QUESTIONS KIDS ASK
for those who care to listen
by Douglas Barry Spencer
Foreword by Bill Cosby, Ed.D.
WHAT IS A PERSON LIKE BEHIND THEIR HARD FRONT?
WHY AREN'T I AS CUTE AS I USED TO BE?
WHY ARE SOME US BLACK?
WHY DO OLD BALD-HEADED FARTS
TRY AND BE HIPPIES
BY WEARING TYE-DYE SHIRTS
AND GROWING THE THEIR HAIR LONG?
WILL I EVER BECOME SKINNY?
I WONDER IF I AM GOING TO MEET A SUPERSTAR?
WHY MUST WE PRETEND SO MUCH IN SOCIETY?
WHEN WILL I BECOME ANOTHER FARRAH FAWCETT-MAJORS?
IF BRACES AREN'T SO BAD
WHY DO I FELL BAD ABOUT GETTING THEM?
WILL I EVER BE MAN?
HOW DO YOU STOP GETTING YOUR OWN WAY?
WHY DO US KIDS HAVE TO BE 18 TO MOVE OUT?
WHY NOT 14-15-16?
AREN'T WE RESPONSIBLE?
WHY ARE MOST FAMILIES AT WAR?
WHY DO SOME PARENTS TAKE THEIR PROBLEMS OUT ON THEIR KIDS?
WHY DO CHILDREN THINK THAT PARENTS DON'T HAVE FEELINGS?
WHY DO PEOPLE TREAT KIDS AS IF YOU'RE A MAT YOU COULD WALK ALL OVER?
WHY DO PARENTS NEVER LET YOU TALK
OR THEY ALWAYS THINK YOU'RE WRONG
NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO?
i REALLY WANT PIERCED EARS
BUT MY MOTHER WON'T LET ME
AND I LIE TO MY FRIENDS
BECAUSE THEY HAVE THEM
AND THEIR MOTHERS LET THEM DO EVERYTHING.
WHY CAN'T I WIN AN ARGUMENT WITH MY PARENTS?
"Being on the side of the child is giving love to the child--not possessive love--not sentimental love--just behaving to the child in such a way that the child feels you love him and approve of him."2
BROTHERS & SISTERS
MANY PEOPLE WISH THEIR LIVES AWAY JUST LIKE MY SISTER.
WHY WHEN YOU HAVE A BROTHER YOU DON'T WANT HIM,
THEN WHEN HE'S GONE YOU WANT HIM BACK?
WHY IS IT THAT IF YOU HAVE A BROTHER OR SISTER
AHEAD OF YOU IN SCHOOL YOU GAIN THEIR REPUTATION?
WHY DON'T PEOPLE TELL WHERE THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY'RE DOING, NAMELY MY BROTHER?
WHY IS IT THAT OLDER OR ONLY CHILDREN
HAVE IMAGINARY PLAYMATES?
WHY SHOULD WE GET BOSSED ROUND
BY BROTHERS AND SISTERS
WHEN WE ASK THEM TO DO SOMETHING THEY WON'T?
WHY SINCE MY FATHER DIED DOES MY BROTHER ACT LIKE FATHER?
WHY DO I LEARN SO MANY BAD HABITS FROM MY SISTER?
I HAVE A MENTALLY RETARDED BROTHER WHO IS 16.
WHAT COULD I DO TO HELP HIM TO HAVE MORE FUN?
WHY IS IT IF YOU ARE THE OLDEST CHILD IN THE FAMILY
YOU AUTOMATICALLY GAIN RESPONSIBILITY WHEN YOU
AND YOUR YOUNGER BROTHER OR SISTER ARE GOING SOMEWHERE?
WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SEEM THAT THE MIDDLE CHILD
GETS ALL THE TROUBLE FOR HER SISTER AND BROTHER?
WHY DO I WISH I COULD BE AN ONLY CHILD?
WHY DO GRANDMOTHERS...
DO PARENTS KNOW WHAT THEIR CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT?
WHY CAN'T WE FOLD ALL OUR TESTS INTO PAPER AIRPLANES
AND FLY THEM AROUND THE ROOM?
IN GRADE THREE I DID NOT LEARN A THING
AND FOR TWO YEARS I HAVE BEEN PAYING FOR THAT MISTAKE.
IF CHILDHOOD IS THE BEST TIME IN LIFE
WHY DO WE HAVE TO WASTE IT BY GOING TO SCHOOL?
WHY DO WE GO TO SCHOOL
IF WE CAN'T FIND JOBS WHEN WE GROW UP?
WHY DO WE HAVE TO LEARN THINGS
THAT WILL MAKE NO DIFFERENCE TO US IN THE FUTURE?
WILL I EVER WRITE GOOD WITH A PEN?
WHY DOES THE BELL STARTING SCHOOL RING EARLY
AND THE BELL ENDING SCHOOL RING LATE?
WHY CAN'T WE HAVE OUR LEGAL RIGHTS IN SCHOOL?
WHY DOES IT TAKE 29 CAKES OF SCHOOL SOAP TO MAKE A BUBBLE?
WHY DO WE HAVE FENCES AROUND THE SCHOOL?
DO THE TEACHERS THINK WE WILL ESCAPE OR SOMETHING?
MY MOM ALWAYS TELLS ME NEVER TO START TO SMOKE.
HOW CAN I TAKE HER SERIOUSLY WHEN SHE SMOKES HERSELF?
WHY DO PARENTS THINK KIDS TODAY SMOKE
JUST BECAUSE THEIR FRIENDS DO?
MOST PEOPLE i HANG AROUND WITH DON'T SMOKE.
BECAUSE OF WHAT IN FACT WHEN SOMEONE SAYS THEY
WANT TO QUIT WE TRY TO HELP THEM.
WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT PUT OUT "DON'T SMOKE" POSTERS
AND COMMERCIALS AND YET THEY STILL SELL CIGARETTES?
HOW CAN YOU ASK YOUR PARENT IF YOU CAN SMOKE?
