This is the opening scene of the original “Curious George” book, circa 1941. Here is how the more recent George stories begin: “George was a good little monkey, and always very curious.”
Whoa. See what just happened there? Big difference. Still a curious monkey, but it’s a long way from but to and… BUT he was curious indicates that curiosity is a regrettable quality to be overcome. To say that he was a good little monkey AND was very curious, points to curiosity as an assett rather than a liability.
Alot has changed in 60 years. For kids, and for the rest of us.
I’m not sure when curiosity became a positive value in our culture, but I’m sure that the evolution follows very closely with the development of our best technology, art, science and industry. (It probably follows, too, with the making of room for women in each of these areas.)
Kids these days are more creative, more outspoken, a little braver and a little less afraid of getting grubby than even the kids of 10 to 20 years ago. For all that we mourn what childhood has lost in the past generation or two, it has gained a great deal, as well. This awareness gives me hope. It lets me believe there are some kids out there right now–maybe even in my own house–who will transform the ways that we govern, the ways we heal, the ways we produce food and energy, the ways that we get around… all in all, kids who will save the world. All because they were permitted a life of curiosity and exploration, rather than being disciplined for asking too many questions or getting dirty.
Do you know how curious George came to live with his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat? APPARENTLY, MwtYH was wearing that hat for a hunting trip in the jungle. Wherein he spotted George, snagged him, and carried him home in a sack. Not cool, HA Rey. Not cool. But hey, thanks for dreaming him up anyway. Turns out, the curious survive. May it be so for all of us…