If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. – Einstein
I just adore this quote. Putting aside for a minute my essential belief that raw intelligence is innate, I agree with everything that Einstein means with this single beautiful sentence. Why? For lots of reasons.
Fairy tales are where the archetypes live. They are where we learn about courage and love, about family, loyalty, and betrayal, about tests and triumph. They are where we learn the most essential stories of humanity, the stories that go on repeating themselves over and over again in our lives and in our literature, as we grow into adulthood.
Fairy tales exist firmly in the realm of the imagination, and they allow children to dream of a world unrestricted by the boundaries of reality as they know it. In fairy tales, magic can truly happen, and I think a commitment to the power of that which lies beyond reason and logic is fundamental to both intelligence and creativity. How else can enormous leaps of the imagination come about, without this capacity?
More basically, stories are how you learn about the world. I love that someone as aligned with the rigorous worlds of science and math as Einstein celebrates the power of the story. I agree with him. This reminds me of what I’ve written about my father: that he has a master’s degree in Physics, a PhD in Engineering, and an abiding trust in the ability of science, logic, and measurement to explain the world. At the same time, he has a deep fascination with European history and culture, often manifested in a love of the continent’s cathedrals, those embodiments of religious fervor, of all that is not scientific, logical, or measurable. His unshakeable faith in the life of the rational mind is matched by his profound wonder at the power of the ineffable, the territory of religious belief and cultural experience, that which is beyond the intellect.
I grew up in the space between those two worlds, believing that they are in fact as mutually enriching as they appear paradoxical. I’d like to provide the same powerful learning for Grace and Whit. As I help Grace learn the multiplication tables and how to touch type, may I remember to teach her also about dragons and princesses, about the hero’s journey, about spells which change the world, and about the fierce bonds of love.