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A different worldview

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Dec. 29th, 2007 | 08:12 pm

This Christmas, I watched a wonderful movie called Miracle on 34th Street

The leading lady in the film works with a store whose publicity campaign for Christmas revolves around Santa Claus. While she is brilliant at her work, she doesn’t believe in Santa Claus at all. And this is a belief that she passes down to her little daughter as well. But one fine day, after a encounter with the Santa at the store, the daughter has second thoughts about what her mother said. The child asks her mother if she doesn’t have to believe in Santa right away. Her mother, after a little pause, tells the child, “You have the right to believe whatever you want to. I’ve told you the truth, but if I am wrong, I wouldn’t mind admitting it.”


I just love this bit from the movie. It is so often that adults force the child to agree to and internalize concepts that they believe in. If there is any resistance from the child, it is quickly snubbed. Perhaps this has to do with the adult’s fear of losing control. It is important to allow the child to create his or her own world. Play and fantasy are such an integral part of childhood. Kids should be given the freedom to grapple with the world they encounter. It is a quality to be nurtured for the child’s own growth.


I quote here from Jane Sahi’s book Education and Peace (published by Akshar Mudra):


A child’s quest and questioning can be an expression of wonder. Sometimes the questions are to enlarge a view of the world: ‘Do frogs have teeth?’; ‘Why can fish swallow salt water and we can’t?’; ‘Where do flies sleep at night?’; or ‘Why don’t we feel giddy when the earth keeps going round?’ Sometimes the questions lead us to search for what we really believe. ‘Can I ask God for wings?’, ‘Are there small people living under the earth?’ or ‘Have you seen a ghost because I have?’


It is not only the child’s questions and the way we respond that is so significant but also the way an adult addresses questions to children which allow reflective answers that are not pre-determined by the adult.


E.F. Schumacher sums up the purpose of education as “to lead people out of the dark wood of meaninglessness, purposelessness, drift and indulgence up a mountain where there can be gained a truth that makes you free.” The actual experience of the journey is hidden from teacher and child alike and the vision at the top remains a mystery for each to discover.


Play, wonder and the asking of questions and finding out answers are all ways of exploring the world around.


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