Kids, Truth, and Lies
There is a lot written about the concept of Post Truth – especially when it comes to politics! But it is worth looking at how Post Truth works with kids and what you can do to counteract it.
Post Truth is defined (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Post Truth happens when people believe that their opinions and emotional beliefs are more important, more truthful, than actual facts.
Parents and teacher know about Post Truth. Children are very good at using Post Truth, especially when they are in trouble.
Picture this – two eight-year old boys who have been fighting are standing in front of a teacher who is trying to work out who is to blame and how to turn the situation into a ‘teachable moment’. Both boys have opinions and emotional beliefs about who threw the first punch. Both boys believe that the other ‘started it’.
The situation is not going to get resolved until the teacher (or parent) gets to the true facts of what happened. Some teachers might punish both boys – after all, they were both fighting. But that will lead to them both being resentful and angry. Not a good solution.
What does a good teacher – or parent – do to help the boys get beyond their Post Truth beliefs and admit who was in the wrong, who started the fight?
This is how I handled situations like this when I was a teacher.
I asked a lot of questions. I tried to get a good picture of the whole situation. I asked questions about the situation before the fight started. I asked questions about what happened before fists started flying, before angry words were spoken.
I tried to get the facts. I asked questions until I was sure that I had the facts. Then I presented these facts to both boys and asked for their comments. In the vast majority of cases both boys agreed on the facts, agreed who was to blame (often they both had things to be ashamed of) and we all moved on – with a warning not to let it happen again. Post Truth had become real Truth. Emotions and beliefs had given way to facts.
No big deal, kids often take their opinions and beliefs as being the truth and have to be encouraged to look at the actual facts before they admit that their truth might not be the best one!
Most children gradually grow into an understanding that their beliefs and opinions might be wrong or misguided and they beyond their self-centredness to discover the real facts about situations. Thanks Google. Thanks Wikipedia. Thanks common sense. (Even though these three are not infallible!)
But what happens when a child does not develop the skill of looking for and accepting the real facts and continues to believe that his or her opinions are more important than those of others?
Friends can be hard to find. The only friends they will have are those who think the same way they do, who do not look for the truth, who think that their opinions and actions are more important than those of others. In extreme cases such children become sociopaths, unable to function well in normal society. Maybe even ending up on the wrong side of the law.
It is the role of every parent and every teacher to help children move beyond their reliance on Post Truths and help them discover the facts and realities of situations. It is the role of every parent and teacher to help children become critical thinkers, to question situations until the truth is revealed.
The future depends on it.