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Teach Your Kid How to Sense BS

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

“One of the most salient features of our culture is there is so much bull----.”

Harry G. Frankfurt, Princeton philosophy professor

How many of you have met the book smart 4.0 magna cum laude lady who, in regard to street smarts, is a magna dumb loopy chick? What about the poor honey who is neither book nor street smart? What a shame, eh? My goal for my girls is for them to own the twain. My wife and I push our daughters to academic excellence; we insist that they strain their brains so they won’t sound like Paris Hilton when they open their mouths.


That being said, as much as I want my little rays of sunshine to have a high GPA (not that a jiffy GPA means squat anymore given the bogus bunk being taught in school) I want them to have an equal or higher level of street smarts: what some would call a sixth sense, an otherness, a discerning spirit, a fourth dimension, or what I call a well-honed and greased BS Detector (BSD).

Street smarts will give our kids the shrewdness to see through the veil of crap most guys, governments, gimmicks, gadgets, gurus and evil girlfriends live behind. Being the helpful guy that I am, I want to help you help your kids whet their BSD and overcome any proclivity they have to becoming as sharp as a sack of wet rats and assist them to discern that which is detrimental to their lives—even if it’s all dressed up as the greatest thing in all the world.

Bad dates, greasy politicians, scum sucking marketing leeches, PR mooks, agents, corporate America, late night infomercials, televangelists, used car salesmen, and mechanics all love the gullible dolt who has a weak dung detector. Therefore parents, one of the most important things you can ever do for your offspring is to help them become shrewd and skeptical young ‘un who cannot be bamboozled by people, places, and ideas that seek to do them harm.

So what is BS?


You can call it bull crap, or the nicer sounding Latin term “stercore tauri,” or simply bull, horse hockey, bollocks, gobbledygook, humbug, Reverend Wright, tall tale, propaganda, fiction, lie, bunkum, spin, or truthiness. Whatever you want to call it, BS can be defined as: “Communications where reality and truthfulness aren’t nearly as vital as the ability to manipulate the audience to get it to do whatever one wants done.”

Unofficially, the term BS wove its way into the American whoop and warp back in 1915 when Theodore Roosevelt screamed it after he saw an ugly bearded woman carrying a temperance sign. The earliest attestation mentioned by the Concise Oxford Dictionary is in fact T. S. Eliot, who between 1910 and 1916 wrote an early poem to which he gave the title “The Triumph of Bullshit.” In American slang the term came into popular usage during World War II.

As your children plow through life in postmodern times they’re going to be hit with a tsunami of sewage coming from various institutes and people. I know it’s cruel, it sucks, and it’s a shame that our kids have officially missed out on the Leave it to Beaver scenario that many of us were fortunate enough to have lived through. But it’s no use crying about it. We must make certain our charges can deftly navigate the crap-laden rapids of our culture and come out of this thing smelling like roses.


To keep it simple, tell your children that their BS detector is essentially, as one comedian said, that little voice inside their heads telling them to listen to the little voice inside their heads. It’s an internal salvific alarm alerting them to the fact that they’re in the process of being bamboozled. It will be to their own detriment if they ignore this in-house salvo. If they hone and listen to it when it screams, they’ll be the wiser, safer and richer for it.

Everybody has a BSD. Obviously, some folks have better ones than others. No matter where your kids currently are in their abilities to spot BS in all of its varied forms, if they will apply the following three simple principles I guarantee their dates with morons, their purchases of stuff they don’t need, and their gullibility in regard to the MSM’s propaganda will diminish, and they’ll take on a shrewd life-saving edge:

1. Become a skeptic. Our English word skeptic comes from the Greek word skopos, which means someone who scopes things out. Whether it’s a car or a polygamist cult or a current politician, train them to look under the hood a little bit more, would ‘cha pops? An easy exercise to increase their righteous doubts is to have them stand in front of a mirror with their arms crossed and one eyebrow raised, look down their nose and say, “yeah, right” in a sarcastic tone. Have them do this about 100 times every morning before they’re off to school. Yes, parents, it is your job to make your kids healthily suspicious before they date it, buy it or vote for it.


2. Trust your Gut. God has hardwired us so that when we are in danger, or when we’re getting scammed, or when we’re about to say, “yes, coffee sounds great!” to an axe murder that our body, mind and spirit freak out. Our “gut” will check us, and the little voice inside our head will start calling us unflattering names in an attempt to get our attention before we get raked over the coals. Remember, your gut check/BSD is your friend, and never forget this maxim: When you are picking up on something, you’re picking up on something. Pay attention, por favor.

3. Hang out with mature, sharp and successful people and allow them to speak into your life. I know for young people it’s not sexy to hang out with people other than their peers. However, if you’re honest, young person, most of your friends are idiots with very weak BSDs, correct?

Young person, if your parents, grandparents, pastors or whoever are successful and have enriched, happy lives, sidle up to them because they can sharpen your BSD. They have expertise, experience, honesty, and a spiritual maturity that you can roll into your profit if you surround yourself with them . . . and if you listen.

Yes, young blood, you can become wise beyond your years and by osmosis have a highly-attuned BSD which will set you up for safety and security by simply befriending and adhering to the counsel of mature, righteous adults. Yep, older folks who have been there and done that bring many things to the table that your goofy BFF cannot provide. Don’t blow these people off. Matter of fact, the more you surround yourself with wise counselors the more life is going to kiss you on the mouth rather than kick you in the butt.


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