Is the phrase “because I said so” causing more harm than good?

Imagine that you are walking along an unfamiliar street in a foreign country. You’re exploring the neighborhood and taking in all you can when a stranger approaches you and tells you that you need to hand over your camera, your most prized possession, in order to continue to do what you are doing. When you ask why, he replies, “because I said so.”

Now imagine you are sitting in you living room, watching tv when the president gets on the tv and tells the nation that everyone must be inside by a certain time and anyone caught outside will be arrested immediately. No travel will be allowed to ensure that no one escapes the new rules. When a reporter asks him why, he replies, “because I said so”.

Finally, picture yourself climbing aboard a train, headed for your newest destination. As you board, the conductor looks at you and tells you to move all the way to the last car- a car full of people who look just like you. When you ask why he replies, “because I said so”.

How many of us would actually accept the answer “because I said so” in any of these scenarios?


Now imagine that you are given more information for each scenario. The stranger who approaches you on the street explains that he is an official and the area you are in is a protected area where photography is not allowed. The law says he must hold your camera, to ensure that no photos are taken and he points out a sign that reads the same that you had walked right by without noticing. If this is ok with you, you are very welcome to keep exploring.

The president takes his time to explain that there is a massive storm headed our way and he is asking everyone to remain inside and avoid unnecessary travel for safety reasons and so that emergency vehicles can get through in the event of an emergency.

The conductor tells you that the last car is the best car to be in so that when the train stops, you will be in the most convenient location on the platform to get to the site you are trying to see- the same site everyone else in the car is headed to.

These are only three fairly plausible scenarios and yet, is there really ever really any scenario where “because I said so” is a more satisfactory answer than a thoughtful, if basic, explanation? Travelers thrive on relevant and up to date information. It keeps us aware and it keeps us engaged. We have recently acquired the ability to look up any and all information with a few quick taps of the finger. And we do. We google everything from cheap flights to deodorant recipes, from simple translations to how to’s on travel photography. In a world full of instant information, “because I said so” is a phrase that has very little use to any traveler and, one might argue, to any adult.

So why do we repeat the same phrase, at nauseam, to children? Is the ease with which it flows from our lips really worth the greater message we are sending?

Teaching our children to question and not take “because I said so” for an answer might be one of the most socially responsible things we can do. History has taught us that a populace of people who accept “because I said so” from their leaders is a recipe for disaster- and yet we still seemed to have not learned the lesson. “Because I said so” should, and would, set off alarm bells in any long term traveler’s brain. Not only that but swallowing the pill that some people get to make rules without being held accountable to the “why” is a dangerous ingredient for institutionalized oppression- something most travelers have seen evidence of around the world and something we shouldn’t be teaching any child to accept. The world needs more people who question and fewer people who follow along when some leader says “because I said so”. It’s a good bet that almost everyone reading this can think of at least one example to illustrate how true this is.

The messages we repeat most often to our children (whether verbal or otherwise) are the building blocks to the society we build. “Because I said so” might be convenient and it even might induce results in the here and now but the long term effects of this flippant phrase might be more than we bargained for.

Instead of aiming to instill a simple sense of obedience in our children by uttering “because I said so” at every convenience, we should be encouraging children to always ask questions and to constantly strive to understand why they are doing what they are doing, no matter who is asking. Asking questions and a search for understanding are lessons that never go out of style.


Posted by | Comments Off on Is the phrase “because I said so” causing more harm than good?  | May 29, 2014
Category: Ethics

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