One of the great benefits of teaching is the conversations that you have with children.
A child at recess today showed me her “secret hideout” for drawing pictures.
“Only villains have secret hideouts,” I said. “You must be a villain.”
“What about Batman?” the girl countered. “He has a hideout.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But isn’t he a little bit bad, too? Almost a villain?”
A girl who had been listening to this exchange jumped in. “No,” she said. “Batman’s just depressed, which makes sense. He watched his parents die, his only friend is an old British man, and the bad guys are always trying to kill his girlfriend. Also he dressed like a bat, but that might be because he’s depressed.”
Pretty astute, I thought.
A little while later I saw one of my students trying to sneak up behind me, probably with the intent to startle me.
I’m exceptionally easily to startle thanks to decades of PTSD, and some of my students have figured it out.
“Are you being bad?” I asked.
“I’m not bad,” he said, looking a little startled himself. “I eat my sandwich first, and then I eat my dessert.”
He was serious, too. The definition of goodness. Sandwich first. Dessert second.
That, my friends, is the wisdom of youth.
It’s also a very low bar for good vs. evil. A frighteningly low bar.