Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, reflects on a visit to China and gives his thoughts on different approaches to learning in China and the West.
Howard Gardner 1 For a month in the spring of 1987, my wife Ellen and I lived in the bustling eastern Chinese city of Nanjing with our 18-month-old son Benjamin while studying arts education in Chinese kindergartens and elementary schools. But one of the most telling lessons Ellen and I got in the difference between Chinese and American ideas of education came not in the classroom but in the lobby of the Jinling Hotel where we stayed in Nanjing.
2 The key to our room was attached to a large plastic block with the room number on it. When leaving the hotel, a guest was encouraged to turn in the key, either by handing it to an attendant or by dropping it through a slot into a box. Because the key slot was narrow, the key had to be positioned carefully to fit into it.
3 Benjamin loved to carry the key around, shaking it vigorously. He also liked to try to place it into the slot. Because of his tender age and incomplete understanding of the need to position the key just so, he would usually fail. Benjamin was not bothered in the least. He probably got as much pleasure out of the sounds the key made as he did those few times when the key actually found its way into the slot.
4 Now both Ellen and I were perfectly happy to allow Benjamin to bang the key near the key slot. His exploratory behavior seemed harmless enough. But I soon observed an interesting phenomenon. Any Chinese staff member nearby would come over to watch Benjamin and, noting his lack of initial success, attempt to assist. He or she would hold onto Benjamin's hand and,
gently but firmly, guide it directly toward the slot, reposition it as necessary, and help him to insert it. The "teacher" would then smile somewhat expectantly at Ellen or me, as if awaiting a thank you ─and on occasion would frown slightly, as if considering us to be neglecting our parental duties.
5 I soon realized that this incident was directly relevant to our assigned tasks in China: to investigate the ways of early childhood education (especially in the arts), and to throw light on Chinese attitudes toward creativity. And so before long I began to introduce the key-slot anecdote into my discussions with Chinese educators. 我很快意识到，这件小事与我们在中国要做的工作直接相关：考察儿童早期教育（尤其是艺术教育）的方式，揭示中国人对创造性活动的态度。因此，不久我就在与中国教育工作者讨论时谈起了钥匙槽口一事。
TWO DIFFERENT W AYS TO LEARN
6 With a few exceptions my Chinese colleagues displayed the same attitude as the staff at the Jinling Hotel. Since adults know how to place the key in the key slot, which is the ultimate purpose of approaching the slot, and since the child is neither old enough nor clever enough to realize the desired action on his own, what possible gain is achieved by having him struggle? He may well get frustrated and angry ─certainly not a desirable outcome. Why not show him what to do? He will be happy, he will learn how to accomplish the task sooner, and then he can proceed to more complex activities, like opening the door or asking for the key ─both of which accomplishments can (and should) in due course be modeled for him as well.
7 We listened to such explanations sympathetically and explained that, first of all, we did not much care whether Benjamin succeeded in inserting the key into the slot. He was having a good time and was exploring, two activities that did matter to us. But the critical point was that, in the process, we were trying to teach Benjamin that one can solve a problem effectively by oneself. Such self-reliance is a principal value of child rearing in middle-class America. So long as the child is shown exactly how to do something ─whether it be placing a key in a key slot, drawing a hen or making up for a misdeed ─he is less likely to figure out himself how to accomplish such a task. And, more generally, he is less likely to view life ─as Americans do ─as a series of situations in which one has to learn to think for oneself, to solve problems on one's own and even to discover new problems for which creative solutions are wanted.
TEACHING BY HOLDING HIS HAND
8 In retrospect, it became clear to me that this incident was indeed key ─and key in more than one sense. It pointed to important differences in the educational and artistic practices in our two countries.
9 When our well-intentioned Chinese observers came to Benjamin's rescue, they did not simply push his hand down clumsily or uncertainly, as I might have done. Instead, they guided him with extreme facility and gentleness in precisely the desired direction. I came to realize that these Chinese were not just molding and shaping Benjamin's performance in any old manner: In the best Chinese tradition, they were ba zhe shou jiao ─"teaching by holding his hand" ─so much so that he would happily come back for more.
