Have you ever noticed how in movies, the adults never trust or even listen to the kids? Why does this happen and why do so many adults have a hard time treating kids like regular people?
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So, have you ever noticed in movies, and I feel like especially in movies, when you and I were kids, that the adults never believe or trust the kids? Right. It’s so funny to me and their concerns, you know, the kids are always like, oh, there’s this ghost haunting us, or there’s people out to get us. And the adults are always like, oh, you guys are being silly, or You’re being ridiculous. That couldn’t happen. And obviously, to be fair, Peter Pan, I remember that movie, there was that Grumpy dad, but I can’t remember his name. And you know, he’s like, there is no Peter Pan, and I guess in the real world that could make some sense. But, you know, in the movie then Peter Pan comes right away and he takes ’em to Neverland. It’s just this, this funny, story of kids not being heard, kids not being seen. it actually, I remember the book, which we love Little House on the Prairie here. ’cause the writers were both very awesome, strong women. However, I remember hearing something in one of the books and it was, children should be seen and not heard. Have you heard that? Saying before? No, that’s like one of the dads, like the dad in the book, like keeps saying like, children should be seen and not heard, basically dismissing anything that he said. And I was like, oh my goodness, how crazy. But Connor, can you think of another example of movies or shows or something in pop culture where this has happened, where the kids are just ignored?
Connor: Oh, gosh. this would require me to be more of a movie buff than I feel like, Honey, I Shrunk, the Kids is coming to mind, back in the day. Or like Jumanji, you know, Jumanji
Brittany: Is a great one.
Connor: And, but definitely like the theme that you’re talking about speaks to me because it feels like that is, a recurring theme where it’s like, you know, the, the, the kids are having this experience and, and I feel like, in fact, in the, I think it was in our last episode, we were talking with Rebecca about different education, and I know sometimes for parents it’s like, oh, I went to public school and I was fine, therefore you’ll be fine too. And it’s like, parents can’t seem to realize that their children’s lives are different. Their experiences are different. And so we kind of project ourselves onto our kids, right? So in these movies, these stories where the kids are like, this is happening, the parents are filtering this through their own understanding, and then probably being like, ah, that could never happen. Oh no, you’re totally wrong.
Brittany: Yeah. And I think that also just kind of goes to show you that kids have this innovative streak. I almost wanna say that is so even more advanced than adults. ’cause we get so stuck in our way of thinking that sometimes you forget like, oh, the kids are actually, they’ve actually got some ideas that I would’ve never thought of. So I think that’s kind of a little lesson we can take from that too. But, so these are obviously fictional scenarios, right? Peter Pan, all these Jumanji, which is a great movie by the way. But we’ve talked about this before, that humans love fiction and it holds kind of a mirror up to our own lives. And so the things that we learn in stories, they do have universal truths, you know, in ancient cultures, people used to gather around the fire and hear stories, and it was gonna give them a lesson in real life. So that’s what I wanna bring this in, is because we see this in movies, we see this in, in pop culture where the kids are just dismissed. But it happens in the real world too. Especially, I mean, public, you wanna, you know, proof of this. Look at any public school, any, you know, time. A kid will say something in the, if the teacher doesn’t agree, they’ll just say, oh, you don’t, you know, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Hopefully, they won’t say it that meanly. But I don’t know. Public schools a whole thing.
Connor: I called this Brittany. I, there’s probably, I’m sure this is like a term, but it feels, you know, there’s like racist and sexist and things like that. I, always thought this was ageist. You know, to have old people dismiss young people because of their ideas. I remember, you know, just after college, I’m this young 20-something, so I’m not a kid, but I’m a very young adult. And I started doing things with adults, you know, working in this political arena with adults much more experienced. And they felt like because they were older, they were right. In fact, this is a very, long story that I’ll make super, super brief. The way I started Libertas Institute, my think tank is because, the head of another think tank, the Sutherland Institute, which was here in Utah already. He came over to my home and he basically said, Hey, I know you’re working on a book. You shouldn’t write that book. I was like, what are you talking about? He’s like, well, I used to believe in libertarian ideas, but I grew out of it. And I’m glad that I never like, published anything when I was young. ’cause I wouldn’t want that associated with me now. So I’m here to kind of, you know, suggest that you probably shouldn’t publish this book because one day you might regret it when you grow out of these ideas. I was like, gimme a break, man. Just ’cause you changed your mind doesn’t mean like all young people are going to no longer believe in liberty and like sell out, you know? And so to me, it was this ageist thing. and so that conversation is actually what led to me coming up with the idea later for Libertas Institute and starting my organization. Weird as it was that he was there to suggest that to me. But I felt, as a young person, I’m like, are you claiming that just because you’re older, you’re right? Because that’s not how the world works. You know, there are plenty of old people who are totally wrong about things, and there are old people who disagree with one another. So it can’t be that just because you’re older means that you’re correct, because plenty of old people have wildly different, you know, ideas and beliefs. And so how can we tolerate this, situation in which just because you’re older, you know, we can disbelieve the kids? Now granted, you know, when you’re young, you lack maturity. In a lot of cases. Your prefrontal cortex in your brain hasn’t fully developed and everything. But that doesn’t mean that kids can’t latch onto true ideas or have valid experiences that, you know, really happened when like, in, you know, stranger Things or others, Hey, this happened. And then you know, adults don’t believe them. it doesn’t mean that adults are right, just ’cause they’re adults.
