Last week, I attempted my first stint with Junior Achievement. After dealing with c-suites, dysfunctional middle managers, and passive-aggressive cubicle dwellers, you wouldn't think a group of fourth graders would have me spooked, but I have to admit a certain level of nervousness headed into Mrs. Costello's Crestview Elementary classroom.
The curriculum I was given deals with regions and resources and how they interact with our business decisions. It's very cool, and extremely easy to teach (normally, I loathe "plug and play" lesson plans). Toward the end of the lesson, I handed out little post-it note flags to each of my students and asked them to think of a business they wanted to start. Then I asked them to put their initials on the their flags and place them on a map of the U.S. where they wanted their business to be located. For the most part, it was a relatively uneventful exercise, except for two of the students, whom I will refer to as "Bart" and "Lisa" (not their real names).
As he was walking up to the map, Bart demonstrated his attention to recent current events by proudly informing me he was going to start a bank and then keep everybody's money. Upon overhearing his plans, Lisa scoffed. (Side note: fourth grade girls scoff better than any other class of human beings.) She turned to Bart, and matter-of-factedly stated, "Fine, then we'll just put your flag here at Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, because you're just going to wind up in prison anyway." I didn't have the heart to tell her that Alcatraz was no longer in business as a prison, but I was impressed with her geography skills.
What impressed me most about this exchange was that even in fourth grade, kids are already getting cause-and-effect. I predict Lisa will go far in life, not because she's an uptight goody-two-shoes, but because she understands that one person's behavioral inputs will create a certain type of output.
Of course, there are constraints to her views on justice. Our nation is pretty cyclical, and while the Obama administration is moving the pendulum in one direction, eventually things come full circle. I was reading a blog post last month where the writer was criticizing the works of Ayn Rand, and how harmful they were to our country. What really got my attention were the two comments left by the same person. Those comments showed much more insight into cause-and-effect of human behavior. Overlaid with our perceptions of right and wrong is a concept of balance.
Maybe instead of prematurely sentencing Bart to prison, Lisa should start focusing her energy into allowing Bart means of making the money he desires within boundaries that will keep him out of jail... or maybe not... because another fundamental truth is that fourth grade girls love to get fourth grade boys into trouble.