WHY MUST MONEY CONTROL SO MUCH OF LIFE?
WHY IS IT THAT PEOPLE THINK MONEY IS THE ANSWER?
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU NEED MONEY AND
YOU ARE TOO YOUNG TO BABYSIT
AND YOU DON'T GET AN ALLOWANCE?
HOW DO YOU CRACK A SAFE?
WHY DO RICH PEOPLE THINK THEMSELVES
MORE IMPORTANT THAN POOR PEOPLE?
HOW COME MY FATHER NEVER LETS ME SEE ANY BILLS
OR TELL ME THE PRICE OF THINGS?
I NEVER HAVE MONEY.
I'M ALWAYS BROKE IN HALF.
WHO INVENT INFLATION?
IF I EVER FIND OUT I WILL BREAK THAT PERSON'S NECK.
WHY IS THERE MONEY IS THE WORLD?
WHY CAN'T WE CHIP IN AND HELP EACH OTHER?
WHY DO PEOPLE THESE DAYS SPEND MORE MONEY
ON THINGS THEY DON'T NEED?
HOW COME SOME COMPANIES HAVE NO HEARTS?
THEY TELL PEOPLE TO MOVE OR ELSE THEY WILL LOSE THEIR JOBS.
THEY DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE HAPPY OR SAD.
WHY DON'T MY FATHER TELL ME WHAT HE DOES FOR A LIVING?
SOME PEOPLE THINK LOVE IS WORTH MORE THAN MONEY, IS IT?
QUESTIONS KIDS ASK
for those who care to listen
by Douglas Barry Spencer
Foreward by Bill Cosby, Ed.D.
Simon & Pierre Publishing Company LImited
TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA
Answers do not come without questions.
But questions can go unanswered.
Grown-ups love to do crossword puzzles, read mystery novels,
discuss the world situation -- hours on end.
The greatest crossword puzzle, mystery novel or world situation is alive
and hopefully well
living in your home -- your child,
holding in great questions that usually will be asked
when you are not ready with the answers.
They may be asked during an argument when you are angry,
only to be answered by you with a "shut up!",
or the delivery of some form of punishment.
The questions go unanswered and,
due to this situation (i.e. an argument, a protest)
will stay unanswered -- repressed.
getting to know them,
it is your obligation to try and fill in the answers,
It is you obligation to know your child.
The more you answer truthfully,
the more a warmer feeling of love comes from the child.
The sense of pride that you are that child's parent,
it shows that you love.
Therefore they trust.
Bill Cosby, Ed.D
Looking back on ten or twenty years to when you were eleven years old.
What questions did you ask then? And what questions are you asking now?
The questions today are often blurred in our fast-moving world. Answers seem to be the only things which count. The questions are still present in all our lives, but are too often hidden. It takes courage to ask questions, and a willingness to explore ideas that will provide answers.
This book is about questions -- those we may have forgotten how to ask. By examining them, we confront not only ourselves, our way of life, and our society, but our children as well. The questions* which follow come from eleven-year-olds. It is a search to the First Questions...
Douglas Barry Spencer
*In 1975-1976 in a random survey of grade six, seven, and eight classrooms, I asked kids to jot down (anonymously) questions they considered "worth answering". The children depicted in the photographs are in no way directly connected with the adjacent questions.
WILL I BE WHAT I REALLY WANT TO BE
IF WHAT I REALLY WANT TO BE
IS AROUND WHEN I WANT TO BE IT?
WHY CAN'T I STAY A KID?
I HAVE HOPES.
HOW CAN I BE SURE IT'S NOT AGAINST
MY FATHER'S HOPE FOR ME?
WHEN WILL I GROW OLDER?
WILL I WANT TO BE MYSELF WHEN I GROW UP?
WHY CAN'T I BE A BIRD?
"After all I have said and written about the need for keeping children under pressure, I find myself coming to realize that what hampers their thinking, what drives them into these narrow and defensive strategies, is a feeling that they must please grown-ups at all costs."1
WHY CAN'T KIDS BE PARENTS
AND PARENTS BE KIDS FOR A DAY?
WHY CAN'T KIDS GET THE FREEDOM THEY WANT
IF THEY KNOW HOW TO USE IT WISELY?
WHY DO PARENTS SAY WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE RESPONSIBLE
BUT ALWAYS GIVE US THE LINE "YOU'RE NOT OLD ENOUGH"?
WHY ARE MOTHERS ALWAYS RIGHT
WHEN YOU DON'T WANT THEM TO BE?
WHY DO PARENTS HURT YOU,
THEN SAY IT'S BECAUSE THEY CARE?
WHY DO PARENTS HIT OR YELL AT US
WHEN THEY ASK US SOMETHING
AND WE DON'T GIVE THEM THE ANSWER THEY WANT?
WHEN WILL MY PARENTS LET ME GROW UP?
AT WHAT AGE WILL MY PARENTS
KICK ME OUT OF HOUSE AND HOME?
WHY ARE PARENTS IN CONTROL?
WHY DOES MY MOTHER
ALWAYS START TO SPEAK SOME DIFFERENT LANGUAGE
WHEN I LISTEN TO HER CONVERSATIONS?
WHY DO US KIDS SOMETIMES HATE PARENTS WITH NO REASON?
WHY DO I HATE TO TAKE THE DOG FOR A WALK?
WHY DON'T PARENTS REMEMBER THEIR CHILDHOOD?
WHY DO PARENTS NOT LET THEIR CHILDREN WEAR JEANS?
WHY IS IT ALWAYS MY TURN TO TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE?
WHY DO PARENTS ALWAYS HAVE AN ANSWER?
WHY DON'T PARENTS JUST RAISE CHILDREN AND LEAVE THEM?
WHY DON'T MY MOTHER AND FATHER
LET ME TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD?
WHY ARE ADOPTED KIDS THE LAST TO KNOW?
