Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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What Sticks Are For

Here's a wonderful essay about childhood learning and ethics.

To this I will add that the stick is one of the first tools or weapons that humanity ever mastered.  Apes still use them today to open rotten logs, fish for termites, etc.  A stick is a little more versatile than a rock, because it can poke or pry.  So it's a very useful tool for exploring things safely.  

This makes it the fundamental tool of adventurous children, and indeed, everyone who sets foot off pavement in most of the South.  This is a stick; the stick is your friend.  Sweep it ahead of you in long grass.  Use it to keep scary things at arm's reach.  Prod things that might be dangerous with a stick, not your finger.  You can also use it to remove things from your path, such as a spiderweb.

As I see more and more calls for taking tools away from people, I worry, because the two things that most separate us from other animals are our wits and our tools.  Taking away tools says we don't have the wits to use them responsibly -- says that humans are no more than dumb beasts.  If people aren't using tools responsibly, it's not because the tools are bad.  It's because the people  don't have the knowledge and skills to be responsible with them.  You can't fix that by taking away the tools, can't foolproof the whole world, because fools are so ingenious.  I once saw someone create a chemistry accident with a can of Lipton tea and some water -- and by chemistry accident, I mean that people in the vicinity fled coughing and hacking from the choking cloud of powder in the air.  You have to teach people how the world works, how to handle the hazardous parts of the world, and how to be responsible with all of that.
Tags: family skills, networking, reading, safety
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