10 The idea that learning should take place by continual careful shaping and molding applies equally to the arts. Watching children at work in a classroom setting, we were astonished by their facility. Children as young as 5 or 6 were painting flowers, fish and animals with the skill and confidence of an adult; calligraphers 9 and 10 years old were producing works that could have been displayed in a museum. In a visit to the homes of two of the young artists, we learned from their parents that they worked on perfecting their craft for several hours a day.
11 In terms of attitudes to creativity there seems to be a reversal of priorities: young Westerners making their boldest departures first and then gradually mastering the tradition; and young Chinese being almost inseparable from the tradition, but, over time, possibly evolving to a
point equally original.
12 One way of summarizing the American position is to state that we value originality and independence more than the Chinese do. The contrast between our two cultures can also be seen in terms of the fears we both harbor. Chinese teachers are fearful that if skills are not acquired early, they may never be acquired; there is, on the other hand, no comparable hurry to promote creativity. American educators fear that unless creativity has been acquired early, it may never emerge; on the other hand, skills can be picked up later.
13 However, I do not want to overstate my case. There is enormous creativity to be found in Chinese scientific, technological and artistic innovations past and present. And there is a danger of exaggerating creative breakthroughs in the West. When any innovation is examined closely, its reliance on previous achievements is all too apparent (the "standing on the shoulders of giants" phenomenon).
14 But assuming that the contrast I have developed is valid, and that the fostering of skills and creativity are both worthwhile goals, the important question becomes this: Can we gather, from the Chinese and American extremes, a superior way to approach education, perhaps striking a better balance between the poles of creativity and basic skills?
Finding a way of teaching children to appreciate the value of money can be a problem. Yet the solution, David Owen suggests, is simple -- just open a bank. Easier said than done? Well, it turns out to be not quite so difficult as it sounds, as you'll discover in reading about the First National Bank of Dave.
Children and Money
David Owen 1 Parents who decide that the time has come to teach their children about money usually begin by opening savings accounts. The kids are attracted at first by the notion that a bank will pay them for doing nothing, but their enthusiasm disappears when they realize that the interest rate is tiny and, furthermore, their parents don't intend to give them access to their principal. To a kid, a savings account is just a black hole that swallows birthday checks.
2 Kid: "Grandma gave me twenty-five dollars!"
Parent: "How nice. We'll put that check straight into your savings account."
Kid: "But she gave it to me! I want it!"
Parent: "Oh, it will still be yours. You just have to keep it in the bank so that it can grow."
Kid (suspicious) : "What do you mean by 'grow'?"
Parent: "Well, if you leave your twenty-five dollars in the bank for just one year, the bank will pay you seventy-five cents. And if you leave all of that in the bank for just one more year, the bank will give you another seventy-five cents plus two and a half more cents besides. That's called compound interest. It will help you go to college."
3 The main defect in such saving schemes is that there's nothing in them for the kids. College is a thousand years away, and they probably think they'd just as soon stay home anyway. Indeed, the true purpose of such plans is usually not to promote saving but to prevent consumption.
(1) Appalled by what their children spend on candy and video games (or, rather, appalled by the degree to which their children's overspending seems to mimic their own), parents devise ways to lock up their children's resources. Not surprisingly, kids quickly decide that large sums aren't real money and that all cash should either be spent immediately or hidden in a drawer.
4 To avoid this problem with my two children, I started my own bank. It's called the First National Bank of Dave. I set up an account for each child, using the same computer program I use to keep track of my checkbook. Because I wanted my kids' deposits to grow at a pace that would hold their attention, I offered an attractive interest rate-five per cent a month. (2) Compounded, that works out to an annual rate of more than 70 per cent. (No, I don't accept deposits from strangers.) Allowances are deposited automatically on the first day of each month. The kids can make other deposits, or withdrawals, whenever they like.