WHY THE HELL DO PARENTS THINK
THEY KNOW ABOUT WHAT'S GOOD FOR US
LIKE CHILD SHRINKOLOGY
WHEN THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN WHAT IT'S LIKE?
WHY DOES MY FATHER HATE ANIMALS
WHEN HE IS ONE HIMSELF SOMETIMES?
WHY ARE WE STUCK WITH PARENTS WHO HATE US?
SMOTHER YOU WITH KISSES?
WHY CAN'T MY BEST FRIEND LIVE WITH ME?
WHY DO PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY THAT THEY'RE BUSY
WHEN I ASK THEM OVER?
WHEN I TELL MY FRIENDS I'M JEWISH
THEY DON'T LIKE ME ANY MORE.
WHAT RIGHT DO PARENTS HAVE TO CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS?
WHY IS MY BEST FRIEND A HOMICIDAL MANIAC?
WHAT HAPPENED TO FRIENDSHIPS?
"Stability based on close relationships with a few people will be ineffective, due to the high mobility, wide interest range, and varying capacity for adaptation and change..." 3
WHO INVENTED TEACHERS?
WHY DON'T TEACHERS TALK TO KIDS LIKE THEY TALK TO ADULTS?
WHY DON'T KIDS STILL GIVE TEACHERS APPLES?
IF YOU'RE A GOOD STUDENT, AND YOU BOMB OUT ON A TEST, WHY DO TEACHERS HAVE A FIT? WE ARE NORMAL!
WHY DON'T THE KIDS TEACH THE TEACHERS FOR AWHILE?
WHY DO TEACHERS NEVER ASK YOU THE ANSWER WHEN YOUR HAND IS UP AND ALWAYS ASK YOU WHEN IT ISN'T?
WHY CAN'T WE HAVE A STRIKE AS TEACHERS DO?
WHY DO TEACHERS NEVER LET THEIR HAIR DOWN AND ACT HUMAN?
WHY CAN'T TEACHERS THINK A MINUTE BEFORE HANDING OUT THE WORK?
WHY DON'T THE TEACHERS LET US TALK TOO AND NOT JUST SIT AROUND LIKE VEGETABLES?
WHY DO TEACHERS ALWAYS SAY "DON'T TALK BACK", BUT YOU'RE REALLY EXPRESSING YOUR OPINION?
DON'T YOU BLASTED TEACHERS CONSIDER ALL THE WORK YOU'RE GIVING US?!!
WHY DOES MY TEACHER INSIST ON UNDERESTIMATING MY LEARNING ABILITY? I GOT STRAIGHT A'S IN A ROW BUT HE REFUSES TO REALIZE I'M NOT A DUMMY!
WHY ARE PRINCIPALS SO BELL HAPPY?
HOW COME I CAN'T GET DRUNK ONCE IN A WHILE?
WHY DO PARENTS GIVE YOU SHIT
WHEN YOU GET DRUNK
BUT NOTHING HAPPENS WHEN THEY GET DRUNK?
WHY IS MY DAD AN ALCOHOLIC?
WHEN MY DAD GETS DRUNK
DOES THAT MEAN HE IS MAD AT ME?
IF YOU COULD BUY ALCOHOL ANYWHERE
I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULDN'T DRINK.
WHY DO PEOPLE DRINK SO MUCH
THAT THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING
WHEN THEY COULD JUST HAVE ONE AND EVEN HAVE FUN?
WHY DOS MY FATHER DRINK
COME HOME DRUNK AND PLAY MISTER BIG SHOT
THINK HE CAN RULE THE WORLD
TELL MY MOM WHAT SHE CAN AND CANNOT DO?
I THINK HE IS A BUM
WHEN HE DRINKS AND MY GRANDFATHER IS ALCOHOLIC.
MY FATHER IS ALMOST THERE AND I WONDER WHY OR HOW
MY MOTHER PUTS UP WITH IT?
WHY CAN'T THEY STOP MAKING BEER
BECAUSE IT JUST MAKES PEOPLE SUFFER?
DOES IT HURT TO DRINK OCCASIONALLY WHEN 12 YEARS OLD?
WHY ARE THOSE SWEARING WORDS SWEARING WORDS?
WHY SHOULD WE BE STOPPED FROM SWEARING IF IT
REALLY DESCRIBES WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY WITHOUT BEING IGNORANT?
WHY DO WE GET INTO TROUBLE FOR SWEARING
WHEN WE HEAR IT, SEE IT, AND LIVE WITH IT?
I DON'T EXPECT THIS QUESTION TO BE IN THE BOOK
BUT WHY IS FUCK A BAD WORD? IT IS IN OUR SCHOOL
LIBRARY'S DICTIONARY SAYING THE MEANING IS SEXUAL
INTERCOURSE WHICH IS NOT CONSIDERED A BAD OR DIRTY WORD.
WHY DO THEY HAVE RESTRICTED MOVIES
WHEN SOME KIDS COULD HANDLE IT
MORE THAN SOME IMMATURE ADULTS?
WHY DOESN'T THE CENSOR BOARD HAVE CHILDREN ON ITS COUNCIL, BECAUSE SOME OF THE FILMS THAT CHILDREN CAN'T
SEE ARE GOOD FILMS?
"Children accept swearing as a natural language. Adults condemn
it because their obscenity is greater than that of children."4
WHEN WE ARE BORN
'TIL WE DIE WE WORK
EVERYDAY LIKE A ROUTINE...
WHEN WILL I SPEAK TO GOD?
IF LITTLE KIDS PLAY WITH PEOPLE
WHO DO NOT HAVE THEIR OWN RELIGION OR COLOUR
WHY DO ADULTS FIGHT ABOUT IT OR NOT LIKE THE OTHER PERSON?
WHY MUST WE SAY THE LORD'S PRAYER IN SCHOOL
EVEN THOUGH I AM JEWISH?
WILL THERE BE ANOTHER JESUS
OR ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO DO HIS JOB?
