Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: An eight-year-old explains God in a school-assigned essay.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2000]
Origins: We can't assign a precise date or origin to this essay (although we know it's been transmitted around the Internet since May 1993), nor can we swear that an eight-year-old named Danny Dutton from Chula Vista didn't author this piece. We haven't yet been able to track down the enigmatic
Due to constitutional issues involving the separation of church and state, a public school teacher in the U.S. would most likely not be allowed to assign a third grade class a homework topic of "Explain God," and such an assignment would certainly generate a good deal of public complaint and controversy if a teacher went ahead with it anyway. Nonetheless, we haven't turned up any news stories about an assignment of this nature in the last twenty years or so. (It is possible that the Chula Vista school mentioned here was a private Christian school, where an assignment of "Explain God" would be both permissible and appropriate. In that case this piece would be far less remarkable, though, since it would be taking place in a religious context rather than a secular one, and the student would more likely be simply repeating what he had been taught rather than extemporizing on the nature of
In any case, the wording and structure of this essay tend to indicate a much older author. Much of the vocabulary employed is rather advanced for an 8-year-old, and the construction of the piece doesn't match the style of writing children have usually achieved at that age. Take a look at some examples of real third graders' essays found at the Outdoor Kids Foundation essay contest page: Notice how short and to the point the sentences are, and also how most sentences tend to contain only one concept. Now contrast this to "Danny's" essay, a missive which contains complex gems such as "And now He helps His Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones He can take care of Himself without having to bother God."
What to make of such a piece? It's best to view it as a "from the mouths of babes" composition penned by someone far older
Barbara "danny buoyed" Mikkelson
Last updated: 22 February 2007
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