Today was the penultimate day of term. We’re all a little tired in our house so we decided to go out to the Buninyong pub for dinner. We took activities with us for the girls to complete. At this age, they tend to like a pen and paper so they can write or draw.
Unprompted, our youngest daughter who is in Grade 1 wrote ‘Tutankhamun’ and ‘Howard Carter’ on her piece of paper. So I thought I would contribute.
“I know about these guys,” I said. “King Tut had a very big butt and Howard Carter was a stinky farter.”
“Daddy!” My daughter exclaimed, disapprovingly, “That’s not what we were taught.”
She went on to outline how Howard Carter had discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and described the number of doors he had to get through. She then explained that Tutankhamun’s father had moved the Egyptian capital and made everyone worship only one god but that Tutankhamun had restored the old ways and many gods. She seemed particularly taken with the idea that Tutankhamun had ascended the throne at only nine years of age.
We had an interesting discussion about grave goods. My daughter thought it was wrong to take them away given that Tutankhamun believed that he needed them for the afterlife.
I know that my daughter has been studying Tutankhamun at school. I know this is part of my school’s core knowledge agenda and I know that she otherwise would not have had this experience.
Her interest in ancient Egypt appears to refute a common idea: that children can only be engaged by the immediate; by contexts that they know a lot about through personal experience. This is simply not true. Children have a hunger for knowledge and a thirst for ideas. They can imagine themselves into ancient Egypt as easily as they can imagine themselves into Narnia. We underestimate them when we assume that they cannot and, in the process, we obscure the jewels of civilisation from their view.