WHY DOES MY FATHER NOT READ THE BIBLE IN FRONT OF MY FAMILY
AND THEN GOES TO OUR CAMP AND PREACHES LIKE THE DICKENS?
WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE FEEL MORE SAFE BELIEVING IN THE BIBLE?
COULD I BE THE RETURNED MESSIAH?
______________________________________________________"As responsible answerers we may decide for against 'belonging' to church, but we can scarcely ignore either the questions with which the church confronts the child or the questions the child poses to us."6
HOW DID WOMEN BECOME LESSER?
WILL WOMEN EVER RULE THE WORLD?
WHY CAN'T GIRLS
DO WHAT BOYS DO
WITHOUT BEING CALLED A TOM BOY?
IF SOME MEN AGREE THAT WOMAN SHOULD HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS
THEN WHY DON'T MEN HAVE THE ABILITIES TO HAVE BABIES?
WHY ARE MOTHERS SO TIDY?
DOES IT MATTER IF YOU SEE A MAN OR LADY DOCTOR?
WHY DO MEN INSIST ON NOT LETTING WOMEN
DO THE SAME THINGS AS THEY DO?
WHY CAN'T GIRLS BECOME BASEBALL PLAYERS OR HOCKEY PLAYERS?
IS GOD A WOMAN?
WHY IS IT THAT EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD IS "MAN"
LIKE "MILKMAN" AND "WEATHERMAN:? I DON'T THINK IT'S FAIR.
SEX & LOVE
WHY DO BOYS ONLY LIKE PRETTY GIRLS?
JUST BECAUSE YOUR FRIENDS WEAR MAKE-UP, SHOULD YOU?
WHY DO BOYS ALWAYS WANT MORE
THAN YOU WANT TO GIVE THEM?
WHY DO BOYS HATE GIRLS UP TO GRADE 7?
WHY IS IT THE BOYS YOU LIKE HATE YOU
AND THE BOYS YOU HATE LIKE YOU?
WHY DOES A BOY I HATE
KEEP WRITING TO ME?
WHY CAN'T SHE LIKE ME? WHY?
WHY DO BOYS KICK YOU AND PUNCH YOU
BUT THEY LOVE YOU?
WHY CAN'T I HAVE A PARTY FOR NO REASON AND INVITE BOYS?
HOW COME WHEN I GO NEAR A BOY I LIKE A LOT
I FEEL SICK TO MY STOMACH?
WHEN WILL I GET TO LOOK PRETTY?
HOW CAN YOU TELL SOMEONE
THAT THEY ARE SOMETHING SPECIAL?
I LIKE THIS BOY IN SCHOOL
AND HIS FRIENDS SAY HE LIKES ME TOO
BUT WHENEVER I SEE HIM HE CUTS ME DOWN
WHO SHOULD I BELIEVE?
WILL I MARRY ANYONE I KNOW RIGHT NHOW?
WHY DON'T THEY TEACH US SEX EDUCATION IN GRADE 4?
IT DOESN'T MATTER ANYWAY. i KNEW IT ALL IN GRADE 3.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU SEE YOUR MOLTHER AND FATHER
HAVING SEXUAL CONTACT?
WHEN I COME HOME FROM A PARTY
MY MOTHER ALWAYS ASKS ME IF WE DID ANYTHING WRONG.
I TELL HER NO BUT SHE DOESN'T BELEIVE ME.
HOW CAN I MAKE HER BELIEVE ME?
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR PARENTS HATE COLOURED PEOPLE
AND YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH ONE?
WILL MY MOTHER EVER LET ME KNOW SHE LOVES ME?
WHAT GIVES A YOUNG MOTHER
THE RIGHT TO PUT HER CHILD UP FOR ADOPTION?
BEFORE SHE GETS HORNY
SHE SHOULD THINK OF THE CONSEQUENCES FIRST.
WHAT SHOULD I DO ON MY HONEYMOON?
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE BLACK
AND YOU WANT A WHITE GIRL FOR A GIRLFRIEND?
I WONDER IF MY FATHER WILL GET A GIRFRIEND?
WHY CAN'T I MEET MY REAL MOTHER?
HOW MUCH ALIMONY SHOULD MY FATHER GIVE MY MOTHER?
MY STEPFATHER SAYS HE LOVES ME.
HOW DO I TELL HIM I DON'T LOVE HIM?
I LIKE HIM AS A FRIEND NOT AS A FATHER.
WHY DO ADULTS INTERFERE WITH OUR PARENTS' LIVES?
WHY DID MY MOTHER GO OUT WITH ANOTHER MAN
AND SHE DOESN'T ANY MORE?
MY FATHER IS MARRIED AGAIN
AND I DON'T KNOW HOW HE CAN PHONE MY MOM
AND SAY THAT HE IS GETTING MARRIED
WHEN THERE IS EIGHT OF HIS CHILDREN AT HOME.
WHY DON'T I LOVE MY MOTHER AS MY FATHER,
WHEN I CAN'T EVEN SEE MY FATHER?
______________________________________________________"I'd like to tell you a few things before we start talking about divorce. When something happens that's sad and painful, usually the best thing for you to do is to try to find out exactly what the trouble is. Then it is easier for you to decide what to do to help yourself feel better." 8
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU...
WHY CAN'T CHILDREN JOIN THE GOVERNMENT?
CHILDREN AREN'T BIASED LIKE ADULTS.
WE COULD PROBABLY DO A BETTER JOB
AT SOME STATIONS THAN ADULTS.
WHY DOES THERE HAVE TO BE ONE PERSON
AT THE TOP OF EACH COUNTRY?
WHAT IS SO BIG ABOUT POLITICS?
WHO WILL BE THE RULER OF THE WORLD?
WILL APES BECOME RULERS OF THIS PLANET?
IF THEY DO. I PITY THEM.
WHY CAN'T WE BELIEVE IN THE MEN WE PUT IN PARLIAMENT?
WHY CAN'T WE WORK WHEN WE ARE 11 YEARS OLD?
