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Tricky Questions

Ted Wragg finds answers to tough questions that children ask their teachers. At last, an opportunity to answer Robert's question! Four years ago, Robert, then Year 3, asked during an HMI inspection and with the RE inspector in the room: "If Jesus had been alive at the same time as Moses, which one do you think God would have chosen to lead the children out of Egypt?" By the way, Robert has just failed his 12-plus - evidence of the stupidity of 12-plus selection procedures - although he should get through on appeal.

Like many younger primary pupils, Robert is not afraid to ask some of the great theological and philosophical questions. Older children fear we might say they are being silly. Unlike certain scientific and mathematical questions there are no precise answers.

One possibility is to turn the question over to the class for an interesting debate. What do the children think? They would learn a lot about Jesus, Moses, geography, history, life skills, and would get a great deal of "speaking and listening".

The question can be tackled in several ways. At a purely practical level, what was involved in leaving Egypt and crossing some pretty dangerous territory? (desert, hills, water, places where there might be wild animals, robbers). What about food, water, shelter, bravery, determination, resourcefulness, and all the other things people will need?

At a personal level, what do we know about Jesus and Moses? They were both used to surviving in the desert and coping with adversity. They were also natural leaders.

Robert and his classmates may raise further questions, like "Should you ask members of your own family first?", or "Well, Jesus could do miracles, so wouldn't he be able to use magic?" (50 more lessons needed to explain about Biblical miracles).

Finally, you can always give your own guess, as that is what Robert asked for, but help children to see that some questions just have one answer, some have two or three, and others you could spend your whole life arguing about. Or you can say, "There's a man at the back (the HMI) who knows all about this kind of thing", but nowadays that might get you a grade 7 and a report to the head.

If any readers have a bright idea about answering Robert's question - or if you have any other tricky questions from children - please send it to Diane Hofkins at The TES.

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