Long story short, I worry about my child learning creationism.
A while back I took the family to see a traveling dinosaur exhibition. That alone should have been a recipe for success; seeing things that are awesome with people I love. The problems encountered on this particular adventure where threefold – location, location, location.
Firstly, location. Our city has both kinds of weather: Fucking Hot and Fucking Cold. What makes the jarring swing between these two extremes bearable is that the sky is consistently gray. We stood in line for the dino event in a type of rain/hail/snow/freezing mist that 12 hours previous had been a balmy overcast 70 degrees.
Secondly, location. The exhibition hall was far too small to contain its fiberglass dinosaurs, several bouncy castles, a mini golf game, a jungle gym, three sprawling collections of shitty plastic “toys” for sale, and a petting zoo. Luckily the eye stinging haze of uric acid from 30 overfed and under-cleaned sheep and pigs helped beat back some of the ashtray fumes emanating from everyone’s NASCAR jacket. Which leads me to…
Thirdly, fucking location. If you haven’t by now guessed, I live in the heart of the center of the middle of the Midwest. I bet the exact epicenter of the Midwest is five feet three inches in front of my house and two feet to the left. This could be accurately calculated by scientists if science was used around here for anything other than on-demand TV and fast cars that turn left.
I milled through the throngs of real ‘mericans who were escaping the weather with their kids the same as I was. Just like me they herded their children through the event and tried to drown out the cacophony of 500 people in a tiny steel and concrete enclosure. We were all the same on some level at that overpriced shout-fest. How I differed from most of them was in the way I explained these plastic creatures to my kid. The main display had a selection of the more recognizable dinosaurs (T-Rex, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, Pterodactyl, etc) and something I found a bit strange – a huge woolly mammoth and caveman.
I don’t expect the average citizen to know that the T-Rex lived during the early Cretaceous period and that woolly mammoths roamed the earth in the Pleistocene era- and to be fair they were two of the better statues on display. However, I did have a bit of a problem with the fact that the caveman was more or less leaning on the leg of the T-Rex as if they were on coffee break, bitching about their shitty day (“Mammoths, right? Don’t get me started, Rexxy, don’t get me started.”). When The Child asked if the two were friends, I informed her that no, they never really met, though the caveman was friends with the furry elephant.
I tell my child these things because I find the wonder of the actual world to be so much more rich and rewarding than the implausible myths of religion. The Midwest can be a very religious place, yes, but I grew up here and my schooling was mainly based in science. The god I grew up with was Santa Claus for adults, and his place-holding existence was filled with logic and science just as easily as Saint Nick was explained away by an attic full of hidden xmas presents.
As parents it helps to have stories to tell our children that bridge the gap between expected social behavior and an age of understanding for that behavior. Why can’t you have chocolate for breakfast or poop on the city bus? Because gypsies will steal you away, that’s why. You’ll understand when you’re 30. The thing I have a problem with is using misleading stories to gloss over phenomenon that are easily explained. Like when The Child asked why shadows moved, I showed her with a couple of balls and a lamp. “That’s cool,” she said.
At a bookstore this morning The Child was looking at pictures showing the bones in a human hand and the bones in a bat’s wing. She immediately noticed how they were the similar, and I told her that they both changed over time, one adapting for flying and the other for playing video games. I told her this was called evolution. A woman nearby overheard me and made a sad Tssk-ing sound and mumbled what sounded like “oh lord forgive him.” This is what we call a teachable moment. So I told The Child that some people think the bones are that way because of magic.
My kid said, “No, Dad, magic is just in books. It’s not real.”
Now I worry a little less.