WHEN WILL THERE BE ENOUGH TIME
FOR WHAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
WHY DO PARENTS, TEACHERS AND THE GOVERNMENT TRY TO MOULD US INTO SOMETHING THAT WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT THEY WANT?
WHY CAN'T THEY LET US BE OURSELVES?
WHY CAN'T I EVER DO SOMETHING USEFUL
BUT I AM SOMETIMES NOT ALLOWED?
WHEN I GET OLDER WILL I GET A JOB THE WAY IT IS NOW?
SHOULD KIDS BE ABLE TO DO WHAT THEY'VE DREAMED TO DO
EVEN IF IT'S ODD?
WHY DOES WORK OFTEN DEPRIVE YOU
OF THE THINGS YOU'RE WORKING FOR?
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU MOTHER HAS A BROKEN LEG
AND YOU'RE LEFT DOING ALL THE WORK?
WHY ARE THE ONLY JOBS CHILDREN QUALIFY FOR PAPER ROUTES?
______________________________________________________"It's hard to grow up when there isn't enough man's work."5
WHAT'S THE USE?
WHY DO WE SAY WE'RE GOING TO KILL OURSELVES
AND WE DON'T?
WHY DOES CANCER TAKE THE BEST PEOPLE IN LIFE
AWAY FROM THOSE WHO NEED THEM?
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE STARVE TO DEATH
WHILE OTHER PEOPLE STUFF THEIR FACES?
WHY DO TERRIBLE CAR ACCIDENTS
KILL SO MANY INNOCENT PEOPLE?
WHY AM I ALIVE WITH ALL THE PEOPLE
THAT HAVE BEEN KILLED?
WHY IS IT THAT BOYS ARE MEANT TO MAKE THE FIRST MOVE?
WHY AREN'T BOYS CALLED SLUTS?
WHY DID MEN HAVE TO WIN THE WORLD?
WHY IS WOMAN'S LIB
TAKING OVER US MEN?
WHY DOES SUPERMAN PRANCE AROUND IN STOCKINGS?
WHY DO KIDS FALL IN LOVE A LOT?
WILL I EVER MARRY A RICH MAN?
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CONTINUE WITH SEX
IF THEY DON'T WANT CHILDREN?
DO YOU THINK I WILL MARRY A GOOD MAN
WHEN I GROW UP OR WILL HE RUN OUT ON ME?
YOU HEAR OF IT NOWADAYS A LOT.
WHY DO PEOPLE GO TO SUCH TROUBLE TO GET A BABY?
I THINK IT'S TERRIBLE.
WHY AT FIRST DO GIRLS LIKE BOYS
THEN DON'T LIKE THEM
THEN LIKE THEM AGAIN?
WHY AREN'T WE ALLOWED TO BE IN LOVE AT OUR AGE?
WHY DO PARENTS TRY TO HID THINGS FROM KIDS
WHEN WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON?
WHY IS SEX REFFERED TO AS THE BIRDS AND THE BEES?
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR MOTHER UNDERSTAND
THAT IF SHE KEEPS GOING OUT WITH ONE MAN AND LOVES HIM SO MUCH THAT SHE IS LOSING ALL OF HER FRIENDS AND SHE DOESN'T CARE ONLY FOR HIM?
WHY DO PARENTS ALWAYS TELL YOU STRANGE THINGS
WHEN YOU ASK THEM WHERE YOU CAME FROM?
WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THERE'S NO MORE GIRLS?
WHAT DOES KISSING FEEL LIKE?
WHAT MAKES A PERSON GO QUEER?
WHEN WILL I HAVE MY PERIOD?
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY SONGS ABOUT LOVE
LIKE "50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER"?
NOBODY LISTENS TO THEM ANYMORE.
ARE MY PARENTS STILL IN LOVE?
WHY AM I A FAG?
WHY ARE MOMS MORE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT TIME YOU GET HOME AT OR WHO YOU ARE GOING WITH THAN DADS?
I DON'T THINK IT'S RIGHT BECAUSE NOTHING WILL HAPPEN
AND IF IT DOES THEN IT DOES
AND IF NOTHING HAPPENS THEN NOTHING HAPPENS.
I WANT TO MARRY A STRONG HANDSOME TENDER AND RICH MAN.
WILL I EVER MEET ONE IN 1980?
DO WOMEN WALK AROUND NUDE IN THEIR HOUSES
SO THAT THEIR HUSBANDS CAN GET THEIR THRILLS?
______________________________________________________"It is often said that the 'New Morality' has destroyed the old values but put nothing in their places; this statement merely tells us that the speaker sees his own values being attacked, but that he knows little about the New Morality."7
BIPPLE-BOPPED A FINKLE-FOP...
AND FLIPPED IT INTO A SNIKEL-SNOP?
WHY CAN'T CHILDREN VOTE...
WHEN THEY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO...
HAVE TO PUT UP
WITH PROBLEMS TOO?
WHY DO PEOPLE TREAT ME LIKE A KID WHEN I'M NOT?
WHY ARE ADULTS RULING OVER CHILDREN?
WHY CAN'T WE TEENAGERS LIVE THE WAY WE WANT?
IT'S DIFFERENT NOW THAN WHAT IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO.
WHY CAN'T KIDS GET THE FREEDOM TO BE EQUAL AND YET
WE AREN'T REALLY AND NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE?
WHY ARE OUR LIVES SO RIGIDLY CONTROLLED BY OTHERS?
______________________________________________________"Oppression exists whenever one person makes decisions affecting others without those other people fully partipating in establishing the rules, policies or norms that govern those decisions."9
WILL IT EVER COME
THAT YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOUR HOUSE
WITH A GUN?
VIOLENCE HAS INCREASED SO MUCH.
HOW MUCH LONGER CAN THE WORLD AND KIDS TAKE IT?
IS IT TRUE THAT WE'LL BE ATTACKED BY MARS?
