Disclaimer: This post refers to political issues affecting our global community. It is not intended to advocate or condone any particular political stance. It is purely just to recount a conversation I had with a boy at Forest School today.
I have mentioned Charlie before in my past posts. He's the boy who thinks of the world in very structured ways, quite often using military terminology. See But it all went so well...? post describing Charlie a bit more. Today I had the most fascinating conversation with Charlie I think I have ever had with a child... ever... It went something like this:
Charlie was climbing up a tree and I was standing below spotting him. He was chatting away to me about his plans to invent a laser gun that he could distribute to the military to bolster the UK forces (sounds a bit scary, I know, but bear with me!!).
Charlie (up a tree): “So by placing the two magnets next to each other and attaching a wire from them to a light bulb, you can then project the light through several layers of glass to create a powerful beam of light.”
Me: “But would it hurt people?”
Charlie: “Well, yes. But by supplying such a powerful weapon, we can strengthen our military forces.”
Me: “Ok, but why would we want to strengthen our military?”
Charlie: “Because then we would be better equipped to combat terrorist groups who kill people.”
Me (Thinking 'oh crap what am I getting myself into!' but proceeding anyway): “Hmm.. that's an interesting thought. But if we consider people terrorists because they are killing people, if we then go and kill them, does that make us terrorists too?”
Charlie (climbs down from the tree and says without any hesitation): “Well no because it's about the motivation behind it. Terrorists kill people because they don't believe in the same things as them. It should be ok for people to believe in whatever they want and have whatever religion they want. It shouldn't matter if someone believes something different from you and you shouldn't hurt someone because of it. So by killing the terrorists we are protecting the world from people like that. I know it's not ideal, but sometimes you have to do bad things to do good things.”
Charlie then went on to explain to me that although wars are awful, there can be good things that come from them, like how they motivate people to improve upon technology and how that technology can then be used to better people's lives in a lot of ways. Mostly I just listened as Charlie explained his thoughts and ideas to me. We carried on in this way for a good 20 minutes or so until finally Charlie said, “Well, look at what's happened – we started off talking about little things and now this conversation has got pretty intense. Let's just get back to climbing trees!” I said, “Ok Charlie, that sounds good” and up the tree he went....
Charlie is 9 years old... I'm going to pause here to let that sink in... 9..
Charlie was right, the theme of our conversation was definitely very intense. We were discussing very deep moral and ethical dilemmas affecting the global population. Really big stuff here, which even adults struggle to comprehend with! Some people might criticise me for having such a discussion with Charlie, claiming that the topic was much too heavy to be speaking to a 9 year old about. However, Charlie is not your average 9 year old. And these were not thoughts I had planted in his head or even encouraged him to think about. These were thoughts Charlie had already pondered himself, which he was eager and open to discussing with me. He had taken a stance on what he believed and I did not influence or sway him in anyway. As a result, we had discussed deep issues of morality and ethics and attempted to better understand the complexities that make up the human experience. We also practised empathy, taking on the perspectives and considering the feelings of others (even terrorists) rather than just viewing things in black and white terms of 'good' versus 'evil'.
Perhaps some might still say that despite this, I should have changed the topic anyway, arguing that it was inappropriate for a child Charlie's age. In response, I would say - Well, isn't Forest School supposed to be child-led?