This was the word that triggered a huge discussion in my art education course yesterday. I think some people found the discussion odd or weird or unimportant, but it was a pivotal moment for me. Here I am, thinking all along that I was an individual who looked at things differently. I thought I was a critical thinker; I thought I was someone who could determine false from truth. And yet I have given in to the same brainwashing as the rest.
We were asked to describe in ten words what a child was to us. What did we think of when we heard the word “child”? Some of words included innocent, vulnerable, uninhibited, absorbent, courageous… but innocent was a big hit on everyone’s list. Dr. Schulte asked one simple question that rearranged my thinking: “Are they really?”
From that question, a discussion began to circulate. Of course children are innocent. Well, if they are, tell me how. Why are the innocent? Well, they don’t know right from wrong. They aren’t cultured. They haven’t been brainwashed by society. Do you know they don’t know right from wrong? Do you know they haven’t experienced real and traumatic things just because they are young? What is the definition of innocent?
1. free from moral wrong; without sin; pure: innocent children.
2. free from legal or specific wrong; guiltless: innocent of the crime.
3. not involving evil intent or motive: an innocent misrepresentation.
4. not causing physical or moral injury; harmless: innocent fun.
5. devoid (usually followed by of ): a law innocent of merit.
Hm. So are they, really? Is every single child from 18 months to 11 years old innocent? I was given another perspective as well.
“If you think about it legally, there is innocent and there is guilty. Either you did something or you didn’t. Children know right from wrong. I can remember feeling guilty for doing things I know I shouldn’t have done. I also remember how hurt I was for being accused of doing something I had not done. Children do things they should not do. But the fact of the matter is that not all children are the same.”
Bam. There’s the main point: not all children are the same. In fact, no two children are the same. Not even twins. Sure, they may look alike and share the same DNA, but they aren’t the same person. They don’t have identical mannerisms. They don’t learn at the exact same pace as their other half. They don’t learn the same words. They don’t behave in the same way. Dr. Schulte’s point was this: how can we blanket such a vague and generic term on an entire population? Especially one that is growing up in this world. Some children see far more things than they ought to. And innocence, like pain, is relative.
So here I sit at my computer, a new found appreciation for kids. I mean sure, I loved kids before. I want to have children. But I want to teach high school. I want to teach angsty teens who need love and someone to talk to and a way to take all the nasty things and turn them into something beautiful. But I have a feeling that the little ones will be the saving grace. They will be my biggest teachers.
I’m ready to learn how to listen.