AND IF IT IS TRUE, THEN WHAT WOULD WE DO WHEN THEY ATTACK?
WILL I EVER HAVE TO KILL SOMEONE
THAT WAS A FRIEND OF MINE?
WHEN YOU COME TO THINK OF IT
WE ARE ALL KILLERS.
WILL I BE A GOOD GUY OR A BAD GUY
WHEN I GROW UP?
CAN ANYBODY STOP THE NEXT WORLD WAR?
______________________________________________________"A society that encourages competition and acquisition is almost sure to encourage aggression as well."10
WHEN I GROW UP, COULD I BE BIONIC?
WHAT IS THE USE OF SEARCHING IN SPACE?
WHY SHOULD I BE IN SCHOOL LEARNING ABOUT THINGS
FOR A JOB. WHEN SOMEDAY A COMPUTER WILL REPLACE ME?
WHY ARE WE KILLING OURSELVES
BY OUTTHINKING OURSELVES WITH INVENTING THINGS
THAT ARE UNNECESSARY TO US?
WITH ALL THE NEW INVENTIONS (INVENTORS, TECHNICIANS)
WHY CAN'T WE FIND A WAY TO STOP
POVERTY, STARVATION, MISTRUCT, ETC.?
WHAT DOES THE ATOMIC BOMB LOOK LIKE
WHEN IT BLOWS UP AND HOW DOES IT FEEL?
WILL WE EVER CREATE A MACHINE MORE INTELLIGENT THAN US?
IF WE DO, THEN WHAT?
DO WE REALLY OWN OUR WORLD TODAY
AFTER WHAT WE HAVE DONE TO IT?
WHO SAID MAN WAS AT THE TOP OF THE EVOLUTIONARY LADDER
WHEN HE'S THE ONLY LIVING THING
THAT KILLS OTHER LIVING THINGS OUT OF SHEER GREED?
WHY DO WE POLLUTE OUR OWN WORLD
WHEN IT IS REALLY OUR MINDS AND BODIES
THAT WE ARE POLLUTING?
WHY IS IT THE GROWN-UPS OF TODAY
EXPECT US KIDS TO FIX UP THE WORLD
THAT THEY SCREWED UP?
WHY CAN'T WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE WORLD
TO MAKE ADULTS THINK? E.G. KILL OURSELVES.
THE WORLD IS A SHAMBLES.
WE KIDS COULD FIX IT BY NOT SMOKING
MAKING A BETTER GOVERNMENT AND SO ON.
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MAKING A FUSS ABOUT POLLUTION
FOR A LONG TIME BUT
WHY HAVEN'T THEY DONE ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
WHY DO I CRY SO OFTEN FOR THIS WORLD?
WHY WAS THE PAST SO GOOD AND THE PRESENT SO BAD?
WHY DO TEACHERS LEARN US THE PAST?
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH TODAY?
WHY DO PARENTS TELL SO MUCH ABOUT THEIR PAST?
WHY DON'T TEACHERS REALIZE THAT THE WORLD HAS CHANGED
SINCE THEY WERE KIDS?
NOW THAT ALL THE OLD STYLES ARE COMING BACK,
WHEN WILL WE GET THE "HORSE AND BUGGY"?
WHEN WILL THIS WORLD CHANGE?
"There is a solid mathematical basis for the observation that age often correlates with conservatism: time passes more swiftly for the old." 13
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A WHALE? INSIDE HIS MIND?
WHO MADE ALL THE WORDS?
WILL THERE EVER BE A CHILDREN'S OLYMPICS?
WHY DON'T THEY MAKE LITTLE CARS FOR KIDS
AND THEN KIDS CAN GET DRIVER'S LICENCES?
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF JACQUES COUSTEAU IS STILL
LOOKING FOR THE LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS?
HOW COME DOCTORS DON'T GET SICK
WHEN THEY ARE AROUND SICK PEOPLE AT THEIR JOBS?
WHERE DOES THINKING COME FROM?
CAN AN ATOM MERGE WITH ANOTHER AND REMAIN THE SAME?
HOW COME THINGS GROW?
WHY IS IT THAT EVERY YEAR IS COLDER?
WHY IS MAN SO AFRAID OF BEING ALONE IN DARKNESS?
IS WHAT I SEE FOR REAL OR DOES THE PERSON
BESIDE ME SEE IT DIFFERENTLY?
IF NUMBERS ARE NEVER ENDING, HOW COME WE KNOW ABOUT IT?
WHY DO WE HAVE THE LAST NAMES THAT WE HAVE?
WHY CAN'T I THINK OF A
QUESTIONS WHEN I USED
TO HAVE SO MANY?
Institutions should not demand their use nor punish those who decide not to use them. If they are to become or to continue as public-conscious bodies, they must be turned around; become more responsive to people's concerns; and work with people in accordance with their needs as defined by the questions they ask.
Where do we begin?
Jot down questions you would like to know the answers to -- questions important to you., They might relate to the family, friends, religion, educatiion, economics, the world situation, the future, etc.
Discuss these questions with family and friends, focusing on concerns you share with others; use the local media (cablevision, letters to the editor, community newsletters, etc.) to air these issues; invite people in the community to contact you; form a citizens' committee centered around the discussion of specific issues; and take action on your concerns, assessing the short- and long-term effects.
A process of citizen involvement, of course, cannot be reduced to the simplicity of a cake recipe. The best way to learn the dynamics of people organizations is by forming a group to discuss concerns and take action. Man is capable of overcoming situation which limit him.
______________________________________________________"Suppose all of the syllabi and curricula and text books in the schools disappeared. Suppose all of the standardized tests--city-wide, state-wide, and national--were lost. In other words, suppose that the most common material impeding innovation in the schools simply did not exist. Then suppose that you decided to turn this 'catastrophe' into an opportunity to increase the relevance of the schools. What would you do?
