Adventures in Ethics and Science

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A conversation with the younger Free-Ride offspring at the elder Free-Ride offspring’s soccer practice this week:

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, can you tell me about the science you’ve learned in kindergarten this year?

Younger offspring: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: Why not?

Younger offspring: We haven’t really learned any science yet.

Dr. Free-Ride: Child, it’s almost June! If you haven’t really learned any science in kindergarten yet, when is it going to happen?

Younger offspring: I don’t know.

Dr. Free-Ride: Well, what kind of science would you like to learn about?

Younger offspring: Maybe about stuff under the sea.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. I’ll see if we can manage that. There’s a place I could look. How about giant flightless birds? Would you like to learn about them?

Younger offspring: Of course!

* * * * *

Younger offspring: In school, we just finished reading The Very Hungry Kindergartener.

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh?

Younger offspring: It’s the same thing as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, only it has a kindergartener in it.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm. Does the kindergartener undergo a metamorphosis at the end of the book?

Younger offspring: No, the kindergartener doesn’t turn into anything because it doesn’t get a tummyache.

Dr. Free-Ride: Is that why the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, because of a tummyache?

Younger offspring: No. That’s just part of its lifecycle. And actually, the kindergartener transforms into a big kid. But it doesn’t make a cocoon or anything.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, how does a kindergartener transform into a big kid?

Younger offspring: You eat a lot.

Dr. Free-Ride: Is that sufficient? I mean, if I ate a lot, could I turn into a giant?

Younger offspring: No. You have to sleep a lot, too.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, maybe that’s my problem. But is eating and sleeping all there is to growing?

Younger offspring: You also have to brush your teeth a lot. That will get your teeth to fall out so you can grow new teeth.

Dr. Free-Ride: All this time I’ve been brushing my teeth so they wouldn’t fall out. If my teeth fall out, will I grow new teeth, too?

Younger offspring: No, you have your grown-up teeth already.

Dr. Free-Ride: How come I don’t grow taller any more?

Younger offspring: I don’t know. I don’t grow taller.

Dr. Free-Ride: Yes you do! Your pants keep getting too short. You just don’t notice that you’re getting taller because it happens gradually.

Younger offspring: I wish it happened faster.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, you go through clothes quickly enough! So how do you think your body knows when to grow and when to stop growing?

Younger offspring: I don’t know. Maybe I tell it in my mind. (In what I imagine is supposed to be the voice of the mind:) “Grow! A little bit more! ” (Standing on tiptoe): “OK, that’s enough! Stop growing! Now my flip-flops don’t fit!”

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm, you think it’s a matter of wanting to grow? If that were true, I’d be taller.

Younger offspring: Me too!

Dr. Free-Ride: The part of your brain that wants stuff isn’t what makes your body grow. But the brain is probably involved in how the hormones that tell your body to grow do their thing.

Younger offspring: Oh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Also, bones have growth plates that help them get longer. When you run out of bone growth plate, you’re as tall as you’re going to get.

Younger offspring: You ran out of growth plate?

Dr. Free-Ride: Yup, that’s why I don’t get any taller. I think in X-rays you can see whether there’s still growth plate left.

Younger offspring: Have you had X-rays?

Dr. Free-Ride: Uh huh.

Younger offspring: Have [Elder offspring] and [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] had X-rays?

Dr. Free-Ride: Yup.

Younger offspring: I haven’t had X-rays, and I don’t want any.

Dr. Free-Ride: That’s fine with me. You don’t need to see your bone growth plates for them to do the job.

Younger offspring: Good, because I’m going to be a big kid pretty soon.

* * * * *
This morning, I requested artwork from the sprogs. “The theme today is growth,” I told them.

Elder offspring went immediately to the growth of mold on bread:

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Younger offspring stuck with the mammalian to illustrate the sudden growth of a (rather surprised looking) mole on the left, and the frustration of another mole still waiting for a growth spurt:

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We’re not entirely sure why these particular moles are aboveground. Perhaps their parents needed a break.

Comments

  1. #1 Alan Kellogg
    May 25, 2007

    Younger Offspring,

    You’ll notice you’re growing when you have your next growth spurt. A growth spurt is when your body starts growing a whole bunch real fast. Your arms and legs get longer, and your ribs stick out because what chest muscles you have are being asked to cover more area. This is when your mom starts complaining about the cost of kids’ clothes. She’ll also start wondering out load if maybe she can let you go running around without clothes wherever you go. Mothers get a bit strange at certain times.

  2. #2 S. Rivlin
    May 25, 2007

    Janet, thank you so much for making Fridays even better.

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