The Shift From Child to Adult

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Questions, Intuitions, Revisions: Storytelling as Inquiry

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The Shift From Child to Adult

Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle

There is something fundamentally different between being a child and being an adult. There are the obvious differences of course: height, life experience, pure knowledge, coordination, etc. But, these things only form the basis for the fundamental difference between children and adults, they are only surface differences. The fundamental difference between children and adults is how we view the world and our willingness to question the world around us. This is what makes children and adults two separate groups. But what brings about this difference? Why do we change in such a drastic way?

First lets look at how children view and move through the world. A child views the world through new, fresh eyes. They have not seen many things before, their lives are about exploring and learning. Children are told stories about the world, they are told what to do and what not to do. However, children never take these stories as pure fact; they explore and discover on their own. Time and time again you see a child touch something hot or sharp or eat something they have been told not to. Questioning is a huge part of their lives. Many times when you watch children exploring the world around them, you will witness the child reaching the same conclusion as the stories they were told. A child will also come to see that the sky is blue, that hot and sharp things hurt, that some things are not for eating. Through questioning children cement societies stories in their heads. Though, they may forget these stories occasionally, they still help form the child.

Sometimes, however, children will question the world around them and come to a different conclusion than the stories that they have been told. When they do, children believe with all their hearts that they are right and want everyone else to understand what they do as well. Children will insist that people listen to them and that they are right. How many times have children said the phrase, "No, but just listen to me," to their friends and to their families? Children do not take what people tell them as pure fact, they want to find out for themselves. More importantly, when children find out something different from the stories they have heard, children do not question themselves but instead the world around them. Even if children ultimately forgo their idea and wind up agreeing with society, the important part is that they are willing to question the world around them.

Adults, on the other hand, are very different. Adults have heard societies stories all their lives and when they were children they too questioned these stories. But over time adults begin to lose this questioning aspect. They just begin to take the stories they hear as fact or just dismiss them all together. They do not bother to explore or to try and find out the truth for themselves. When an adult hears that we live in a three dimensional world, they just believe it. They do not bother to explore and try to figure out whether we actually do. As children grow into adults something changes within them to make them lose that questioning. Something makes them accept societies stories.

There must be many factors at work in making children stop questioning as they change to adults. Children believe in questioning so strongly that they will drop everything to do so; something that is believed in so strongly is hard to lose. One of these factors must be societal pressures. Society is very reluctant to give up its stories. Children do not pose an actual threat in changing these stories because, after all, they are only children and no one really pays attention to children. But as they grow, they begin to be able to express themselves better and to provide evidence for their findings. As children grow they become more convincing and a greater danger to societies ideas. It becomes more and more of a social faux pas to change the stories of society. Adults have a very high chance of being mocked or ostracized from society for trying to change a well known story. This fact is made to known to children as they grow and this discourages them from trying to change stories any more.

Another reason is that as children grow they question everything around them. But, practically every time they find that the stories they heard were right. When they find that something or someone is right time and time again, what is the point of questioning anymore? Questioning will just waste valuable time, it becomes easier to just accept what they are told. Questioning almost becomes a sort of rebellion against society, while accepting is the obvious choice. There is no question that 2 plus 2 equals 4 so why should they keep questioning everything else.

The fundamental difference between adults and children is their willingness to question. Adults stop questioning the world around them for many reasons, reasons that may never be fully understood. Occasionally there is an adult that does keep questioning the world and does change a story that the world tells. These adults are viewed as renegades, they are somehow different from the rest of society; these adults are almost big children. A child questions the world around them and struggles to really understand what they are told. Is it better to just accept everything you are told, or to question everything? There must be some sort of balance between the two. That balance is what every person has to find for themselves, because that balance ultimately helps form who each person is.

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