solo. We spied some flowers through the fence and I asked if she thought if they were real or fake. Lily replied, "I don't know. Let's find out."

I was trying to say something like this in an earlier post. To me, that's the essence of what I'm trying to give her. She doesn't know, but she's not ashamed. Years ago, I read an interview from one of the producers of  "You Can't Do That on Television". It was the Canadian show that gave us Alanis Morissette. When the people on the show said "I don't know," green slime would drop down on their head. In the interview, the producers said this was because, to a kid, not knowing something is the worst thing that can happen to them.

When I was in college, after the 100-level courses, professors would generally let us use cheat sheets with commonly used formulae on them, as they figured we'd have access to that kind of information out in the real world.

I like Lily's attitude, because now, moreso than ever, we have access to a tremendous amount of information at our fingertips, and I'd rather have her be inclined to spend a moment or two thinking about something, investigating it or looking it up if she's not confident about her answer. (Or I suppose, even if she is, because I think we make our most egregious mistakes when we're sure we're right.)

1 comment:

  1. There's an interesting coda to this. (Well, interesting to me.) A friend of mine teaches military history and when he saw this post, he said, "I'm wondering if the SAW graves in the local cemetary are of local youths who died in the training camps in and around Falls Church, VA and Harrisburg, PA. Typhoid fever was rampant in the camps, killing more soldiers than died of combat wounds."

    Some of the deaths occurred outside of the period when the Spanish American War happened. I rationalized this by concluding that they were either deaths that occurred in training exercises leading up to the war or were the results of wounds inflicted in the war.

    I didn't have all the facts, but I made a reasonable conclusion based on what was available to me. It seems that my initial assessment was incorrect, and if I had thought to look for more information instead of relying on what I thought was correct, I might have come to the right answer. I think this reinforces what I said about the need to not stop digging, even if you think you've got the right answer.