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Romancing at Day Care

Romancing at Day Care

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Published by David Kennedy

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Published by: David Kennedy on Nov 03, 2009
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A,,41yticTuelli"g:
Vol."%,
No.
.,
YOUNGCHILDREN
AND
ULTIMATEQUESTIONS:
Romancing
at
Day
Care
I
DAVID
IUNNIDY
hat
foHowsisonepiece
of
aseriesofconversations
that
I
conducted
with
asmallgroupof
young
childreninadaycarecenter
where
I
was
workingin
1983.
The
childrenwere
betweenthe
ages
of
3
and
6,
and
wehadbeentogetherlongenough
to
speakfrankly
and
comfortably
with
eachother.Iusedsmallgrouptime
to
asksixquestions,
all
of
themabout
the
ultimate
issues-
the
origins,ends,andlimitsofthings,death,dreams,soul,spirit,self,God,evil.
Taken
together,
the
conversations
we
hadmakeforatranscript
of
65
manuscriptpages.
The
issuesraisedtherearemany,andprovokequestions
not
only
abouthow
youngchildrenthink,
but
about
how
adultsinfluence
them
tothink.
The
issue
takenup
below-
the
originsofthings-
was
continuedpastthisconversation,anditssequelwillappearin
thenext
issueof
AHalytic
TuuhiHg.
Al-
though
the
text
tends
tospeakforitself,afew
comments
onthe
patternof
the
conversationfollow
the
transcript.Theagesof
the
childreninvolvedareasfollows:
CHA.RLES:
6years4
months
NAT:
5years5
months
MICHAEL:4years
1
month
KEN:
5years8
months
KRISTEN:5years8
months
JIM:
5years5
months
FRED:
5years8
months
FAITH:
4years6
months
D.K.:
Howdid
theworld
begin?
NAT:
Thedinosaurs
...
It'sdinosaurs.
CHARLES:
No,
the
world
didn't
begin
with
dinosaurs
...
Iknowsomething
that
happenedbefore
the
dinosaurs,andit's
gotta
behappening
ontheearth
...
What
justcan'tfloatintheair
...
water
andmud
just
can't
float
in
theair.O.K.:No,
they
can't.
like
youcouldn't
just
throw
them
up.NAT:
Thesun
makes
them
come
upinto
the
airand
tum
into
acloud!
It
does
that
to
rainwater
...
Puddles.CHARLES:Well
...
well
...
1
know
something
that
happened
to
the
Little
fish
....
And
I
got
afossil,
that
the
fishgotcaughtin
my
coat
....
Well,Diane
[a
teacher)told
me
that
happenedbeforedinosaurs.O.K.:Well,
what
was
before
that?
MICHAEL:Babies!
The
first
babywas
born!CHARLES:Uhuh!People
weren't
back
when
dinosaurswere,andI'msayingthishappenedbeforedinosaurs.O.K.:
Whatwas
...
you'resaying
that
beforedinosaursthere
wasthe
fish.
Nowwhat
was
before
the
fish?
KEN:
Nothing.KRlSTEN:Indians.JIM:JustIndians.NAT:Justwater!O.K.:Just
water?
NAT:Yeah,just
water
and
rain
and
clouds.CHARLES:Just
the
earth.O.K.:Just
theearth
....
How
was
the
earth
made?
Whatwas
before
the
earth?
KEN:
God
wasthe
veryfirstthing.JIM:
Thiswasthe
veryfirst
thing
-God
...
Jesus.O.K.:
Whowas
beforeGod?JIM:Nobody.
KEN:
Nobody.NAT:
Nothing
....
God
is
alive
€':Very
time.Godnever,neverdies.O.K.:
So
Godhasalwaysbeen,you
mean?
JIM:Goddied.NAT:God
was
alive
when
dinosaurs
were
down
on
the
ground.O.K.:O.K.Soyouaresaying
that
he
was
first
MICHAEL:Hediedbecausemencame
and
killedhim.
That'swhatmy
Mom
said.D.K.:
Oh,
youmeanJesus.JIM:My
Mom
saidHediedandcamebackalive.O.K.:Yeah,
but
we'retalking
about-
59
 
