Reading Time: 2 minutes

[Walking downhill toward home with Delaney after seeing if Kaylee could come over and play. She couldn’t. The conversation that ensued is so improbable that I feel the need to pinky-swear that it is nonfiction. Here’s as close a transcription as I could manage 90 seconds later when I found a piece of paper.]

link2309DELANEY (7): Kaylee’s family goes to church.

DAD: Mm hm.

DELANEY: And Rachel’s family is Jewish.

DAD: Yup.

DELANEY: I like to have friends who believe different things.

DAD: I don’t know where you get your crazy ideas. Everybody has to believe the same.

DELANEY: Dad.

DAD: But it needs to be my exact way, of course.

DELANEY: Dad. I know you’re joking. There have to be different ideas or the world would never get any better.

[A new one. DAD pauses.]

DAD: And why is that?

DELANEY: It’s like this. If there are a hundred different ideas, then the person with the best idea can talk to the other people and…you know, convince them about it. But if you have just one idea, it might not be the best, and you would do it anyway. And things would get worse and worse in the world from doing ideas that aren’t the best.

DAD: Holy shit, girl!

DAD, out loud: Wow.

DELANEY: Yeah.

[Pause.]

DAD: What if somebody had an idea to kill or hate people?

[Pause.]

DELANEY: Maybe he never heard any other ideas, so he doesn’t know a better one. The other people can show him their ideas. And then they vote.

(This defense of the marketplace of ideas precisely parallels a line of thought in Stephen Law’s excellent book The War for Children’s Minds. But Laney has not (to my knowledge) read his book. And Law is not (to my knowledge) seven, so I’m not quite so impressed with him.)

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.