I started listening to The Survival Podcast 3 years ago. One of the first episodes I listened to was Starting the Journey from Grasshopper to Ant. In it, Jack Spirko told the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. I had heard the fable before, but had not really thought about the lesson it teaches.
The ant, in the warm months of spring and summer, spends much of the time hauling food back to the anthill to prepare for winter while the grasshopper hops around chirping and playing. The grasshopper sings and tries to get the ant to stop working and come and play. The ant replies that it is preparing for winter and that the grasshopper should do the same. The grasshopper doesn’t listen and ends up starving in the cold while the ant has enough to last through the winter.
The fable has been changed. In one version, the ants are portrayed as greedy villains. In another, the ant feels sorry for the grasshopper and shares its food. The grasshopper in both versions is depicted as a poor, innocent victim. I found both alternate versions in children’s books, and I am sure there are more out there.
It made me wonder, what lesson are we teaching by changing the fable?
What are we saying by portraying the ants as villains and the grasshopper as a victim? Hard work is the act of a scoundrel? Being prepared is greedy?
And what lesson does the fable teach if the ants give their food to the grasshopper after warning it repeatedly that it should also be preparing for winter? It’s ok to slack off and play all the time…someone will always be there to take care of you?
Are these really the lessons we want our children to learn?
I want my children to learn that hard work and being prepared are valued traits. I want them to know that taking care of themselves and their family first is noble, not greedy. By doing so, they will be able to help others in need.
I want them to work hard. I want them to earn their rewards and not get a trophy just for showing up. In this, they will feel a sense of accomplishment.
The original fable has it right. Slacking off should not be rewarded.
Hard work and preparedness are virtues. Let’s teach it that way.