Tell the truth. It’s always best to tell the truth. I was taught this as a child and have passed it on without too much thought to my own children.
I was born in South Africa and immigrated to England when I was eleven. My parents, who cared strongly about education, moved us over at the end of the British summer. This was the beginning of the new school year, which was right in the middle of the South African school year (summer in South Africa is in December). This is relevant for two major reasons. Firstly, I cared more strongly about vacation vs. education (I mean who doesn’t). More importantly, I was in a relatively unique situation of experiencing two different cultures and two very different schooling systems within a week of each other, without a break, school seamlessly continuing.
We were studying the Boer Wars in history the week I left South Africa. For those of you not thoroughly up to date with your Boer War history – this was a series of wars between the British settlers and the Afrikaners/Boers (the Dutch Settlers) at the beginning of the Twentieth Century set in a young South Africa.
Amazingly, the week that school began in London, we also commenced the study of these same Boer Wars. Richly descriptive textbooks described the details of these wars. There was just a “minor” discrepancy in the clearly delineated black and white text – according to the South African textbooks, the Boers won the wars, according to the British textbooks, the British were the clear victors. I was eleven and NOT confused at all.
It clarified that if we look beneath the surface, that all “facts” that we read are to be double checked and then some. But how do we teach our children these concepts? My kids love telling me that I need to stop getting my source information from Facebook – a valid point. However, a lot of breaking news recently has hit Facebook before it hits the main media – for instance the recent “Women’s Marches” were all over Facebook for weeks and only hit the national and international media after the events. My youngest child loves telling me to check my sources, and apparently the Washington Post is the mecca of integrity. I hope you deserve the integrity placed upon you, Washington Post, ‘cos from the Boer Wars onward, I have been wary of all “facts” written in black and white. Winston Churchill’s quote “History is written by the victors” seems very appropriate in this day and age.
So who won the Boer War? I went online. It’s still unclear. Perhaps it’s still being fought between the British, the Afrikaners and the Zulus? (I know my South African readers are probably getting ready to respond with massive opinions about my lack of knowledge right now – had I continued to live there I might want to respond too. However, I am distanced by my move many years ago, for better or for worse.) All that I am left with is that these two cultures came away with two very different truths.
As you know, I am in the storytelling business. I am constantly asked questions by kids like, “Are you real?” or “Is the tooth fairy real?” In the world of fiction, everything is clear. Fiction is fiction.
Back to the world of facts: is a fact a fact? What is fact and what is opinion? Thus I pose this question to you all… How does one teach one’s own child to find the truth? Especially when the majority of us are putting our faith in the school system… And sometimes two different schools in two different countries will teach two opposite truths.