Friday, November 12, 2010

frog flatulence

My daughters and I argue.  A lot.  To be clear, we don't argue much about chores, homework, or attitude.  I'm thankful to say God has blessed us in that regard.  Rather, we pick things at random to argue about, and it drives Letha (mom) crazy.  We'll argue about important things, and we'll argue about immaterial things.  We currently have several on-going arguments, the most heated and protracted of which is whether or not frogs fart.  Isabella is contending that they do not, but she has yet to overcome my arguments to the contrary.

Isabella knows an amazing amount of information about animals.  She regularly surprises me with her knowledge and understanding, and it doesn't bother me at all to be educated by her.  But her assertion regarding frog flatulence simply did not fly, and I called her on it.  Thus, the debate began.  Now, you may have exhaustive knowledge of a frog's alimentary system and whether or not they do in fact pass gas, but that's hardly the point.  The point is the lack of strength in her assertion and the value of constantly challenging her to think.  She tried to appeal to "books she had read", but I demanded references she could not produce.  She tried to appeal to weak classifications and common behavior.  Nope.  She tried to shift the burden of proof to me suggesting I should prove they do have gas; however, she had already thrown down the gauntlet and assumed the burden of proof.  The debate rages on, and she valiantly refuses to concede.

Sunday, we pulled off of the highway in Letha's truck, and the discussion turned to the fact that we hadn't yet put her "Mom's Taxi" keychain fob on her keyring.  "But mom isn't our taxi.  We don't order her around and pay her to drive us places." said Isabella.  Clearly, she was inviting a full frontal assault with that kind of wishy-washy proposition.  She had made a statement, "mom isn't our taxi" backed with a practical ground.  "What is the definition of 'taxi'?" I asked.  She didn't know and said as much.  "No, Isabella, you've missed the point."  "What point?" she asked suspiciously.  I began unpacking for her that her precise knowledge about the definition of the word "taxi" wasn't her strongest tactic, or at least it was a difficult one to win.  In the moment, her strongest strategy was common usage of the term "taxi".  It didn't matter that she couldn't recite the perfect definition, she was using the word in the common sense.  She could've argued effectively from that fortification every bit as long as she's argued against frog flatulence.

I ask my girls to solve thinking puzzles such as, "If you were to shrink down to the size of a piece of gravel, and you were able to ride on the tire of the car like a ferris wheel (say you were stuck in the tread of the tire), how fast would you be going compared to the ground at a) the bottom of the tire, b) the halfway point of the tire, and c) the top of the tire."  No, you don't have to know formal algebra to solve the riddle; although, algebra is used whether you intend to or not.  You don't have to know what angular velocity means, but you have to think through the concept that has that label.  All you need is basic arithmetic, and a deliberate, observant exercise of thinking.  Walking them through the thought process, I'll ask, "What noise would the tire make if, at the bottom of the tire, the piece of gravel stuck in the tread was going any speed compared to the ground?"  The answer is, of course, "screeeeeeech!"  Great!  Where the tire touches the ground, there's no forward speed compared to the ground.  What about at the middle (where the hub is)?  Well, the hub is attached to the car; so, it's going however fast the car is.  If the car is moving forward at 60 mph, the center of the wheel is going forward compared to the ground at 60 mph.  Now, how fast would the pebble be going forward compared to the ground at the top of the tire?  Think!

The point isn't to irritate mom.  The point isn't to torture my daughters, nor is it just a diversion for me.  All those things are side-benefits to be sure, but the real point is to develop intentional thought in my beautiful, amazingly intelligent daughters.  It isn't enough that they can remember facts, and it isn't enough that they can perform finite tasks as expected.  As a society, we push for reading without pushing for comprehension.  We push for assertiveness without pushing for effectiveness.  We, as parents, have a tremendous opportunity every day to encourage critical thinking!  I'm raising women who will be deluged with manipulated statistics, pulled upon by the undertow of perverse worldviews, and overwhelmed with faulty thinking.  I want them to have some weapons.  I want them to be able to rightly discern truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

I want Isabella to concede the point that frogs fart; however, I'd rather she prove me wrong.

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