"...suppose that you decided to have the entire 'curriculum' consist of questions. These questions would have to be worth seeking answers to not only from your point of view but more importantly, from the point of view of the students. In order to get still closer to reality, add the requirement that the questions must help the students to develop and internalize concepts that will help them to survive in the rapidly changing world of the present and future."15
very ideas are in operation. It would benefit us to closely follow the development of such programs, implementing those aspects which are suitable to our particular setting.
Traditional attitudes towards children require our re-examination.
According to author John Holt, the "institution of childhood" is out-dated. By placing our children in a specialized category (and categories within categories e.g. gifted, slow learners, etc), we are able to deny them rights--rights Holt says, we should extend to them immediately. He outlines some of these rights in Escape from Childhood: the right to vote, the right to work, the right to own property, the right to travel, the right to choose his guardian, the right to a guaranteed income, the right to legal and financial responsibility, the right to control his own learning. Holt suggests that we begin by treating children as if the society we are trying to make is already in existence.
Further, Holt cautions those who shield their kids from the outside world. They may forget that fragmented messages will pour over these "protective walls", arousing the curiosity of those inside. That the walls meant to protect may also imprison.
Of course, casting our children into chaos is not the answer either. We need to provide them with greater opportunities to explore based on their questions and their need to know as they perceive it--to provide
______________________________________________________"Nobody let on that he saw nothing, for then he would not be fit for his post, or else he was a fool. Never before had the Emperor's clothes been so successful! "But he hasn't anything on,' said a little child. 'Oh listen to the innocent,' said his father. And what the child had said was whispered from one person to the other. 'He has nothing on--a child says he has nothing on!' 'But he has nothing on!' cried all the people at last."16
1 Holt, John. How Children Fail.
New York: Dell Publishing Company Inc., 1964
2 Neill, A.S. Summerhill: A Radical Approach To Child Rearing.
New York: Hart Publishing Company, 1960.
3 Tall, Courtney. Friendships In The Future.
(taken from Future Shock by Alvin Toffler; see bibliography note 13 below).
4 Neill, A.S. Summerhill: A Radical Approach To Child Rearing.
New York: Hart Publishing Company, 1960.
5 Goodman, Paul. Growing Up Absurd.
New York: Random House Inc., 1962.
6 Bro, Margueritie Harmon. When Children Ask.
New York: Harper & Row Publishers Inc., 1962.
7 Rich, Dr. John. Catching Up With Our Children.
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1968.
8 Gardner, Dr. Richard. The Boys And Girls Book About Divorce.
New York: Jason Aronson Inc., 1971
9. An address by Alfred Alschuler at the University of Massachusetts.
10. Leonard, George. Education And Ecstacy.
New York: Dell Publishing Company Inc., 1969.
11 McLuhan, Marshall. Culture Is Our Business.
New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1970.
12 Freire, Paulo. Cultural Action For Freedom.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Educational Review.
13 Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock.
New York: Random House Inc., 1970.
14 Shneidman, Edwin S. Deaths of Man.
New York: Peguin Books Inc., 1974.
15 Postman, Neil; Weingartner, Charles. Teaching As A Subversive Activity. New York: Dell Publishing Company Inc., 1969.
16 Andersen, Hans Christian. The Emperor's New Clothes.
New York: MacMillan Publishing Company Inc., 1963
Douglas Spencer founded and co-ordinates the organization People for Educational Participation, a network of people discussing and acting on educational issues. Ottawa born, he has taught with the Carleton Board of Education (Ottawa), studied with Dr. Ivan Illich in Cuernavaca, Mexico and has monitored educational innovation in California, New York, Massachusetts and England. He is the author of Learning Spaces, an urban resource directory for children.
Questions Kids Ask For Those Who Care To Listen includes questions covering such varied topics as friendships, parents, oppression, sex and love, religion, government, divorce, school, teachers, swearing and censorship, growing up, self-image and many others. In discussing his philosophy on education, the author advocates a new and more relevant school curriculum which could be developed using questions kids ask as its basis.
WHY AM I ADDICTED TO T.V.?
WHY DO THEY HAVE CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS
THAT HAVE OLDER PEOPLE IN THEM?
WHY CAN'T LESSONS BE PUT ON T.V.
"The T.V. youngsters are the first to be divorced from the old dominant hardware of books and machines. This generation was baby-sat by T.V. They watched from their play pens. Gray at three, they had seen the gamut of adult violence and confusion in every part of the world. At the age of six, confronted by the old schoolhouse hardware of texts and tests: See Dick run, see Jane jump...it dropped out."11
WHY IS IT
THAT CIVILIZATIN IS SO HARD AND DEMANDING
WHEN IN THE END WE SHALL DIE AND BE GONE?
WHY CAN'T I DRAW WELL WHEN I TRY AS HARD AS I CAN?
IF PEOPLE GET A CHANCE AT SOMETHING BIG AND FAIL
WHY DO YOU NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT?
WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE BREAKDOWNS?
DO I NEED CIVILIZATION?
WHY CAN'T I LIVE TWICE?
WHEN WILL EARTH "COME DOWN TO EARTH"?
WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE IN THE YEAR 2000?
IS THERE GOING TO BE A YEAR 2000?
WHEN I THINK OF IT, IT SCARES ME.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO TO SAVE THE FUTURE?
WHEN IS AND WHAT WILL BE DOOMSDAY?
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW.
SO I CAN WASH MY HAIR THE DAY BEFORE.
WHY DO ALL THESE ADULTS ALWAYS MAKE SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIES ABOUT THE WORLD BEING DESTROYED?
IT'S SCARING THE HELL OUT OF US KIDS.
CAN WE RELY ON OTHER PLANETS FOR HELP IN THE FUTURE?
WHY DO SOME KIDS TAKE DRUGS
WHEN THEY SHOULD BE LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE?
WHEN I GROW UP, WILL THERE BE ENOUGH ENERGY RESOURCES
WHY DOES EVERY GENERATION OF ADULTS
INSIST THAT THEY WORLD WILL GO TO POT
AS SOON AS THEY ARE GONE?