Brittany: I think that’s really true. And I think even all these examples lead up to a bigger thing, which is I think we forget to treat kids like they’re people, which is crazy to me, you know? So what do you mean by that?
Connor: Expand on what you mean by that.
Brittany: So, I know that you know, with my niece and nephews, and I’m not a parent, and with my students, especially my old students, I used to try to talk to them like they were on my level, right? I didn’t condescend to them, might be a good way to say it. Okay. Treat them like, because they’re so young, they are not capable of handling responsibility or dealing with complex problems and trying to talk it out. And yes, you’re right. Like they’re not, kids’ brains are not fully developed, right? In fact, I think your brain’s not fully developed till like 27.
Connor: Yeah, something like that.
Brittany: It’s been a while. But I found as a teacher that when you talk to kids as like, as if they are grownups kind of, and if you treat them like that, if you give them the responsibility that maybe other people think they can’t handle, they will mature even quicker because they’re like, oh, okay, I can handle this. Let me try to handle something even bigger now let me try to handle something even more. So it’s amazing what can happen when you start treating them like an equal, I guess you could say.
Connor: Well, this was, I think, the magic behind our Tuttle twins books that Elijah and I didn’t really plan, but after doing this a couple of years, all these parents were reaching out to us to say, my gosh, my kids have, you know, learned so many things. They love these books, they’re amazing, blah, blah. And we’re like, okay, like, that’s cool, but these are kids’ books. Like, why are we having this like really strong reaction? why are pa parents telling us that their kids are, you know, we had one mom that was like, my, my kids hate to read. They won’t read any books, but they’ll read your books. I was like, well, why? Like, what’s like, is it Elijah’s illustrations, which are top-notch? You know, I writing, it’s so, so whatever. Like, what’s doing it? And so we started asking this question to a lot of parents, like, help us understand, you know, why your kids are really gravitating towards these books compared to other books or notebooks at all. And the answer in Reply consistently was that their kids really liked the intellectual challenge. It’s that these are adult ideas that we’re talking to kids about. It’s not a fluffy little kid story. Like Sally, and you know, Bobby went to the park and they slid down the slide and played on the playground, you know, like, who Caress, right? But here we are talking about real-world ideas with kids. We’re helping them understand, like, the name of our podcast suggests the way the world works. And here’s the thing, Brittany, and I think this is kind of what you were saying a moment ago. My observation from all of this is that every kid wants to be a big kid and every big kid wants to be an adult, and they’re always kind of, you know, they wanna seed at the cool table, right? Like, you remember family reunions and all the parents would get, you know, and the teenagers, they’d get like the big table and you had to sit at the little kids’ table and like.
Brittany: I’m still at the kids’ table, Connor.
Connor: Okay, well you’re, and that’s my choice.
Brittany: No, it’s not.
Connor: And so, well then your relatives need to invest in a larger table, I guess, to accommodate inaudible. So, but we have that feeling right, of like, oh, when I was a kid, I felt that way. I wanna sit with them. I don’t wanna sit with all these little kids. So we kind of yearn for, you know the maturity when we’re a kid, we want to be, you know, treated older and kind of interact with those people. So I feel like that’s the magic of our books is that we’re challenging these kids to learn these kinds of quote-unquote, adult big kid ideas. And so, I think it shows the power of, you know, treating kids like adults. Like you’re saying. There’s a fantastic book I recommend for parents. It’s called Free to Learn by Peter Gray. And, in the book, he talks about how throughout human history, like you said Brittany, earlier around the campfire sharing stories, you know, playing these games, like kids would learn by pretending to be adults, right? They would, the girls would pretend to, you know, cook and clean and so forth. And the boys would.
Brittany: We call ’em play house. We used to play house.
Connor: Exactly. Yeah. The boys would pretend to hunt and fight and, you know, all these things. And so by pretending they were learning and they were mimicking until they actually, you know, gained the actual skills to do it. And this is how, so, like, human societies all over the world, all over history have done it. It’s only this modern arbitrary thing where we go sit ’em at a desk for hours a day during the most formative years. I mean, we’ve all, I think we’ve said on the podcast before, Brittany, you can’t teach surfing by reading in a book, right? No. You gotta get out and get wet, get on the board, and try. And so that’s the problem with school, is it’s preventing kids from mimicking, from playing. And maybe I’ll put you on the spot here, Brittany, we didn’t plan to talk about this. You’re familiar with the Sudbury School?
Brittany: Yes. That’s, you know, yes. But I don’t know a whole lot about it. I have a friend that uses it.
