Thank goodness children are not like (some) adults

FRIDAY, 30 NOVEMBER 2012

As a child, you don’t automatically know how to play chess. You don’t know how to ride a bike, or how to do ballet or play football. You don’t know how to use a computer. You don’t even know how to read or write until you’re taught how.

As a child, you almost never wavered when it came to something new you had to master. You just did what you were told. You kept trying, and after a few months or a few years you could play chess, ride a bike, play football, or do ballet. You learned to read and write, and eventually you learned how to use a computer.

Why then, as adults, do so many people doubt their ability to learn something new?

“I don’t know how,” the man or woman will mutter.

“I’m too old to learn something new,” the 30 or 40 or 50-year old man or woman will say.

“No, good grief! There’s no chance that I’ll be able to do that!” one person will opine, safe in the knowledge that at least a handful of other adults in the area will support them in their belief that they are unable to do something.

Can you imagine if children suffered from the same malady?

“Oh no, Daddy, that bicycle is so big. I’m going to fall off and hurt my toe,” little Johnny might say, and then he’ll walk away and go sit under a tree.

“Those dances look so difficult, Mommy! I can’t do them!” little Joanna might say, and then refuse to get out of the car at the ballet class.

“Chess seems so complicated …”

“I don’t know how to draw those curls and lines like the other boys and girls in class …”

“You know I’m afraid of mice, and the computer always makes such funny noises …”

The end of civilisation as we know it. The beginning of Zombieland.

“If you think you can do something, or if you think you cannot do something, you’re right,” Henry Ford advised.

What I want to know is what kind of example do people think they set for the next generation if, at the age of 25 or 40 or 50, they stop believing they can master anything new.

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