It's official !
In a recent speech to the Berlin Literary Festival, no less a luminary than American writer Meg Rosoff threw a spanner in the certainties of scientific literalism with the brazen suggestion that the telling of fairy stories to young children might actually be beneficial to their long-term development.
Not the least of her anger is aimed at that scourge of religion and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, who, has said, and at length, that since fairy tales do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, parents should be instilling in children a sense of scepticism rather than 'filling their heads with fantasy'.
Imagine, Rosoff suggests, a world where only verifiable scientific fact is the yardstick of art; where Goldilocks, on reaching the three bears' den, is confronted by the bones of recently-gnawed animals rather than by three bowls of hot porridge. To know the reality of such an encounter - the almost certain death of Goldilocks - is to undermine the fantastical possibilities, the leaps of the imagination, which might otherwise obtain.
Rosoff quotes that most enduring of all rational beings, Albert Einstein, in support of her argument: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.” And certainly it is ironic that establishing the veracity of scientific theory is sometimes conditional on lateral or left-field thinking; precisely the kind of imaginative projection which finds its nascence, its origins, in 'irrational' connection-making. Talking bears need not, after all, be any more imaginatively ludicrous than the vastness of a universe we are only just beginning to comprehend.
Make your own fairytale; shape your own future. And never forget that Einstein was an absolutely average scholar !
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