Sunday, October 25, 2009

Up, up, and away

Many Fort Collins parents are using a story filled with drama and deceit to teach their children about the perils of lying.
"Parents using Heene incident as teaching tool"
Today's Fort Collins Coloradoan

This is like using Arnold Schwarzenegger to teach the dangers of anabolic steroids.

Mommy and Daddy watched the balloon boy story for hours. They're pissed that they were duped. The story fell apart--See what happens when you lie?

If I'm six, not nearly as sophisticated as my parents who watch CNN News for hours, I see this--another little boy got lots of my parents' attention for stretching a pretty cool story.

As for teachable moments?

If you have a 6 year old, show them how to make a hot air balloon--either spring the $50 for a kit, or use a few garbage bags to make one of your own. Dry cleaner bags work, too.

(I do not recommend letting them go free--
keep them tethered to some fishing line--
I remind my classes every Friday to practice safe science.)

If you're child is a senior in high school, this would have been a fine teaching moment about volume, air mass, and density--just how much lift can you get from a Heene-style balloon?

If your child is a senior in college, this would be a fine teaching moment about life:

"Look, son, I just let myself be duped by a 6 year old, a nutty family, a hyperactive media, and my own inability to live a life more exciting than the vicarious thrills of a news story. Get a life. A real one."

I really dislike the phrase "teaching moments"--as though our time is split into little packets of commodities, to be spent judiciously.

Children are curious. Curiosity gets killed in our schools, in our culture.

Children learn what they see. If I were a kid, I'd have started collecting garbage bags by now.

If our kids were truly curious, this is what the lead line would have said:
"Many Fort Collins parents are using a story filled with drama and deceit
to teach their children about the perils of


Unknown said...

I actually thought about using this story in my computer class in conjunction with a warning in Fahrenheit 451 about the greatest commodity in an amusement-based culture being fame and about the media hype and manipulation based upon fear. I can see the story fitting well with either Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World. I don't think I'll use it, though, at least not this year.

Postman warned about the disappearance of childhood in a media-based world, where there is no distinction between adulthood and childhood. I keep thinking that, in this story, the adults (from the news anchors to the family to the audience) acted the most childish.

We can criticize the characters, because we don't know them. But it's the narrarator who really fucked this one up and it's the audience who bought into it too quickly.

Incidentally, I called it. When it happened, all these teachers were talking about it and I said, "It's doubtful that a six year old pulled it off. It's most likely a hoax."

I realize that sounds arrogant, but it's not meant to be. The folks around me in charge of educating our youth should have been just as critical.

Paul C said...

As for another teachable moment I would suggest that there is parental abuse here. I pity the son who has to grow up in this environment where he is made a victim thanks to the whims of some pretty immature parents or father. How many students do we teach where the environment at home is a personal hell for the children?

doyle said...

Dear John,

Thanks for the words, and the wisdom. Just a heads up for everyone else--John continues his discussion on blog.

Dear Paul,

Perhaps, but having grown up in an environment of daring but loving parents, and without knowing more about the situation, I'm leery to label it parental abuse.

To be fair, I'd be willing apply the "parental abuse" label to parents who expose their children to real risks without any gain. Still, we used to swim out too far, climb too high, and get stitched up far more than many of the other neighborhood children.

If you're going to extend the label, though, I'd extend it to the other extreme as well, the folks who create unnecessary and irrational fear in their children. (That our economy is driven by fear does not preclude parental responsibility.)

Heck, I think anyone who let's their children watch television before the age of 6 is negligent.

I may fall in the bad parent category. When my son was about 6, I sent him flying down a hill on a sled--he hit a bump, went airborne, then landed on his head. He lay still, face-first in the snow, for several seconds.

A mother berated me for not immediately taking him to the doctor. I didn't bother to explain to her that I was a pediatrician (she wouldn't have believed it anyway), but I did give him a quick neuro check, and I may have even given him another push down the hill.

My kids are both daring, intelligent, interesting adults now, though neither will be fabulously wealthy (or if that happens, it will be by sheer accident). I bust with pride every time I think of them, as I do just about every waking hour.