5 The Bank of Dave, which has been in operation four years, instantly turned both my children into keen savers. My son still comes to me with change he has found on the floor of the car, saying, "And credit this today." Both kids' accounts grew so fast that after two years I had to roll back my monthly interest rate to three per cent. The kids protested when I announced the change, but they nodded solemnly when I explained that the law of supply and demand applies even to the supply of money. The kids help me calculate their interest -- a useful lesson in averaging and percentages. (3) I give them unlimited access to their funds, no questions asked, and I provide printed statements on demand. 戴夫银行经营了4年，一下子就把我的两个孩子变成了热心的储蓄者。至今我儿子在车里找到零钱仍会来找我说，“今天就把这个上账。”两个孩子的存款增长很快，两年之后，我不得不将月利率降至3厘。我宣布调低利率时两个孩子反对，可当我解释说供求法则同样适用于货币供应后，两人严肃地点头赞同。两个孩子帮我一起计算他们的利息——这可是学习计算平均值与百分比的颇为有用的一课。他们使用自己的资金我不加任何限制，不作任何询问，我还根据要求随时提供打印的账单。
6 The high rate of interest is not the only attractive feature of the Bank of Dave. Equally important from the kids' point of view is that their accounts belong to them. When they save, they harvest the benefit; when they want to spend, they don't need permission. Children who have no control over their own funds have no incentive not to beg for money and then spend every dollar that comes into their hands.
7 The way to help children become rational consumers is to give them more control, not less. Before we go on vacation, I'll usually give my kids an extra twenty bucks or so, which I deposit in their accounts. I tell them that they can spend the extra money on a T-shirt, save it, spend it before we leave, or do anything else they want with it -- but that while we are on vacation, they won't receive any additional pocket money from me (except in the form of communal purchases
considered by custom to be vacation entitlements, such as candy, ice cream, movie tickets, and so on). Because any money they spend starts out as theirs, not mine, they think twice before throwing it away. In a souvenir store on Martha's Vineyard a couple of summers ago my son quietly studied the unpromising merchandise while a friend of his loudly cajoled his parents into paying five dollars for a toy gun, which fell apart almost before we got back to the car. My son ended up spending thirty-three cents for an unopened geode, which he later cracked open by hitting it with a hammer -- a good value, it seemed to me. If he had been spending my money instead of his, he undoubtedly would have wanted a toy gun instead.
8 "Children are instinctive capitalists. If given enough leeway, they quickly become shrewd managers of their own finances. When parents fail in their efforts at financial education, it's usually because for reasons of their own they have managed to make saving seem painful and dull. Money is fun, and it's almost entirely self-explanatory. (4) The only way to teach kids to adopt a long-term perspective is to give them a short-term incentive for doing so.
Does being rich mean you live a completely different life from ordinary people? Not, it seems, if your name is Sam Walton.
THE RICHEST MAN IN AMERICA, DOWN HOME
Art Harris 1 He put on a dinner jacket to serve as a waiter at the birthday party of The Richest Man in America. He imagined what surely awaited: a mansion, a "Rolls-Royce for every day of the week," dogs with diamond collars, servants everywhere.
2 Then he was off to the house, wheeling past the sleepy town square in Bentonville, a remote Arkansas town of 9,920, where Sam Walton started with a little dime store that grew into a $6 billion discount chain called Wal-Mart. He drove down a country road, turned at a mailbox marked "Sam and Helen Walton," and jumped out at a house in the woods.
3 It was nice, but no palace. The furniture appeared a little worn. An old pickup truck sat in the garage and a muddy bird dog ran about the yard. He never spotted any servants.
4 "It was a real disappointment," sighs waiter Jamie Beaulieu.
5 Only in America can a billionaire carry on like plain folks and get away with it. And the 67-year-old discount king Sam Moore Walton still travels these windy back roads in his 1979 Ford pickup, red and white, bird dogs by his side, and, come shooting season, waits in line like everyone else to buy shells at the local Wal-Mart. 只有在美国，一个亿万富翁才能像普通百姓一样，安稳地过着普普通通的日子。67岁的廉价店大王萨姆·穆尔·沃尔顿仍然开着他那辆红白两色的1979年出厂的福特牌轻型货车穿行在弯弯曲曲的乡间小道上，身边坐着他的捕禽猎犬。当狩猎季节来临时，他跟别人一样在当地的沃尔玛商店排队购买猎枪子弹。
6 "He doesn't want any special treatment," says night manager Johnny Baker, who struggles to call the boss by his first name as a recent corporate memo commands. Few here think of his billions; they call him "Mr. Sam" and accept his folksy ways. "He's the same man who opened his dime store on the square and worked 18 hours a day for his dream," says Mayor Richard Hoback.
