Armed to the tongue

Anyone who has ever had to write something to advance their career will appreciate the value that writing professionally has to offer.  The rest of you should open your eyes and realize that emails and resumes are things that you ought to write professionally in order to advance your career.

That being said, I am refining a plan for parenting that I would like some genuine criticism on.  I think that when I have children they will be taught to request things in writing.  I don’t mean things like “Could you please pass the peas?” or “David hit me and he needs to stop.”  I mean things they want.

At a young age, they will be taught to write Christmas lists and put things in order.  This is where professional writing begins.  I will sit with them and ask them if they are sure that they want this more than that.  I am not there to judge their desires, but to help them judge their own.  I will teach them to stop and reflect on it.  If you are writing your resume, stop and reflect on it.  Make sure you list your skills in the proper order.  Spell things correctly.  This is where it begins.

Once they get older, I will have them include reasons for each thing on the list, just one or two sentences at first.  This is important.  I will have them look back at last year’s list and think about what they got and didn’t get and refine their ideas.  Remember to do this after an interview.  Look back at your resume and figure out what talking points the interviewer chose and why.  If they are not picking the right things off the list, work on it.

Eventually, I will teach them to list both pro’s and con’s in their request to show that they are considering both the ups and the downs and offering ways to mitigate the downside.  Santa will even let them know that he’s going to check up on how their doing when he gets their list next year.

Eventually, Santa will have to fade away into childhood and be left behind.  The lists will not end.  By this point they will be asked to write a list/letter for every signature or dollar they need.  You need me to sign a permission slip or a progress note or a discipline slip, you need to pick some letters and put them together to make words, then take those words and make sentences, thread those sentences into at least 3 paragraphs and give it to me in writing.  I know how fast their little fingers will be able to fly over a keyboard.  This really isn’t asking much.

This is where things get interesting, really.  This is where the real lessons come in.  This is where discussions will occur about tone and length of communication.  If you feel that you need to write 6 pages to ask me about going on a field trip to that lab where they keep the radioactive spiders, the answer is probably no.  If you feel like you can ask me to go spend the weekend at a friend’s house and not include details as to the parents’ plans and contact numbers, the answer is no.  These are simple things and asking you to spend 10 minutes writing it down in coherent English is nothing.  Also, the side effect of this is that if you are caught in a lie, there is no question as to what you said.  This is only a side effect, because the lesson here is rhetoric and persuasion.

To get into the nuts and bolts of what I am advocating is the ability of a child to compose a logical argument, provide details relevant to the audience and produce a grammatically correct document.  If you cannot do these things at the drop of a hat, you need to work on retraining your brain.  I say that not because you’re so stupid and I think I’m better than you and all that jazz.  I’m saying that because it will make you a better person.  What I mean by that is very simple.  If you cannot construct a valid argument and plan of action, you will never figure out how to “become a healthier person” or convince yourself to do it.  You need to use reason to influence your own feelings and by doing so change your course of action.  I want my kids to understand that.  The ability to do it in properly constructed language means they can influence and affect others, too.

At 6 years old, you can just write “pony” on a list.  By 8, you can tell me that “a pony poops alot but I will clean it up and I can ride it to school.”  By 10, you can write an essay about all the things you’ll do if I will just buy you a pony.  At 16 you can write a well researched paper with MLA style citations to peer reviewed journals about the effects of integrating animal companionship into education.  By that point, someone else may just buy you a pony.  Maybe we can start a non-profit to integrate animal companionship into public schools.   I don’t know, it’s your dream; I just want you to be able to understand it and be able to share it.

It sounds like tons of work for the parents and tons of work for the kids, but what about either job is easy?  I think it will be interesting to see a child who is taught to think deeply about what they ask of others and how such a child will interact with others.  I think I may start a log of my own and start writing 3 paragraphs about everything I want to spend money on.

I do know that if composing a written argument that reflects on both the ups and downs of different possibilities is second nature, reacting to anything is easy.   In crisis, if your mind goes to a simple 3 paragraph analysis, you’ll be fine:

  1. Introduction – What is the problem, who are the players?
  2. Possibilities – What can we do next, what are the possible outcomes?
  3. Conclusion – What is the best option, what is plan B?

My kids will be taught that if you want to give me bad news, those are the 3 paragraphs.  I hope that if someone comes to them and tells them terrible news, that is where there mind goes.  If you tell my kids I died in a car accident and they think like that, my job will have been complete.

Nothing is more disarming than the words, no matter how much fancy sword play there is, when someone says, “My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  My children will learn to defend themselves with words and arguments and pros and cons.  They may hate me for it, but they will take on the world armed to the tongue.

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