What Little Girls Teach About Being by Rick Barnett

What Little Girls Teach About Being

Rick Barnett on the Corruption of Words

When my daughter was first learning to name the world, she liked to play a game with words wherein she would call an object by another name and then try to make the thing function as if it indeed were that object. She would put a Peter Rabbit saucer on her head and say “hat.” When it would not stay put and be a hat, and instead fell clattering to the kitchen floor very much like a dropped saucer, she would squeal with joy and try again.

She was discovering something fundamental about being: that no matter what you call it, a saucer is not a hat, and one cannot by an act of sheer will truthfully name a saucer a hat. Yet how sadly common it is these days to hear half-truths and outright lies—saucers named as hats—nonchalantly delivered as truth from government, the academy, and the evening news. It is no wonder our young people are so morally confused and that many of the students I and others teach in college literature courses believe there is no ultimate right or wrong; they are chary to make moral judgments of even the most basic kind, leaving it instead to “whatever works best for the individual.”

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