7 By all accounts, he's friendly, cheerful, a fine neighbor who does his best to blend in, never flashy, never throwing his weight around.
8 No matter how big a time he had on Saturday night, you can find him in church on Sunday.
Surely in a reserved seat, right? "We don't have reserved seats," says Gordon Garlington III, pastor of the local church.
9 So where does The Richest Man in America sit? Wherever he finds a seat. "Look, he's just not that way. He doesn't have a set place. At a church supper the other night, he and his wife were in back washing dishes."
10 For 19 years, he's used the same barber. John Mayhall finds him waiting when he opens up at 7 a.m. He chats about the national news, or reads in his chair, perhaps the Benton County Daily Democrat, another Walton property that keeps him off the front page. It buried the Forbes list at the bottom of page 2.
11 "He's just not a front-page person," a newspaper employee explains.
12 But one recent morning, The Richest Man in America did something that would have made headlines anywhere in the world: He forgot his money. "I said, 'Forget it, take care of it next time, '" says barber Mayhall. "But he said. 'No, I'll get it,' and he went home for his wallet."
13 Wasn't that, well, a little strange? "No sir," says Mayhall, "the only thing strange about Sam Walton is that he isn't strange."
14 But just how long Walton can hold firm to his folksy habits with celebrity hunters keeping following him wherever he goes is anyone's guess. Ever since Forbes magazine pronounced him America's richest man, with $2.8 billion in Wal-Mart stock, he's been a rich man on the run, steering clear of reporters, dreamers, and schemers.
15 "He may be the richest by Forbes rankings," says corporate affairs director Jim V on Gremp,
"but he doesn't know whether he is or not -- and he doesn't care. He doesn't spend much. He owns stock, but he's always left it in the company so it could grow. But the real story in his mind is the success achieved by the 100,000 people who make up the Wal-Mart team."
16 He's usually back home for Friday sales meetings, or the executive pep rally Saturday morning at 7 a.m., when Walton, as he does at new store openings, is liable to jump up on a chair and lead everyone in the Wal-Mart cheer: "Give me a W! Give me an A! Give me an L! Louder!"
17 And louder they yell. No one admits to feeling the least bit silly. It's all part of the Wal-Mart way of life as laid down by Sam: loyalty, hard work, long hours; get ideas into the system from the bottom up, Japanese-style; treat your people right; cut prices and margins to the bone and sleep well at night. Employees with one year on board qualify for stock options, and are urged to buy all they can.
18 After the pep rally, there's bird hunting, or tennis on his backyard court. But his stores are always on his mind. One tennis guest managed to put him off his game by asking why a can of balls cost more in one Wal-Mart than another. It turned out to be untrue, but the move worked. Walton lost four straight games.
19 Walton set up a college scholarship fund for employees' children, a disaster relief fund to rebuild employee homes damaged by fires, floods, tornadoes, and the like. He believed in cultivating ideas and rewarding success.
20 "He'd say, 'That fellow worked hard, let's give him a little extra,'" recalls retired president Ferold F. Arend, who was stunned at such generosity after the stingy employer he left to join Wal-Mart. "I had to change my way of thinking when I came aboard."
21 "The reason for our success," says Walton, in a company handout, "is our people and the way they're treated and the way they feel about their company. They believe things are different here, but they deserve the credit."
22 Adds company lawyer Jim Hendren: "I've never seen anyone yet who worked for him or was around him for any length of time who wasn't better off. And I don't mean just financially, although a lot of people are. It's just something about him -- coming into contact with Sam Walton just makes you a better person."
