Why do we kill our children? In our incessant drive for perfection, we unwittingly lynch our progeny.
I witnessed the lynching of a precocious innocent not too long ago. Chuckles filled the air when she looked at an electronic billboard and changed her verdict from “those are adverts” to “no, they’re not adverts”. What else could the adults sitting with her in the car do but chuckle at the blissful ignorance of childhood? It is for children to look at adverts and declare them not adverts but an adult cannot be expected to utter such nonsense. Flounder now, sweet child, for tomorrow we will not countenance fecundity of imagination daring to call a spade a spoon; tomorrow you’ll be an adult.
Why is imagination the preserve of children? When did adults decide to exclude imagination from reality? Somewhere along the line, we stop exploring possibilities and decide to fixate on single answers and stand at the door of adulthood, barring children from entering unless they strip themselves of all imagination. Life is full of hardship so we decided to find the answer to every question as if each problem has only one solution. The reason is simple: we are afraid of failure. There’s nothing wrong with fearing failure as long as we don’t equate mistakes and failure. Imagination or no imagination, we all make mistakes; failure is not learning from them.
As for, that sweet child who got lynched by the guffaws of adults too engrossed with perfection to learn, I asked what she thought the billboard’s flashing images were, and without hesitation, she declared them to be newspapers. The lynch mob continued laughing but I was stunned by the profundity of her conclusion. She was right! For some time I’d stared at electronic billboards and displays in my hometown (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) and wondered why their ads were so bland and this girl had blurted out the simple reason. The advertisers hadn’t moved from the print media paradigm to digital and so their digital adverts where little more than newspaper ads forced onto PowerPoint slides.
Needless to say, unbridled imagination quickly becomes cowardly escapism or fanciful ineptitude, however, the lynching of children by asphyxiating their imagination is undoubtedly myopic. Imaginative people are often dismissed as unrealistic but is there anything as unrealistic as believing that following the beaten path will eliminate mistakes? Every well worn path was once a jungle cleared by painstaking trial and error so why are we so dead set against those who seek to beat new paths?
We all make mistakes so instead of dodging children’s footsteps in some vain hope of preventing mistakes, shouldn’t we help them bridle their imagination by teaching them to evaluate their ideas in addition to learning from other people’s mistakes? Curiosity and creativity coupled with courageous evaluation drives all progress. Guarding the door to “club adulthood” is vital but we ought to admit only those who’ve learned to differentiate between creativity and fantasy. I dare say that according to that criteria, some people need to be demoted from adulthood!
I long ago decided to stop treating children as idiots and I’ve found that as much as they have a lot to learn, they have even more to teach. Unspoiled by the fear of being wrong, their observations are honest albeit somewhat superficial. From my own observation of them, it’s clear that they greatly benefit from an adult has the patience to walk them through the evaluation of their ideas and perceptions by way of dynamic interaction. Of course, not everybody sees it this way and so the lynch mobs will continue guffawing around lighted pyres.