Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"No, That Would Be Lying"

Back in early April, I was clowning around with the children, making some obviously untrue declarations in the interest of silliness when one of them, suddenly full of righteous fury, turned on me, "You're lying!" I replied that I didn't think I was lying, but she insisted, "You said something that isn't true. That's lying." When I appealed to the other children, they sided with her.

I asked, singling out my accuser, "Okay, so I heard you say you were Pikachu the other day. Were you lying?"

She thought on this for a moment before answering, "I was pretending to be Pikachu. It was just a game."

"But I wasn't trying to trick you. I was just joking."

She didn't consider my point for even a second, dismissing me casually, "You were lying." The rest of the kids nodded their agreement. Later that day, we all agreed to not lie, something we formally added to our class's list of agreements, more commonly referred to as "rules."

This dialog has continued as a series of interesting debates and dialogs for over a month now. Mostly, the kids have been calling me out, but they've also accused on another. They seem to agree that pretending does not fall under the dark cloud of lying, although one can, apparently, lie within a game of pretend. For instance, not long ago there was a flare up over one boy insisting that an old pan lid was his steering wheel. His accusers said he was lying because they had previously designated that particular object as their stew pan. When I suggested that maybe he didn't know it was already a stew pan, a suggestion that he adopted as his own defense, some of the kids asserted that it didn't matter, while others felt that it couldn't be a lie if he didn't know, one girl insisting, "He didn't lie, he was just wrong." After more debate, a general consensus arose that being wrong wasn't the same as lying.

During a subsequent, calmer discussion, I said that I felt like it was only a lie if someone was trying to trick someone else, like if someone gave me a bag of candy to share, but instead I told everyone I didn't have any candy and ate it myself. Some of them, on the spot, accused me of lying, certain that I actually did have a bag of candy to share, but others had their own stories. "One time my sister told me she didn't take my stuffy, but I found it in her room." Another said, "My friend said I was a Martian and I'm not."

They have made progress over the month, slowly coming closer and closer to a consensus on what constitutes a lie, as opposed to pretending or joking. I've avoided lecturing on the subject, although, as in the above example, I've tried to contribute my own thinking on the matter when it seemed appropriate.

Yesterday, I was walking down the hallway with the girl who had originally accused me of lying. She explained, "Lying is like when you break something at your house and then tell your mom and dad that you didn't break it."

I answered, "Couldn't you just pretend you didn't break it."

"No, that would be lying."

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