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Andy’s Notes - March 2018

by Adam / Apr 11, 2018


NOT NICE, MR. PRESIDENT!

Hello BFI community,

Recently when BFI was invited to table at the Seattle release of Dave Eggers’ new book, The Monk of Mokha, Dave requested from the stage that I speak to people interested in BFI after the reading. My response was ‘If they’re nice,’ which I think we can all agree, was a pretty hare-brained thing to do. 

In my defense, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about basic concepts of social behavior like being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or, as in this case, ‘nice’. It is astounding, heartwarming, and concerning that our kids frequently demonstrate a more fine-tuned and strong moral compass than most adults. Our kids want to help the homeless person who sometimes sleeps in our doorway, without asking why he can’t get a job or how much it costs to help him. They’re naturally inclined to support each other (see the note attached). So the question is: Do our children possess a particular compassion and decency that is slowly eroded by the process of “growing up?” 

I love learning about teaching. Yet honestly, pedagogy is, for the most part, the science of describing very obvious things about raising children in the most complicated and confusing way possible. At university, I once was assigned to read a book with more than 250 pages explaining why it is ‘unadvisable’ for teachers to physically punish children. It was probably a good idea for the author to stay in academia rather than becoming a K-12 teacher. Regardless, the value of pedagogy is often that it reminds us of very obvious things that apparently we still somehow forget — such as that most of the time, you reap what you sow (an idiom that has always sounded a little threatening to me). Meaning, if you are nice to people, people will generally be nice to you. Well, at least most first graders. 

Here’s how BFI has been enriching our core programs with kindness and — what’s the noun for ‘nice’? Nicety? — in the last couple of months:

Anyway, I’m still grappling with the question of whether little kids are genuinely better people. A while ago, during a family dinner, I was explaining to my daughter how our president had described some other, less ‘developed’ countries. I’m sure you know the words he so delicately selected. Hearing that, my son, who had just turned 3, pointed at me with an angry but cute crumpled face and said in a very stern and slightly accusing voice (and my wife still swears with a German accent): ‘HEY! NOT NICE!’
And there you have it.

‘Til next time,

Andy