AnalyticTeaching:
Vol.ll,No.1
JIM:He
was
nailedonthecross.O.K.:Yeah,
but
we'retalkingabout
the
verybeginningofthings.
How
farbackcan
we
go,
towhen
thingsstarted?
How
didthings
start?How
didtheybegin?NAT:We
don't
know!CHARLES:Whenitbeganall
that
therewasjustspace.There
weren't
any
stars,there
weren't
anyplanets,there
wasn't
any
moon,there
wasn't
anysun
...
Space!JIM:Justspace.
KEN:
Just
the
universe.O.K.:Just
the
universe,
Ken
says.CHARlES:
That's
space.O.K.:
That's
space.And
how
fardoesspacego?NAT:Way
to
thedarkclouds.CHARLES:It'sall
around
thisearth.
KEN:
It
neverdoesstop.O.K.:Kensaysitneverstops.CHARLES:
That's
right.There'snoendofit.O.K.:Youmean
if
youcouldtakearocketshipandgostraight
out
intospace
that
youwouldgoforever,youwouldnevercome
tothe
endofanything?CHARLES:
That's
right.
KEN:
You'dkeepongoingthroughspace.MICHAEL:Youwouldgouptoheaven.KRISTEN:No
...
JIM:Ihaveaspaceshipstory.NAT:Ifyoutookarocketyoucouldonlygothemoonand
the
sun
....
A
airplanemightcould
go
tothe
sun.O.K.:Well,
but
let's-NAT:Airplanecangoover
the
clouds.D.K.:
On
top
of
the
clouds,yeah
....
So
what
you'resaying:Charlessaysat
the
verybeginningthere
was
justspace.
Therewas
no
sun,
no
moon,noplanets,noearth.
KEN:
Yeah!O.K.:
How
werethe
sun
themoon
the
planetsandtheearth
made?
FRED:
Godmadethem.
OX:
How
didhedo
that?
FRED:
He
was
kindofmagic.KRISTEN:Heusedhisspirit.MICHAEL:I
don't
believethis.
FRED:
Twinkle
ofaneye,andthe
earth
wasmade!O.K.:
So
you
say
ithappenedsuddenly.MICHAEL:I
don't
believethesepeople.O.K.:Well
how
doyoubelieveitstarted?MICHAEL:I
don't
believenothing.O.K.:
Oh,
you
don't
believeanything?MICHAEL:
Do
you?O.K.:
Do
I?
MICHAEL:
Do
youbelieve
what
thefre
saying?D.K.:
Do
Ibelieve
that
Godcreatedtheworld?MICHAEL:
How
did
God
...
60
O.K.:
How
he
didit,youmean?JIM:Hehadalotofpower!O.K.:Well,I'maskingyou.O.K.Yousayhehadalotofpower.Fredsaidhewaskindofmagic.Charles,
how
doyou
think
theworldcameintobeing?CHARLES:I
think
...
I
think
hejust
...
Godmade
the
people,soIthEnkhemadeoneof
them
and
when
...
and
they
gotababyand
pretty
soon-MICHAEL:Godmadeeverything!CHARLES:-
they
startedgrowingupand
pretty
sooneverybodystartedhavingbabiessothereweremillionsofpeopleintheworld.
0.1<..:
Oh,
O.K.ButI'mtalkingaboutbeforepeople.JIM:Beforepeoplethere
was
justspace.O.K.:
0.1<..,
but
what
wastherebeforespace?
KEN:
God.CHARlES:Nothing.O.K.:Butwhere
was
Godthen,ifthere
was
nospace,andhehadtomakeit?NAT:He
was
dead.D.K.:Atthebeginning?
KEN:
No.O.K.:No.NAT:Hehad
to
makehimself.
FAITH:
David
....
Doyou
know
what
firstGodmade?Godmadea
mud
manfirst.D.K.:A
mudman?
O.K.,
but
I'm
talking
about
...
Charlessaid,
in
thebeginningthere
was
onlyspace.
I'm
saying,
who
made
the
space,or
how
did
the
spacecomeincobeing?CHARlES:Just
...
spacewasalreadythere.O.K.:Wasalreadytherefrom
when?
JIM:[Afteralongpause].
The
windwas
therebeforespace.CHARlES:
Outer
space
was
justthere.
0.1<..:
Wasjustthere:nobodymadeit.CHARLES:Right.
KEN:
Wrong.FAITH:David
...
David
...
Godmadeeverything.MICHAEL:I
want
to
gooutsidenow.
SECONDCONVERSA
nON
0.1<..:
We'regonnagoback
to
question
number
three,
whichwe
didsometalkingaboutyesterday
...
O.K.Question
number
threeis,
"How
did
the
worldbegin?"JIM:There
was
allspace.O.K.:Andyousaid,Charlessaid,somebodysaidthere'Hasallspace.Nathaniel?NAT:Justspace.D
1<..:
Justspace.AndIsaid,wheredidspacecomefrom?
JIM:
Nobody.
 