Making the journey from log cabin to White House is part of the American Dream. But when Jimmy Carter was defeated in his attempt to gain a second term as President of the United States he found himself suddenly thrown out of the White House and back in his log cabin. This is how he coped.
The Restoration of Jimmy Carter
Sara Pacher 1 Maybe it's because I, too, was born and raised in a small south Georgia town, but I found sitting down to talk to Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter as comfortable as lazing in a porch swing on a summer afternoon, sipping iced tea. Just such a swing overlooks a roaring mountain stream at the Carters' log cabin retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Along with the cabin's other furniture, the swing was designed and built by the former president, a master woodworker who selects and cuts the trees for such projects from his 160-acre farm. He then strips off the bark and shapes the wood into furniture and other items.
2 "My daddy was a good man with tools," he recalls, "so learning how to use them was as natural as breathing for us. If something broke, we had to fix it ourselves. You didn't call somebody in to repair something or replace it with something new. We had these skills -- all farmers did during the Depression years."
3 Over the years, Carter has made some 50 household items, about half of which he has given away as gifts. But some pieces still sit around the family's Plains house and have been in use for over 30 years. His wife is quick to point out, however, that his skills improved as time went on. "When we came home from the Navy in 1953, he built a sofa for the back porch. He used nails then. Now he builds everything without nails. He's studied woodworking and worked at it, and he's made really beautiful furniture for our home -- including a pencil-post bed and tables by the side."
4 His woodworking talent served Carter well during his political campaigns, particularly when meeting factory workers. "You don't have to say but a few things to people who work in a factory before they realize that you, yourself, have been a laborer. It may be a different kind of skill from theirs, but there's a bond, sort of like a brotherhood, among people who work with their hands."
5 Once he campaigned his way to the presidency, Carter occasionally managed to slip in a few hours at the carpenter's shed at Camp David, because, in his opinion, "What we need in our lives is a stock of factors that never change. (1)I think that skill with one's own hands -- whether it's tilling the soil, building a house, making a piece of furniture, playing a violin or painting a painting -- is something that doesn't change with the ups and downs of life. And for me, going back to the earth or going back to the woodshop have always been opportunities to reinforce my basic skills. (2)No matter if I was involved in writing a book, conducting a political campaign, teaching at Emory University or dealing with international affairs, I could always go back -- at least for a few hours at a time -- to the woodshop. That's meant an awful lot to me. It's a kind of therapy, but it's also a steadying force in my life -- a total rest for my mind. 卡特一路竞选当上总统之后，偶尔也设法悄悄溜到戴维营的木工场干上几个小时，因为在他看来，“我们在生活中需要一些永远不变的要素。我认为手艺——不管是耕地，造房子，做家具，拉小提琴，还是画图——这些东西不会因生活的起起落落而改变。至于我，回到农场种地或重返木工场一直是我
6 "When I'm in the woodshop," he continues, "I don't ever think about the chapter I'm writing or the paragraph I can't complete or the ideas that don't come. I'm thinking about the design of a piece of furniture, how the wood's going to fit together, what joint I'm going to use and whether or not my hand tools are sharp."
7 (3)In Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's recently published book, Everything to Gain, they explain frankly how they used back-to-basics skills to confront and resolve their painful political defeat, a sudden departure from Washington and their fears of an empty future.
8 "In the book," Jimmy says, "we try to relate our lives, not to the White House, but to Plains -- for a couple of reasons. One, to show the attraction of a small town, and, second, to make it clear that the book is not just about a couple who happened to have been the First Family of the nation; it's also written for the average person who loses a job, has an unexpected career change, has to move to a place not of his or her choice, has a last child leave home. Or for a married couple who suddenly find themselves at retirement age and living together for the first time all day long -- not just at night."
9 The Carters plunged with enthusiasm into such projects as laying a sidewalk and putting a hardwood floor in their unfinished loft. Rosalynn has picked up additional carpentry skills in working with one of their favorite organizations, Habitat for Humanity. This is a housing program for the homeless, helping them to build their own houses together with the help of volunteers.
