The Vietnam War and Critical Thinking for Kids

June 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm (Kids, Politics, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Setting: The parking lot in front of a Vietnamese restaurant, with posters in the window advertising colorful mixed drinks.

Dramatis Personae:

Emma: Forty-ish mother of three. Possible commie; certified elitist, liberal
Riley: precocious ten-year-old. Reading obsessed.
Henry: precocious eight-year-old. Baseball obsessed.
Lucy: near silent five-year-old. Obsessions as yet undetermined.

Scene 1

Henry: Hey look! A new smoothie place!

Emma: No that’s the Vietnamese restaurant. I haven’t eaten there yet, but we should try it.

Henry: Vietnam! There was a war there that lasted for 19 years.

Riley: Yeah, we didn’t win.

Henry: What was it about?

Emma starts to answer, despite not having ever had a history class ever that made it all the way to the Vietnam War: Well…

Henry: OH!!! I know. Freedom!



Emma, recognizing that a smarter person might avoid these deep waters entirely, but dipping a toe in anyway: Can you explain that answer a little bit more?

Henry tacit

Riley, with the assist: Part of the country wanted a different form of government. Communism, I think. We went over there to stop it, but we didn’t.



Henry: Oh yeah! Communism is really bad.



Emma, clearly possessed by the spirit of Socrates: What’s communism?

Henry: It’s when the government can tell you what to do.



Emma: Can’t our government tell us what to do?

Henry: Yes, but it’s bad when they do.

Emma, wondering when her son became a Republican and going ahead and opening the can of worms: I don’t know about that Henry. But we were talking about communism. Listen. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who came up with the theory that communism was based on? They looked around and saw rich people with a lot and poor people with a little, and they thought it wasn’t fair.


Riley, Henry and Lucy: That ISN’T fair!



Emma, thrilled that the kids appear to be paying attention in church, and really getting rolling: Some people don’t think that the government should be in charge of distributing wealth, and they think that communism stifles ambition. And we can talk about that. But maybe another question is, why should one country get to decide what kind of of government another country has?

The thinking from the backseat is palpable.



Emma, en fuego now: Here’s the most important thing, you guys. Listen up. I can tell you to go to school. I can tell you to do your homework. I can tell you to practice your instruments.

Henry: we get it!

Emma, enjoying the soapbox: I can tell you to go to church. I can tell you to sit down for dinner. I can tell you to go to bed.

Henry: WE GET IT!

Emma: But I can’t tell you what to think. People will try and try and try to tell you what to think, but you have those good, big brains in those enormous heads for a reason. And you have to listen and learn and make up your own minds. It is just so super-duper important that you use your good brains to decide for yourself. I can’t even tell you what to think. I can share my opinion with you if you ask me, but you have to have to have to make up your own minds about things. So when you learn something in school, fine, you maybe have to put it on a test, but I want you to really think about it, and realize maybe it’s not the full story.

End Scene 1

I was thinking about this conversation on my way home from work the same day, and feeling bad that I don’t make things easier for my kids, when I had a revelation: that’s not my job. It isn’t my job to do the heavy lifting for them, unless we’re talking about actual, not metaphorical, heavy lifting, in which case it totally is my job, especially for the five-year-old. I want them to grow up to be critical thinkers, so it is in fact my job to challenge them. They can do the heavy lifting themselves.

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3 Comments

  1. Beadgirl said,

    ” I want them to grow up to be critical thinkers, so it is in fact my job to challenge them. ”

    That’s a good way to put it. Sometimes my answers to Gabe’s questions end up being too sophisticated or complicated, and I feel guilty for not answering in a way he can understand. But now I can just tell myself I’m challenging him!

    • batsinthebelfry said,

      Exactly! The way I say to myself after the fourth consecutive day at the grocery store, “I’m not disorganized – I’m European!” Wait, I do that for showers too. And how much wine and cheese I eat. Well, it makes a good excuse.

  2. jedelauche said,

    Woo hoo, Emma!

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