WHEN KIDS ARE OLD, DO YOU THINK THE WORLD WILL BE BETTER?
______________________________________________________"That is why the cardinal responsibility of the mature to their young is to guarantee them a reasonable chance to survive."14
ARE THESE QUESTIONS GOING TO DEAR ABBY?
WHY DO WE HAVE TO DO THIS STUPID QUESTION SHEET?
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY QUESTIONS GET IN THE BOOK?
WHY DON'T YOU ASK GROWN-UPS QUESTIONS ABOUT KIDS?
I CANNOT PUT MY QUESTION IN WORDS.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE QUESTIONS YOU DON'T PICK?
WHY ARE WE WRITING QUESTIONS
WHEN WE AREN'T GOING TO HAVE THEM ANSWERED?
WHY DOES MY LITTLE BROTHER ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS?
WILL YOU PLEASE PUBLISH MY QUESTIONS?
I THINK THEY'RE WORWHILE. CONSIDER IT, OKAY?
I HAVE SO MANY THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS
THEY'RE POURING OUT SO QUICKLY...
WHY AM I NOT GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY IT ALL?
WHY IS IT THAT WE CAN ASK YOR THESE QUESTIONS
BUT NOT OUR PARENTS?
WHY IS THERE A BOOK ABOUT CHILDREN FOR PARENTS TO READ
AND NOT A BOOK OF PARENTS FOR US CHILDREN TO READ?
WHY DO I WRITE BOOKS
BUT NEVER SEND THEM IN TO BE PUBLISHED?
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS BOOK? WHY WASTE YOUR TIME?
Kids have not forgotten how to ask questions. Adults must reclaim the right. An over-reliance on experts and institutions to ask and answer questions for us may be disastrous--our decision-making rights and responsibilities may, in the end, be take from us.
To what extent does institutional action related to the reality of people's concerns after assumed needs are filtered through a hierarchical structure and classified within tight departmental guidelines? Ask the city dweller whose home is being threatened by the construction of high-rise buildings; ask the prairie farmer who is being paid not to grow wheat; or ask native people whose land is being disrupted by a hydro-electric project.
Philosopher Ivan Illich, in this classification of institutions, describes a spectrum ranging from "manipulatory" to "convival". Institutions which demand compulsory use (eg. schools) or those that promote
"destructive self-images" (e.g. mental hospitals), he considers manipulatory; those that provide non-obligatory services (e.g. telephone, subways, mail routes), he considers convivial; and those that use various degrees of persuasive advertising (e.g. from hand laundries to automobile companies), he places between two extremes.
Illich calls for a movement toward the convivial in this institutional framework--a movement which would stimulate action, participation and self-help.
Inspired by peoples' organizations I encountered on a cross-North American study in 1975, we began PEOPLE FOR EDUCATIONAL PARTICIPATION (PEP) -- a network of people discussing and acting on educational concerns. A similar belief in overcoming limitations has given the United Bronx Parents (New York City) a meaningful voice in affecting change, as it did a Toronto citizens' group opposed to the construction of the Spadina Expressway.
We can begin too with our children.
Kids spend a great deal of their time in school classrooms. They have little say in what is to be learned.
Motivated by Postman and Weingartner's Teaching As A Subversive Activity I introduced a question-based project to a class of grade six students. They were asked to formulate questions they considered worth answering. In pursuit of answers to their questions, they made contacts in their community via letters, telephone calls and excursions. Some students (using telephone directories as a guide) indicated the location of people and places on maps of the city. By connecting these resource points to a central point representing their location, they were able to construct a network of resources related to their questions. Some children indicated the means of communication (telephone, letter, visit, etc.) on the line between a resource point and the central point. Based on these "resource networks", the kids were
able to organize their conclusions in a way appropriate to them (booklets, tape presentations, photographic displays, etc.). Some children preferred acting on their conclusions rather than submitting a project "to be disposed of after evaluation". The children took pride in projects which were important to them, not projects assigned by the teacher and the institution.
Kids' questions can form the basis of a new and more relevant school curriculum. Students, working individually or collectively, can decide on questions they wish to answer; tap community resources and evaluate their ability to manage the task at each level. A curriculum development council consisting not only of teachers and administrators, but also students, parents, and interested citizens can take the responsibility for implementing and assessing similar community-school projects.
Of course, people will never agree on what schools should stress. One approach would be to stimulate diversity through participation. By allowing the public a meaningful voice in School Board policy, we can move towards a society which provides a variety of learning styles. This might include a conservative school for those students and parents wishing for a more traditional approach to education; a progressive school for those wishing a more open-ended style; a moderate school for those wishing for a combination of the two "extremes"; and non-school styles of learning such as learning exchanges and apprenticeship experiences for those wishing a non-institutional approach to learning. In a handful of North American cities, these
them with what Holt calls "exists" from the institutions of childhood; exists which do not bar them from re-entry when they desire it. Such extended opportunities will provide our kids with a practical awareness of their community. Children are a part of the community and their behaviour influences the generality of that community and will, in time, shape it by their actions. Allowing them a responsible role in today's decision-making will be an important prerequisite for survival in a world of extended options, expanding leisure time and increasing complexity.
We cannot expect our children to solve our problems today. We too must participate in the shaping of our reality. If we decide to opt for non-involvement, let's not make this decision for our children nor take this decision from them.
Eleven year olds want to get invovled. Let's encourage them to ask questions. Let's ask the First Questions with them and re-discover the magic and challenge of owning our own lives; the magic and challenge of "doing" instead of "having".
Bill Cosby, Ed. D. (Mass.), a comedian, recording artist, stage, television and movie star has crusaded for better understanding between people. His new Capitol album, written by Cosby, My Father Confused Me...What Must I Do? What Must I Do? includes 14 selections dealing with family relationships.
In his foreword to Questions Kids Ask For Those Who Care To Listen, the Philadelphia-born comedian emphasizes the need for questions from children to be answered in order to strengthen adult-child communication.