Why Second Graders Should Rule the World

Why Second Graders Should Rule the World

My husband teaches at a small English school in a fair sized French town. Small schools have their own unique problems, but they also present some unique teaching opportunities. One school serves the entire English community here, from Kindergarten to High School Graduation. So my husband can do interesting things like assign his high school students to create a second-grade level story book and then give the book to an actual second-grade class for evaluation. When he mentioned his thrill at being able to do so, he included some of the interesting feedback provided by the second-graders.

One of my husband’s students put together a story similar in theme to Fern Gully. Basically, humans bring their fancy equipment into a forest where faeries live, threatening to destroy the forest for their own selfish gain. In this case, the faeries threw rocks at the expensive equipment to break it and save their forest. And the second-graders’ response to this?

It was wrong of the faeries to break the humans’ machines.

Yes, you read that right. If only you could see the look I gave my husband when he told me that.

“So they think the humans should have destroyed the forest?” I asked incredulously.

“No,” he replied, “they thought it was wrong of the humans to try to wreck the faeries’ home.” This apparently prompted a class discussion about how the humans and faeries could have handled the situation better.

I’m sorry, but that’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard. If you ask a second-grader how you should deal with your problems, they’ll tell you to sit down and talk about how you can work things out so that no one gets hurt.

For some reason when I picture second-grade, I imagine screaming, temper tantrums, hitting and hair pulling. Maybe that’s just on the bad days? I remember from my brothers’ daycare days they were taught “use your words.” I’ve read a lot about elementary teachers’ efforts to shape behavior and perception in elementary children, and I admire their efforts. It would seem that many have successfully instilled the ideas of harmony and cooperation in today’s youth.

So what the heck happens when we grow up?

If a second-grader can understand that we should sit down and talk about our problems, find common ground and build a solution that benefits both parties, why can’t adults actually put it into practice?

I know the world isn’t that simple. If world peace were easy, we’d live in a peaceful world. But it can’t be as difficult as we make it. I grew up in the US and even in the wake of September 11th, I was horrified by the sheer number of ‘we should bomb the crap out of —‘ floating around. Really? Seriously? Our response to violence was more violence?

There’s a scene in the Stargate TV show where one of the characters is trying to negotiate with Russia and suggests offering them a powerful generator that would help with their energy consumption issues. The US ambassador denies the exchange because the generators could be modified for use as powerful bombs. The original character responds “So that they could blow us up ten times over instead of only five? What does it matter?” That question struck a chord with me. It’s an apt description of the world we live in. The answer to everything, it seems, is a show of force.

Considering how wide-spread bullying is in high school, I have to wonder where those lessons of harmony fall apart. Is it because we as adults don’t serve as adequate role-models to uphold the lessons our elementary teachers so painstakingly impart to our kids?

If only we could stop for a minute and think before we start lobbing our stones. If only we could meet on equal terms and discuss a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns. If only we could let second-graders rule the world before they lose that brilliant innocence.

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