I love social experiments. Especially when they involve children. Kids are so smart. They’re insightful, philosophical and profound. They see things the way things should be seen. Unadorned. They have no agenda. And they give it to you straight as an arrow.
Some years ago I was doing a corporate video for a client. Part of the brief involved interviewing a bunch of primary school children aged between 5 and 7. One of the questions they were asked was to describe your ideal house. The answers were amazing of course. There were five star tree houses and houses under the sea. They were imaginative and creative and fun. Children also have no sense of value. They have no concept of any number bigger than a thousand. So when they were asked how much their family home was worth, it varied between 500 and a thousand dollars. The answers were hilarious and the video was a great success.
The BBC also conducted its own social experiment with young children. Their intent was way more serious than mine. They wanted to film children aged between 5 and 7 answering the question: What is it that makes you different? The BBC approach was very specific and scientific. They selected a group of children, with different skin color, different ethnic background, able- bodied children and children with a disability. They were divided into groups of two but to ensure that the answers were not random, the featured groups of two were long standing friends. So the children knew each other well enough to answer the question honestly and easily. And consequently they were also less likely to be intimidated by a camera filming their answers.
The first group to feature was two boys dressed in school uniform. Both went to the same school, and were in the same class. One was black the other white. They were both asked the question: What is it that makes you different? They took a long time thinking about the question. But every time they tried to answer, and they tried many times, both of them would stop mid sentence. Try as they might they could not come up with a single difference. In other words, the friendship they enjoyed and the commonality they shared vastly out weighed any difference they might have, perceived or real.
But my favorite pair was Emma and Lucy. Emma, wearing pigtails, and seated on a chair. Lucy seated in a wheelchair. Lucy never said a word. Emma answered for both of them. And like the two boys, she pondered the question for some time before finally giving her answer. And it was this: “ Lucy loves tomato sauce. I love tomato sauce but not as much as Lucy.”
And that was it. Emma and Lucy. Their only difference? How much each of them loved tomato sauce, See, I told you, we could learn a great deal from children.
But instead of learning from them, we laugh at their innocence and we laugh at their naïve view of the world. Of course as adults we could not possibly see the world this way because we have age and experience and we know about concepts like hatred and bigotry and discrimination. A child will naturally never contemplate any of those thoughts. And that got me thinking. Why can’t we, as adults, see the world the same way as a child does? What is to stop us? A world where our only difference might be that some of us like white wine and some of us like red. Where what binds us together is much stronger than what pulls us apart. Can we see the world that way? The answer is of course we can. We can see the world this way if we want to.
You see, the only thing that changes as we get older is choice. Experience and knowledge only increase the options of choice. The only obstacle stopping us thinking one way and not the other is, you guessed it, us. A woman, irrespective of age, never stops being a young girl, acting like a young girl, thinking like a young girl, unless she chooses to. And the same applies to a man. We can see the world as a child sees it, if we choose to. And if we do, it will almost certainly make us better people and our world a better place to live. Worth contemplating don’t you think?