Freeman

ARTICLE

Whose Child Is This?

DECEMBER 01, 1963 by D.M. WESTERHOLM

Mrs. Westerholm is a Registered Nurse, house­wife, and student of liberty of San Pedro, California.

I met him only once—this straight bright lad, perhaps twelve years of age—but I re­member him well.

He had a certain steady radi­ance which one rarely encounters but instinctively respects when­ever and wherever it is found. Strength and self-respect were evident in his sturdy stance, his straight appraising gaze, and his firm handshake. And born of this self-respect was obvious respect for others.

I stood for a long while beside his small table at the Junior Sci­ence Fair, listening and watching with mounting pleasure as he ex­plained his exhibit. With quick, sure movements he demonstrated his ingeniously engineered con­verter of solar energy to mechani­cal power. His thoughtful answers to questions showed a comprehen­sive knowledge of his subject. Clearly, this was not a project conceived and executed by a parent, and belonging to the child by name alone!

A well-known aircraft designer stopped to look, and then to chat, with evident delight. They laughed together over a mutually experi­enced phenomenon—the sixty­ year-old creative engineer and the twelve-year-old student—and their rapport and respect for one another was a joy to behold. There was no trace of condescen­sion from the one, nor overween­ing pride from the other. They were simply two scientists discus­sing their craft, their difference in age forgotten aside from the boy’s clear respect for the wis­dom and experience of the man.

The boy’s patience with the trivial and foolish questions of some viewers evoked further admiration, for not once did he take advantage of the situation to bol­ster his own ego by making some­one else appear inferior.

Before leaving, I had to know who had taught him. "My father!" he replied with pride and affec­tion. "He taught me how great it is to wonder about things—all sorts of things, and what fun it is to find out the answer for my­self, and how lucky I am to live in a place where a fellow is al­lowed to try to find out in his own way." Do you see now why I can­not forget him? And why I feel so encouraged, so cheerful about the future?

Whose child is this? I wish I knew! I’d like very much to shake hands with his parents, to express my admiration and appreciation. One cannot teach such lessons to a child except as he first learned them well himself—and practiced them faithfully. With youngsters such as this, and with their par­ents, rests the ultimate fate of personal liberty in a free nation.

Youngsters who delight in won­dering, and in finding the answers themselves in their own way, and who appreciate and defend the freedom which allows this—these are the youngsters who will tend well the tree of liberty.

Such youngsters, knowing the delicious intoxication of search and discovery, are not apt to be victimized by that false narcotic, the glib political nonsense of "something for nothing." They are not apt to follow the false god of tyrannical power—not with their deep respect for the value of individual effort and the sanc­tity of the individual. Nor are they apt to be advocates of the let-George-do-it school; if asked, they will simply explain what seems to them the most effective way for the thing to be done, and leave it up to the questioner to do it himself if he wishes—just as they themselves have learned to do.

No, I shall never forget that boy. I wish I knew his name. Is he your child?

 

 

***

Ideas on Liberty

Enter into Life

I have often said to young parents, "Don’t take struggle out of your children’s lives."

The instinct of fathers and mothers is to do just that—to make "life easier for my boy than it was for me." It is interesting to note that youth is sounder in this matter than age. Youth revels in competitive sports, whether to do something better than his fellows, or to beat some previous record.

SAMUEL B. PETTENGILL

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

December 1963

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required

CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

Essential Works from FEE

Economics in One Lesson (full text)

By HENRY HAZLITT

The full text of Hazlitt's famed primer on economic principles: read this first!


By FREDERIC BASTIAT

Frederic Bastiat's timeless defense of liberty for all. Once read and understood, nothing ever looks the same.


By F. A. HAYEK

There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest suc­cesses in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control so­cial life.


By JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Leonard Read took the lessons of entrepreneurship with him when he started his ideological venture.


By LEONARD E. READ

No one knows how to make a pencil: Leonard Read's classic (Audio, HTML, and PDF)