During the tour of Dachau Concentration Camp, the guide told us the ovens had never been used. They were built, but only for show. This was 1980. Sure. The ovens were just for show. Nobody would put people inside them. I walked through the concentration camp and the museum. I saw photos I still remember. I was 5.

I think of this story when people tell me we have to protect children from the truth. That children shouldn’t read dystopian novels, for instance. Books like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. We’re supposed to perpetuate this myth with children that the world is fair and just. That there are no nefarious men with nefarious schemes. No one would blow up a building with people inside. Or fire guns in schools. Or starve children. The police are always good and right. Addicts are filthy losers. There is a hell, but repentance will keep you out of it. Just be sorry and believe in Jesus. God flooded the entire world because it was bad, but he promises not to do that again. Next time it’ll be fire.

Why wouldn’t we talk to children about poverty? About famine? About the wars we’re waging? About equality and greed? About sex? Just because we’re uncomfortable discussing certain topics with children doesn’t mean their peers share our reservations, or our values. We do children a disservice if we don’t teach them to question our values, and their own. Critical thinking is a skill; it takes practice. And our value system should be able to hold up under scrutiny.

Why are there ovens here? What did you use them for?

If you teach your children to follow blindly, you’re assuming they’ll blindly follow you. But the world is full of wonder, miraculous and tarnished. So wouldn’t it be more useful to tell them the entire story, to answer their questions as candidly as you are able? And to encourage more questions. “Because I said so” is a response, but it isn’t an answer, and when they ask elsewhere, what will they learn? You aren’t giving them tools to make it through this quarter, or that school year, you’re giving them tools for a lifetime. Aren’t you?

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