10 "And we both spend a good bit of time on our farm," adds Carter. "We take care of the timberlands. Sometimes we go for long walks in the woods. I may see a particular tree that I think would be suitable for four or five -- perhaps, seven or eight -- chairs or for some other piece of
furniture. I usually select a tree close to home, though, since I have to carry the pieces back to the woodshop area.
11 "One of my favorite kinds of woodworking involves green wood, but there's a tremendous amount of hard labor involved in that. You have to try to handle the different rates at which the wood dries, so the joints get tight and durable. It's the kind of technical problem that appeals to me," says the former nuclear engineer.
12 Obviously, most of today's young people don't grow up routinely learning to use their hands "as naturally as breathing," as Carter did. But he thinks they still have an advantage his parents' generation lacked.
13 "Back then, you'd start working at the age of 16 or 18 and work until you died or were physically incapable of working anymore. You began work at sunrise and worked until dark. But, nowadays, you work 40 hours a week, get a couple of weeks off for vacation and then retire at 55, 60 or 65. You have so much spare time to take on additional exciting things. Sometimes they can be quite useful things; sometimes just enjoyable; sometimes devoted to serving others. In Everything to Gain we try to present a broad range of activities an average person can undertake. We try to point out that no matter what stage of life you may be in -- young, middle-aged or retired -- there's the possibility of a constantly expanding field of interest, excitement, challenge, fulfillment and adventure. (4)In this book we encourage people to take on new things that might look very difficult, but that become very rewarding once the person is involved." "If you have a crisis of any kind," Rosalynn adds, "one of the best things to do is to learn something new."
This comedy centers around a proud father's attempts to help his children, attempts which somehow or other always end up embarrassing them. For the sake of fun it carries things to extremes, but nearly everyone can recognize something of themselves and their parents in it.
Father Knows Better
Marsh Cassady 1
CHARACTERS: FATHER; MOTHER; HEIDI, 14; DIANE, 17; SEAN, 16; RESTAURANT MANAGER, 20s; MRS. HIGGINS.
SETTING: Various locations including a fast-food restaurant, the Thompson family dining room, and an office at a high school.
AT RISE: As the lights come up, HEIDI enters and crosses Down Right to the edge of the stage. SEAN and DIANE enter and cross Down Left to the edge of the stage. They listen as HEIDI addresses the audience.
HEIDI: My dad's a nice man. Nobody could possibly believe that he isn't. Yet he's...well, he's always doing these stupid things that end up really embarrassing one or more of us kids. One time, see, my brother wanted to buy this guitar. Been saving money for it for a long time. Then he got a job at this fast-food place, OK? Waiting tables. It was Sean's first actual job, and he was real happy about it. He figured in two or three months he'd have enough money to buy exactly the kind of guitar he wanted. Mom and Dad were proud of him, and well, OK, he's my big brother, and he's always pulling these dumb things on me. But, well, I was proud of him too. You know what happened? I hate to tell you because:
SEAN, DIANE and HEIDI: (In unison) Father knows better!
(The lights come Up Left on the fast-food restaurant where SEAN works. It consists of a counter and couple of small tables. The MANAGER stands behind the counter. SEAN is busily cleaning the tables when FATHER walks in. )
MANAGER: Good evening, sir. May I help you?
FATHER: Good evening.
SEAN: (To himself) Oh, no! (He squats behind one of the tables trying to hide from FATHER. ) FATHER: I'm looking for the manager.
MANAGER: That would be me, sir.
FATHER: I'm Sam Thompson. My son works here.
MANAGER: Oh, you're Sean's father.
FATHER: Yes. It's his first job, you know. I just wanted to check that he's doing OK. MANAGER: Oh, fine. No problem.
SEAN: (Spreading his hands, palms up, speaking to himself) What did I do to deserve this? Tell me what?
FATHER: Hiring him was a good thing then?
MANAGER: Well, yeah, I suppose so.
SEAN: (Still to himself) Go home, Dad. Go home. Go home.
FATHER: I'm sure he's a good worker but a typical teenager, if you know what I mean. MANAGER: (Losing interest) I wouldn't know.
