Friday, 30 March 2012

Telling the kids

The three Rs are all very well, but how does one teach kids about liars? Surely lies are an important and endemic fact of life, so kids should know about them from an early age and know how to spot them.

How about Father Christmas, or Santa? Or fairy stories with witches, goblins and talking animals? Do we take all this colour from their lives in the name of veracity? Are we blurring the boundaries from an early age? Yet even if we don’t know the truth of something we can surely tell them so can’t we?

This is after all partly how climate science slipped in under the radar. Too many of us clearly didn’t know enough about uncertainty and how intrinsic it is to scientific investigations. Scientists are not supposed to be certain of anything, so the liars and the fools made hay at our expense and continue to do so even now, well after their spurious claims to certainty have been thoroughly punctured.

Whose fault is that?

There are two main types of liar we all need to know about because we’ll meet them and have to deal with them, decide whether or not to vote for them.

Compulsive liars lie out of habit, usually learned at an early age. Compulsive liars don’t necessarily gain from their lies, they just lie automatically and find it difficult not to lie.

Sociopaths use lies to get their own way with no real concern for the effect of their lies on other people. These are the tricky ones.

It isn’t particularly difficult to spot liars. For example, it’s a worthwhile tactic to class all politicians as liars – it save time and effort. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we tell kids how prevalent lying is, how bad it is for society and who the main culprits are?


Sam Vega said...

Blurring the boundaries is fine. Children need to learn the difference between being nice and nasty; and also between truth and falsehood. There are many cases when falsehood is absolutely fine. Compliments, secrets about birthday presents, and fictions, for example.

We can teach children that falsehood is fine, except when it is accompanied by nastiness. The politician and the fraudster are not in the same league as the novelist, or even the harmless bloke who shouts out that the end of the world is nigh.

James Higham said...

You don't have any particular instances in mind, do you, AKH?

A K Haart said...

Sam - I'm not so sure. Johnson was hot on the evils of falsehood from a slippery slope angle and I suspect he was right even though I'm uncomfortable with absolutes.

Of course it led Johnson to be incredibly rude at times and that doesn't feel right either.

James - as you know, with me it's always the climate guys.