Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not a butterfly?

Mika, Sam, and I were reading and discussing the next section of our science text this morning when I stumbled upon another lie told to young children in the field of science. Now, if you've been reading for a while, you might remember I first learned that bears don't hibernate. I was shocked to learn that I had been lied to all my life. Why can't adults just tell children the truth? How hard is it say that some small animals hibernate and others, like the bear, enter a different kind of sleeping winter state? Children are perfectly capable of understanding that there is a difference in heart rate, body temperature, and ability to arouse, etc.

So, what was the big shock this morning? It comes from one of our favorite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Most people have seen and read this book. After the caterpillar eats and eats and eats, it comes to a page that shows an oval, brown object and says this:

He built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself...

Well, according to our science text that means our very hungry caterpillar is the larva of a moth. A cocoon is a casing of silk spun by many moth caterpillars and other insects that go through a complete metamorphosis.

But then you turn the page of the book and you see a pretty, colorful, insect. According to the text...

he was a beautiful butterfly.

But that can't be right. If he built a cocoon, he's a moth. Butterfly caterpillars, on the other hand molt as they grow larger. Their final molt reveals the new skin underneath, which is the chrysalis.

I have to be honest here. I did not know that the book was incorrect until just this morning. I had never been taught the difference between a moth and a butterfly or a cocoon and a chrysalis. It took homeschooling my own children to learn these things.

So, my questions is this: Why can't we just teach children the truth from the get go? About bears. About moths and caterpillars. About any other commonly taught lies. Then we wouldn't have to go through that painful realization that something we were taught, something we've known for as long as we can remember, is wrong. Then we wouldn't have to wonder what other lies we were told.

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Mommy to One said...

We discovered this last year, and you're right...why can't children be taught correctly in the first place?

Hibernating bears, spinning cocoons to become butterflies, Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy...these poor kids are fed a steady stream of lies.

Luke Holzmann said...



I wouldn't call them "lies." They aren't told to purposely deceive and mislead children. They are not-quite-accurate-untruths... right? Fascinating to learn the difference, fun to feel elitist and more scientifically accurate... but lies? I wouldn't go that far.

What's fascinating to me is that whatever information you've found needs to be passed on to my local museum. They have a giant display that states that there is really no hard/fast difference between moths and butterflies... which seemed odd to me. Now it seems down-right false.