“Children should be seen and not heard” is a saying familiar to most of us. Just as many parents don’t cotton to the saying—certainly not in retail stores, where tired wails reverberate off high ceilings.

This old expression first appeared in Mirk’s Festial, published c. 1450 by a clergyman. The pious so-and-so penned, “A mayde schuld be seen, but not herd.” Down the years, women spoke up and “mayde (maid)” was changed to “children.”

As noted above, modern children do speak up. Sometimes we wish they’d keep quiet, especially in the check-out line, but the same can be said of adults on their cell phones. If you’ve ever approached an individual, one who beams at you and exclaims “Hi!”, and responded in kind, only to discover that they are on a hands-free call, you know what I mean. George and Jane Jetson didn’t have to deal with that, not even from Rosie the Robot.

Twenty-first century children talk. Sometimes they are heard, too. Look at the voices that have abandoned The Cloud to reverberate in state capitals and on Capitol Hill. Kids are speaking in complete sentences about their right to a safe now, as well as a future.

Yesterday, I was asked to lead an afternoon of park hikes. The hikers were sixth grade students. I went in loaded for bear, prepared to shout against a preteen din and cold wind. There was some of that, but nothing a bottle of water couldn’t help. What I heard were lots of questions about what we encountered alongside the Blanchard River, as well as insights that have never occurred to me or the grade school textbooks I recall.

For example:

“You look like one of those people on ‘Duck Dynasty’ but you’re too smart for that.” (directed at me and my field coat)

“The moss on that log is a consumer since the log is decaying, right? Wouldn’t it be a predator, too?” (discuss)

My favorite exchange was between a group of boys, obvious friends who kept Kyle, one of their overly energetic allies, gently in line throughout the 30-minute walk.

“When they poured this concrete sidewalk, they put me under it,” exclaimed Kyle.

“I’m surprised they let you out,” said Mike. Kyle grinned, and loped off to the next attraction.