What if There Was a Website That Answered Kids Questions in an Age Appropriate and Non-Partisan Manner?

June 21, 2019 – It is the summer solstice today and the day when the sun sets in Toronto after 9 p.m. and light lingers to nearly 10. The day to night ratio at this time of year is about 16 hours of light to 8 hours of darkness. Of course, at the winter solstice, this all reverses creating some very long, dark nights. So for those of you who read this blog, and are in the northern hemisphere at a mid-latitude or higher, celebrate the fleeting light because we don’t have it for very long.

But I digress. I wanted to relay information about a site that I came across when at Collision 2019 back in May of this year. It is called Explanation Kids. I met Michelle Millben, the site’s CEO and Founder and we talked about the importance of giving young people answers to questions that do not reflect bias.

On the website, you find the following quote.

“Teachers and parents are struggling with how to talk about complex issues facing this country. Student’s need empathetic age-appropriate language that provides nonpartisan, trustworthy, and clear information that entertains while also protects their emotional health. Don’t worry: we’re here to help.”

The country referenced above is the United States. Millben is a former government wonk who worked in the Obama administration. Her concern, in the Age of Trump, is how easily youth can be exposed to misleading information and lies, often coming from those deemed to be authorities because of age and position.

It’s easy to see why today, one should be concerned about being exposed to misinformation. And it’s not just kids who are victims.

The Tale of the Brexit Lie

A few days ago I listened to my brother-in-law spout “facts” that were indeed not facts in a discussion about Brexit and the future of the European Union. He talked about a “fact” that served the Brexiteers in the vote back in June of 2016, the £350 million a week claim that Boris Johnson perpetrated on the British public during the campaign.

It was only after the vote when the British people narrowly supported leaving the European Union (EU), that Brexiteers (not Boris mind you ) admitted the figure was an outright lie. It was for two reasons:

  • the amount of money Britain was contributing to the EU was in fact around £250 million weekly
  • and that didn’t include the money the EU was sending to Britain for projects in poorer regions of the country for infrastructure, agricultural subsidies, regional grants, and transportation, amounting to more than £90 million per week.

So the net money flowing to the EU was, in fact about £160 million, not £350 million.

Since the vote the United Kingdom has been torn apart by the post-vote debate and is limping towards a disastrous ending later this year in which the country will leave without dealing with the fallout of severing the tie with the EU.

When I brought the facts to my brother-in-law’s attention, he said “I did not know that.”

Consider that my brother-in-law is in his mid-70s, and capable of being misled by misinformation, what chance do children have when confronted with lies told by adults and delivered as truths?

Lying Comes With Horrific Consequences

The world has seen many regimes and demagogues bend the truth over the centuries. We have had monsters like Adolf Hitler spin a web of hate and anti-semitic vitriol that mobilized an entire nation to commit genocide and war on a global scale.

In the United States, the justification for institutionalized slavery was built into the Constitution of the country and lingers within it to this day. The latest attempt by the Trump administration to alter census gathering with the addition of a citizenship question smacks of just how much racism continues to linger in the country.

Before slavery was abolished the Constitution for the purposes of the census gave slave states enumeration rights defining slaves as 3/5ths of a person, counted but yet without citizenship, without personal freedoms, and done with the blessing of the democratic institutions of the country.

When I met Millben at Collision 2019 she was asking people to come up with an issue that is shaping the world. I decided to pick the lack of action by government in dealing with climate change as an issue I felt young people needed to better understand in light of the lies being told by the Trump administration.

Millben thanked me for bringing up the issue which she then formulated into a question written on a large display card. She then took my photograph with the card in hand.

What I hope has ensued is that this issue is being discussed in a truthful, non-partisan way with children by parents and teachers who have the facts in hand so that young people can better understand what is needed to ensure their future.

A final note

In Canada, the arrival of the summer solstice, the longest day of daylight, gets celebrated by our Indigenous people across the country starting with sunrise ceremonies, pow wows, and friendly games and contests. Canada has declared June 21st to be National Indigenous Peoples Day across the country, a day to consider new possibilities, and recognize that light and warmth are fleeting and that we should seize the day, carpe diem.

On that note, I wish all my First Nations’ friends here in Toronto a wonderful and “mino-niibin.” I hope I got the wording right for “good summer.”

Note: For the next two weeks I won’t be posting new articles here at 21stcentech.com. My wife and I are off to a wedding in California followed by a bucket-list drive up the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Vancouver. I should be back at my desk writing about the future of science, technology, and other matters by July 5th.

For my Canadian readers, a Happy Canada Day. And for my American readers, a Happy Fourth of July.

 

 


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...

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