I’ve always been fascinated by how people think, how they got to the conclusion they did — it’s what made me a good teacher when I first started my career.
The other day Archie asked me how old his new little second cousin Amelia is. “Grammie, is baby Amelia one or zero?” I was driving the car, so I gave a distracted answer. “Honey, baby Amelia is a month old. It will be a long time before she’s one.”
He was adamant. “No, Grammie. If she’s not one, she’s zero. Baby Amelia is zero. Then when she has her birthday, she’ll be one. One comes after zero.”
I stopped to consider, trying to focus on driving at the same time. Given the numerical understanding he has, I can see how he came to his conclusion. He doesn’t yet know about fractional numbers, and he doesn’t know we count age in months and years, not just years. Archie takes great pride in his ability to count. He knows, with great certainty, that one comes after zero.
Matt is actually great at explaining numbers to Archie, so I’m going to enlist Dad’s help in presenting this new numerical concept.
Archie wasn’t right in naming little Amelia’s age, but he was correct given the level of understanding he has to work with. Now that we see how he is thinking, we can help him fill in the new understanding he needs.
I often skip this step with adults, assuming they should “know better” or “get their critical thinking skills in gear”. I’ve done a lot of that with regard to Trump and his supporters.
The question for me is whether voters will pay attention long enough to learn why one proposal or action is factually better than another, or whether we’ve entered the age of reality TV where all that matters is appearance and tweets. God help our democracy if the latter.