Ask Amma

How do you know? So what?

In How on 27 October 2011 at 3:46 am

ऐसा तोड़ी न हो सकता है … It’s impossible to climb Mt Everest?
आप को किस ने बताया? – How do you know?
तो क्या? …. So what??
कुछ भी बोल रहे हो! ….you’re bluffing

Everything credible is being questioned? Everything authentic is being invalidated? This is a new defiance that I hear in my child….he’s been now 2 months in this mode…what’s breeding here?

– mom of 7 year-old in Maharashtra

Ah, age 7. I remember it well. Reminded me of age 3.5, when the pain of realizing that some things in this world just make no sense seems to have turned upside down the rational world of my earnest little child. We have no answer for that angst. But just because we have stopped asking Why? for so many things, how can we say they should too?

Let me guess what might be prompting your 7-year-old’s questions:
– he wants to test the limits of "facts." Who decided these anyway?
– he wants to know how we know things, and this may be more important to him than the "facts" themselves.
– others seem / claim to know things he does not and he wants to level the playing field, challenge them on what they know

– he gets asked similar questions by friends
– he is going through an "information spurt" where he is getting exposed to a stream of "facts" from people, news, books, media and wants to set up some accuracy and relevance filters, kind of like his own toll both on this superhighway.

As I said, above are only guesses. But I congratulate him on his investigative spirit. If he rejects, for example, the idea that the earth is round, let him keep his search open until he is satisfied. Next time you are on the seashore let him observe the ships coming over the horizon. You need not bring up the shape of the earth, he can if he wants. Probably the specific question was not as important as establishing his right to search for answers himself, rather than accepting facts as stated.

And most (all?) facts hold only within certain conditions – how many times have I said something like "that will break if it falls," only to hear my daughter reply, "not if it falls from 1 centimeter" and promptly demonstrate the same. While the talkback can get annoying, would you actually want the thinking behind it to stop?

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