The young son of a friend, age 10 or so, is currently enthralled by space aliens and UFO’s. His mother mentioned this in an “it’s just so cute” frame of mind. I hope she does not ‘set him straight’, but rather allows him to continue to explore. What he is doing is really important, and anyway, maybe he’s on to something important. Perhaps she can guide him by helping him ask good questions, like “Is that photo real?”, or “Do they really know that for a fact?” Also, she can suggest as he sits staring at the wall, puzzled, “Maybe you can dig a little deeper. There’s an answer if you keep looking.”
But the worst thing she can do is worry that he does not have correct information about our world. Let him believe as he will as he explores as he can. I fear that some teacher, some thought control guru, will set him straight, make sure that he believes what he should believe, using proper authority figures as a guide. That will destroy his creative impulse, and discourage critical thinking. He is, after all, learning by doing. That is the only way, as I see it, to learn to think critically – trial and error. Studying text books on logical fallacies or syllogisms (not done anyway) is not nearly as valuable as totally screwing up and getting something totally wrong, and realizing it.
Telling kids what to think is a grievous sin. Another friend spent many tedious days during his teaching career “proctoring” ACT tests for his high school. That’s what we do – fill our kids’ heads with facts and demand that they read them back correctly to get into a “good” school. It’s how education came to be what it is today – they slowly replaced curiosity with memorization.
Is the children learning? Nope.
Allow them to explore, gently guiding them as they go their own direction, giving them the basic tools to work things out on their own … that has a name – I’ve forgotten it … what was it … we used to do this sort of thing in past centuries … hmmm .. oh yeah! I remember! It is called “education.”