Earlier this month at Whittier Elementary School in Seattle, a group of fourth grade students and I had a long conversation after reading Barbara Williams' Albert's Toothache. We talked about the relationship between telling a lie, telling the truth and making a mistake, and that led to a discussion about why the things children say are often less likely to be believed than what adults say. In the course of that exchange, a student commented that adults are seen as more trustworthy than children, and we talked about whether that perception reflects a truth. At the end of the discussion, I suggested the following reflection question:
Are children more or less trustworthy than adults?
Here is a sampling of what the children wrote in response:
"I think that kids, for the most part, are more trustworthy than adults. Adults can lie to kids and we still believe them and so do other adults. Kids can't lie at all or adults won't believe them ever again."
"I think that children are less trustworthy than adults because kids are more immature. Kids like to snoop, while adults are more responsible. Adults are responsible because while kids play and have fun, adults work, do bills and other things for their families."
"I think that kids are more trustworthy than adults are. I think that because kids will lie to protect a secret. This quality of kids is one that adults don't notice."
"In the end I think that adults would be more likely to not tell a lie. I think this because they have more experience with what can go wrong. I also think it is more likely for adults to think about it before telling someone something confidential. Therefore, I think children are less trustworthy than adults."
"I think children are more trustworthy than adults because lying does not come easy for children."
"When you first think about it, you think, 'Oh, grown-ups are mature, so they are most trustworthy.' However, then you realize that being trustworthy also means telling your true opinion and being able to keep secrets. Grown-ups are terrible at that! . . . However, after thinking about it for an extremely long time (until your head feels like it's going to explode), you realize that it's not really about your age or if you're a grown-up or child, it's about who you are."