Friday, August 11, 2006

Their ignorance is bliss

On the way home from my Disney cruise with the family, Grandma unwisely packed a toy pistol (Pirates of the Caribbean model) in our 6-year old’s carry-on luggage. As you might imagine, this caused a delay. So even though the toy gun was shaped like a banana and yellow and clearly plastic, the security official explained why we couldn’t take it: “People can take these souvenir guns and modify them on the plane to shoot.”

Did I mention it was plastic? And yellow? And shaped like a banana? It shoots suction darts. ...

She gave us the option of checking the toy gun with the cargo luggage. Apparently she wasn’t worried that I would rig my electric shaver and tweezers together to form a drill then bore into the cargo hold to retrieve the lethal plastic gun. I guess they didn’t cover that in her training.

I take pride in finding opportunities in bad situations. And given the choice of losing the toy gun or being continuously shot in the head with plastic darts back home, I decided there “wasn’t time” to check another bag. My argument would have been stronger if the Disney travel package hadn’t gotten us to the airport 5 hours before our flight. I told our 6-year old that it only seemed like a long wait. And that’s why we have no intention of teaching him to tell time.

Now the security measures aside, it is this last bit that caught my interest. We have used similar strategies all of the time especially regarding toys that are "lost" or "broken" or "had too many batteries."

But sometimes all is not as it seems. My brother, who occasionally baby sat my children, had a clear preference to get them into bed as soon as possible so as to get in a good evening of TV watching. My daughter's bed time was 7:30 and she had been told that but being 3 or 4 at the time didn't really know what it meant. My brother also surmised that she couldn't tell the time and so at 7:00 announced that it was "bed time" thinking that would be that. My daughter apparently looked up at the clock and said, convincingly it turns out, "no it isn't 7:30 yet." My brother, suitably stunned, had to relent and, when we came home, exclaimed, "you didn't tell me that she could tell the time!"

For my own amusement I decided not to disabuse him of her time telling genius. In actual fact, she would have said that for any time and it was just that she happened to be correct that my brother, in this case, ignorant about her ignorance, believed her. So it is not enough that the children are ignorant, you have to know that they are ignorant and they have to know that you know that they are ignorant and so on. Apparently, the epistemological properties of knowledge are more ingrained than time telling.