When listing this centuries’ most influential educational theorists, Douglas Adams doesn’t usually make the cut. Which is a shame, because I think he’s spot on. He teaches us the importance of Not Panicking, a little irreverent sarcasm goes a long way, and when in doubt – Google it. Mr. Adams even reiterates the necessity of always having a towel within reach. Trust me, this is good advice. That pretty much sums up everything you need to know about working with kids. The guy is a developmental genius.
I find it no coincidence that the setting of his most influential work is Pan Galactic. What looks more alien than a slimy, contorting newborn staring in bewilderment after crash landing on a foreign planet? Indeed, this is truly what those bug eyed creatures are experiencing: They know NOTHING of this world. Ladybugs, pizza, war, love, Netflix, BREATHING…it all must be conquered. Every interaction they assimilate from that moment on shapes their understanding of this place we call Earth. It can all be very overwhelming.
I officially propose that it was Mr. Adams’ intention for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to serve as an allegory in the plight of the parent/educator. As Maria Montessori so brilliantly declared, “Follow the Child…” Follow? We’re going on a trip? An adventure you say? Well, you might fare better with A GUIDE.
Lonely Planet (the markedly less amusing terrestrial version) has gotten me out of a bind more than once. Accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in Bhubaneshwar instead of Calcutta? No problem, whip out your guidebook and it will direct you to which cafe has the fewest incidents of food poisoning, how to get the locals’ rate at the hotel next door, and how to avoid mispronouncing “Where is the restroom?” for “May I rub your buffalo?”
This is the essence of the true role grownups should take along the Journey called childhood-to point them in the right direction and help them get back home when they’re lost. Follow those little boogers and delight in their exploration. They take an interest in bugs or dinosaurs or Italian food? It’s your job to give them the tour…hit the road, visit all the Largest Wads of Lint and Mystery Spots. Help them to steer clear of dubious restrooms and questionable gas station food. (Avoid the Paneer Burger off the cart. You can quote me on that.) And maybe along the way you’ll discover something new you completely forgot about.
Welcome to the Planet Little Ones. Grab your Gear. We’re Going Exploring.