NAT:Nobody.NAT:Space
is
stillthere..MICHAEL:
It
was
alreadythen:
....
It
wasthe
firstthing
...
and
God
was
thenext
thing.
KEN:
Vhuh,
God
wasthe
firstthing,
and
Hemade
the
spaceand
then
He'
made
the
planets.NAT:Yeah!D.K.:
That's
right!D.K.:
Who
made
God?
KEN:
Nobody.HejustmadeHimself!JIM:
How
didHe?MICHAEL:MaybeHiswife,
buthow
didHiswifegetherself?JIM:Iknow.
D.K.:
How?
]1M:
Maybebecause
...
the
spacehadmagic.D.K.:
The
spacehadmagic?MiCHAEL:Naah!
D.K.:
Oh,
you
think
the
spacemadeGod
or
Godmadethespace?
ALL:
Godmade
the
space!NAT:And
the
spacemadeGod.
KEN:
No!GodmadeGod(laughs).Godmadespaceandtheplanetsandus!JIM:GodmadeGod.NAT:Healsomadedinosaurs
and
things.JIM:JesusmadeJesus.MICHAEL:Yeah,JesusmadePacman.[Sillysounds]
D.K.:
O.K.Good.
Um
...
FAITH:HesaidJesusmadePacman.D.K.:Yeah,
well-
TAPE
cur
Piagetreferredto
the
kind
ofthinking
andtalkingwhichthechildreninthistranscriptaredoingas·ro
mancing/
by
which
heseems
to
have
meant
what
childrenaredoing
when
they
are
not
answeringaquestionaccording
to
hiscriteriaofseriousnessandintelligibility.
It
produces,hesaid,
Mfallacies,"
becauseits
"mythoma-
nia"
andUsuggestibility"lead
to
"an
answerwhich
he[thechild]does
not
reallybelieve."l
Matthews
is
moreencouraging.Hefinds
that
often
the
child'sromancinganswersare
themost
philosophicallyinteresting,and"willnotso
much
expressthechild'ssettledconvictions
as
exploreaconceptualconnection
or
makeaconceptu
al
joke."2
Matthews
is
suggesting
which
is
demonstratedthroughoutthesetranscripts-
that
thereisafundamentallyplayfulelement
in
logic,and
that
oftenyoungchildrenfirstdiscover
the
operationsoflogicthroughjokingandplaying
with
language.
AlUIlyric
TUKlriflg:
VoI.1l.,
No.
I
Languageplayhasa
strong
aestheticelement.Whenitisworking,
itworks
because
it
soundsright,
theway
musicworks.
It
is
aesthetic
dements
-prosodicrhythms,
which
capitalize
on
phonologicalechoes
and
interplays,
on
pitch,juncture,andstress("Nothing.Indians...JustIndians...Justwater!...
Justwater?
..Yeah,just
water
andrain
and
clouds"),
and
syntactical
and
semanticrepeating
or
reversible
patterns
(·Godmade
the
space...And
the
spacemadeGod...No!
God
madeGod")-
which
guide
the
emergence
of
meaning.
On
theother
hand,
the
issuesbeingtalked
about
in
theseconversationsareones
that
areconsideredserious-
whenadults
talk
aboutthem,
they
typicallydo
not
dosoinajokingmanner.
They
tend,infact
to
presenttheiropinionsabout
the
being-status
of
thingssuchas
the
originsof
the
universe,
the
earthor
God-
whether
in
the
church
or
in
the
classroom-
with
utter
certainty.Hence
the
atmosphere
of
serious,evenpassionatenegotiationgoing
on
intheseconversations.Buteventhispassionatenegotiationis
an
aestheticform,itisa
way
ofsingingtogether.This
is
what
adults
do
toointhesekindsofconversations,
but
they
are
taught
toignore
the
elements
of
playandsong
inthe
interests
ofthe
cognitivedata,
the
truth
claims
and
theirimplications.Butitseemsto
me
that
the
two
systems-
the
aestheticplay
ofthe
argument
andthe
series
of
logicalmoves-aresymbiotic
andmutually
regulatory.Logic
is
groundedandexpressedin
the
body,
andthe
bodyisgroundedandexpressedinaninteractive
web
ofsocialrelations.
It
is
the
musical-jamming"
of
theindividualelements
of
this
web
which
drives
the
argument,as
much
asit
is
drivenbyit.Next,
I
would
like
to
suggest
that
the
conversationtranscribedherehasastructure,composedofcertainessentialcharacteristics
which
operate
in
thecommunity
ofinquirywherever
we
findit.First,there
is
the
gathering
of
information
atthe
beginninginresponse
to
aquestion-
in
thiscasefossils,babies,Indians,dinosaurs,rain,sun,andclouds.
The
initialframingof
an
answerto
any
questionemerges,
that
is,fromtheknowledgeandinterestsof
the
participants.
Then
there
is
the
movementforward
through
the
statement
ofgeneralitiesorprinciples,whichare
then
challengedbyconcretecounterexamples(e.g.:"God
is
aliveeverytime.
God
never,neverdies...Goddied"),followedin
tum
by
an
extendedsearchforaresolutionofcontradictionsthrough
the
makingofconnections(uGod
was
alive
when
dinosaurswere
downonthe
ground-)anddistinctions.
As
always
inthe
functionof
the
community
of
inquiry,thereis
the
taking
of
roles,
the
positioningofoneself
withinthe
conversation,apositioningdeterminedbyphilosophicalexperienceand
authority
structure
(Mi
chael'smother,forexample,
is
quiteconsciouslynota
61

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