FATHER: He's a good boy. And I assure you that if there are any subjects that need to be addressed, Sean and I will have a man-to-man talk.
MANAGER: I don't think that will be necessary...
FATHER: Oh, no problem. I'm proud of my son. Very, very proud. And I just wanted you to know that I'll do anything I can to help him through life's dangerous sea.
SEAN: (Standing up and screaming) Aaaargh! Aaaargh! Aaaaaaargh!
FATHER: Son, I didn't know you were here.
SEAN: It's where I work, Dad.
FATHER: Of course. I mean, I didn't see you.
SEAN: I can't imagine why.
FATHER: Your manager and I were just having a nice chat.
(DIANE enters Down Left just as HEIDI enters Down Right. They look at SEAN and FATHER. ) SEAN, DIANE, HEIDI: (In unison) Father, you know better than that. 肖恩：（站起身，高声喊叫）唉！唉！唉！
(The lights quickly fade to black and then come up a second or two later. SEAN stands alone at the Down Right edge of the stage. HEIDI and DIANE cross to Down Left edge of the stage. ) SEAN: If that sort of thing happened only once in a while, it wouldn't be so bad. Overall, I wouldn't want to trade my dad for anyone else's. He loves us kids and Mom too. But I think that's sometimes the problem. He wants to do things for us, things he thinks are good. But he needs to give them more thought because:
SEAN, HEIDI and DIANE: (In unison) Father knows better!
(The lights fade to black and come up on the Center Stage area where FATHER and the three children are seated around the dining room table. MOTHER enters carrying a dish, which she sets on the table. FATHER quickly rises and pulls out her chair. She sits. The family starts eating dinner. )
FATHER: I have a surprise for you, Diane.
DIANE: (Knows it can't be good. ) You have... a surprise?
MOTHER: Well, whatever it is, dear, don't keep us in suspense.
FATHER: Well, you know, Dan Lucas and I work together?
DIANE: Kyle's father?
MOTHER: Don't interrupt, dear, your father is trying to tell you something.
HEIDI: (Stage whisper to SEAN) Something Diane won't want to know, I'll bet.
SEAN: (Whispering to HEIDI) Whatever would make you think that?
MOTHER: Sean, dear. Heidi, sweetheart, don't distract your father.
SEAN and HEIDI: (Simultaneously) Sorry, Mom.
FATHER: Now then. As I was saying, I know how much you like young Kyle.
FATHER: It's true, isn't it? Didn't I hear you tell your mother that you wish Kyle would ask you to the senior prom?
MOTHER: Please, children, please. Your father is trying to speak.
DIANE: (Through clenched teeth, the words are in a monotone and evenly spaced. ) Yes-I-said-that-why-are-you-asking?
FATHER: Well then.
DIANE: (Becoming hysterical)"Well then" what?!
FATHER: What did I say? Did I say something wrong?
HEIDI: (To SEAN) Not yet, he didn't.
SEAN: (To HEIDI) But you know it's coming.
MOTHER: Children, please. Do give your father the respect he deserves.
HEIDI and SEAN: (Rolling their eyes) Yes, Mother.
FATHER: Well, today I saw Dan and asked if he'd like to go to lunch at that French restaurant on Third Street. You know the one, Mother.
MOTHER: Well, yes, I believe I do.
FATHER: My treat, I told him. And, of course, he was glad to accept.
MOTHER: Why wouldn't he be?
FATHER: (Somewhat surprised) Well, yes.
DIANE: What-has-this-to-do-with me?!
MOTHER: Diane, sometimes I just don't understand your behavior. I try my best.
DIANE: (Very short with her) I'm sorry.
MOTHER: Thank you, Diane. (To FATHER) Please do go on, dear.
FATHER: As I said --
HEIDI: We know what you said, Daddy.
FATHER: Er...uh, what's that?
SEAN: She said,"We know what you said, Daddy."
FATHER: Yes, yes, of course.
MOTHER: Do get on with it, dear. I've made the most glorious dessert. An old recipe handed down to me by my great Aunt Hilda --
DIANE: Mother, please!
MOTHER: Yes, dear?