Any parent, teacher, former babysitter, or older sibling can agree that there is a particular stage of little-kid-ness that could be called the Why Phase. The Why Phase both demands and shuns logic and reasoning. The Why Phase lasts several months, but seems to last centuries. The Why Phase is a never-ending barrage of a three-letter question that - particularly when coming from the back seat of a car in a traffic jam - will have you questioning your sanity, and going through photos to remind yourself how much you love this adorable child.
There is no doubt that the ability to ask why is an important part of the human experience as we interact with such a complicated world. Seeing as the Why Phase kicks in before children have developed extensive vocabularies, we can almost sense that it is hard-wired in a child’s brain and doesn’t need to be taught. A three-year-old’s lack of attention span for your answer, indicates that it’s not even the answer that’s important, but the actual question.
Why does the Why Phase stop? Certainly not because all the answers are satisfactory. On the contrary, it seems to me that we tend to slow down our questions when we realize just how out-of-reach the answers are, or because we sense our questions have become annoying. But, as educators, we must continue to encourage the Whys of our children. We can help them re-learn the magic of engaging in difficult questions. As educators of faith, we can do even better than that: we can point them, not to answers, but to the One who made them and wired their brains to wonder.
At B2THEWORLD, we seek to serve children who have experienced, witnessed, lived through, or otherwise been affected by the trauma of war. We would be foolish and irresponsible to think that we can help them understand why. But, we’d be equally neglectful to not assume that they’re wondering the biggest whys of all. Birbili Maria, the author of Supporting Your Child to Ask Productive Questions, notes that the way educators treat children’s questions influences whether children will continue to pose questions in the classroom.
She also states, “When children are able to pose questions and explore the answers, they feel motivated to exercise their sense of agency and build their independence skills.” This is why a pedagogical approach of why is one of the three pillars of transformative education that B2THEWORLD seeks to deliver. If we can help children wrestle with the deepest questions of why in their context - Why did this happen? Why didn’t anyone help? Why did God not see us? Why is this happening elsewhere? - then we can build a frame for them that helps move them from victims to agents of power and change. We can develop, watch and cheer them on as God plants these students as “oaks of righteousness” and uses them to rebuild, renew and restore their cities and countries (Is 61:4-5).