Connor: Okay. I’ll share, and then you can react to it then. So in this book, free to Learn, Peter Gray, Dr. Gray is like a psychologist. He reviews all these kids who’ve gone to Sudbury school. It, this school was started in like the sixties by hippies in Massachusetts. And the school is governed entirely by kids. They run the government of the school and they hire and fire the teachers. And it’s basically unschooling. There’s no classes, there’s no curriculum. It’s just basically open days where kids learn what they want and there’s adults there to kind of guide and, you know, mentor and help. But the adults never initiate anything. Kids have to come to an adult and say, Hey, can you help me with this? Or, Hey, I wanna learn how to play the guitar, or, you know, whatever the kids initiate. And then the adults are there to support them. And so that’s like a radically different way than, you know, public schooling and most homeschooling. And that has a lot of structure. So Dr. Gray, in his book, he shows, you know, a lot of these adults who went to Sudbury school as a kid, and he looks at them kind of over the decades of their lives and shows how they outperform all of their schooled peers, like on every metric. I mean, their financially, professionally successful, their happiness is off the charts, their self-worth, their self-confidence. You know, because since a young age, they were being empowered and entrusted with their own lives. It’s like when I would put my kids on my lap in the car and let them hold the steering wheel. Yeah, like the sheer joy on their face, you know, by having a little bit of control, granted, I’m holding on to, we’re all safe, right? But like, the ability to determine the direction was exhilarating to them. And so here we are as parents with our kids’ lives, it’s like they’re on the bus. So we say, okay, go sit in the backseat. And we’re the ones driving around where they need to go, when they’re gonna stop when they’re gonna get out. Imagine if we let kids be in the driver’s seat of their own lives, right? So imagine here to the point of our podcast, like, if we trust kids enough to let them be making decisions for themselves to be guiding what they wanna learn, what they wanna focus on, to be honoring their interests, and allowing them to say, this is what I wanna focus on, not what you wanna force me to learn. I’d like to learn about this. So I think trusting the kids is more than just trusting that what they say is true. It’s about trusting them with determining kind of the direction of their own life.
Brittany: Yeah. No, I agree with you. I’m curious. So wait, what? You said you were on a call or, put me on the spot. So what is the question?
Connor: Oh, yeah, here. I’m being a bad interviewer. So, then the reaction that I want to get from you, Brittany, is it feels like a lot of parents would be terrified by that model. You’ve been a teacher, your school was, you know, structured, you had kind of classes and curriculum and so forth. And so why do you suppose that we as adults would be nervous about trusting kids that much? It, there’s a spectrum. It doesn’t have to be totally unschooling and total structure on the other end. There’s a spectrum of different things, of course. But the question is, you know, why do you think that we as adults are nervous to trust kids with their own lives to give them that type of freedom?
Brittany: I think a lot of it is just programming. It’s what we’ve been told forever, right? And if you’re told over and over again that kids aren’t capable of self-governance, of, you know, having self-responsibility, then you’re just gonna believe it and it’s gonna become a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? People look at books like, what is it? Lord of the Flies? It’s a terrible book. Where it’s like, oh, the kids don’t have adults around and it’s chaos. It’s pure chaos. You know? And it’s that is just the narrative as they say. Like, that’s just what we’ve been taught. And I can tell you as a teacher, it was scary. It was really scary for me, and it was scary for the kids. I remember there was one time, right? We always kind of try to trip them up with putting something wrong on the board and giving them the opportunity to call me out to show that adults were not always right. It was the kids that had a hard time with that. I had a kid have a meltdown because of his whole belief, and it’s funny, he’s actually from Russia, so I sometimes I wonder if that’s a cultural thing too, but he was very upset because he’s like, you are the authority. You are the one that’s supposed to tell us what truth is. And I was like, but isn’t it great that I’m not, like, isn’t it great that I’m giving you that freedom? And he was like, I’d rather you just tell me. So it was like the responsibility was too much. So it was hard for me, and it was hard for some of the students, but I saw that kids do incredibly amazing things, and I saw them being able to govern themselves and have responsibility. So I learned, I think, just as much as they did.
Connor: Well, a final message we’ll leave the kids with is, you know, trust is earned. And so when trust is violated, it’s hard to get it back. It takes a while. So for the kids out there who want to be trusted more, who want to have more of a say in your lives, who want the adults to listen to you, to believe you, right? Like of course, we can’t give them reasons not to, we can’t lie, you know, to them, we can’t misrepresent what we’re doing. We can’t be deceitful. and if we’re given kind of the trust to be in the driver’s seat of our own lives, we shouldn’t crash the bus, right? Like, we should be trying to make good decisions, ask for help, ask for support, ask parents, teachers, guides, mentors, whoever. But you know, let’s get the support we need and then make good decisions. Because when we make good decisions, when we’re trustworthy, right, people will trust us more. We’ll be able to have more freedom and act even more. So we’ll leave you guys with that, an important topic that we could spend a lot more time talking on. But we’ll end there today. Brittany, as always, thank you. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.