Thursday, July 17, 2008

Need-to-Know Basis

My brother and his kids were visiting from the U.S. recently and I happened to get into a conversation with my 8-year-old niece about global warming. I didn't call it that. I just told her we need to look after our planet or the things we see now, such as glaciers, will no longer be around when she got to be my age.

I showed the kids the part of Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that shows photos of glaciers ten, twenty years ago compared to the way they look now. I told them that if this keeps up, soon there will be no more glaciers and no more ice in the ocean for polar bears to live on.

At this point, my brother cited a study showing that the polar bear population was actually growing, not shrinking. He also pointed out that if mankind is responsible for animal species becoming extinct, what about the dinosaurs? Man didn't have anything to do with the extinction of the biggest species of all.

Both are valid points that we should think about. We being adults. But I think kids this age (my nieces and nephew are 8, 9, and 11, and Josie and Toby are 5 and 3) just need to know enough to make them aware of the impact they have on the world around them. I wanted to give them information, albeit only part of the body of available information, that would contribute, rather than detract from the positive impact they could have on their environment.

It's true that there is murder, rape, suicide, and genocide in the world. Do I need to go out of my way to tell my kids about these things now? How will this knowledge add to their lives at this age? I believe in giving children information on a need-to-know basis. If it's not information that will move them forward in some way, then I see no reason to add it to their growing body of knowledge. They'll learn about skewed scientific studies, manipulative politicians, death and destruction soon enough.

For now, I just want my kids to know that they need to take care of their health, their planet, and the people they love. That's plenty of knowledge for them to work with right there.


lisacc said...

It does have to be noted that we - or rather mammalian life as we know it - would not be here if it wasn't for the extinction of the dinosaurs.

And our no longer being here would likely make way for whole new, possibly eventually intelligent (or even super intelligent) life forms.

And one day the sun will die.

James said...

Hi Shin,

I hope you don't mind me saying so but that sounded just like your brother to make that polar bear comment...

Take it from someone who knows...while he may be one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know, he's also one of those people who will still argue the world is flat and can actually make it stick(?)!

So, let me share with you my trick in dealing with him all through college. No matter how total your ignorance nor the utter weakness of your argument, over and over say to yourself, "I'm right, he's wrong. Debate over." That's where I'll start and that's where I'll end. No matter what is said, no matter how long it takes, not for a moment do I waver from that stance.

Why? Because I know that's where HE starts and ends in all his conversations...

Fight fire with fire I say...

And come on...YOU know he is wrong about the polar bears... right?

Take care.


Shin said...


That's pretty funny how well you know my brother. I handle him a similar way, except I say to myself, "I may not be right, but he is DEFINITELY WRONG, and he doesn't even know it, the poor thing!"

He only gets away with being such an arrogant know-it-all because as you said, he IS one of the kindest, most thoughtful people around. And yeah, he's good for a few laughs.

He was my competition growing up. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be so good at climbing trees, I wouldn't have read Dostoyevsky when I was thirteen, I wouldn't have studied Ancient Greek and Latin, and I wouldn't have learned how to stand my ground in a debate I was outsmarted in.