Six days ago I put up the transcript of an interview of Mason Crumpacker (the 9-year-old freethinker who had a felicitious meeting in Texas with Christopher Hitchens) conducted by Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Robberson. While Robberson got some criticism for this, there was also lots of support, something that’s heartening in a religious state like Texas. But some of the readers here, too, doubted that Mason could really have said the things she did, or suspected that she’d really been indoctrinated by her parents.
In a followup piece,”What’s the harm in interviewing a 9-year-old?” Robberson (who, by the way, won a Pulitzer Prize last year), explains why he wrote the piece (ten to one he’s gotten flak from the editors) and asserts that Mason’s statements were real and unprompted. Here’s an excerpt:
Some think she has been indoctrinated by her parents and that she’s simply mouthing everything that they’ve told her to say. Every child is influenced by his or her parents. That’s natural and unavoidable. But being allowed to figure things out, without being immersed in religious doctrine at an early age, strikes me as a healthy approach. Mason doesn’t reject all religious thought. She says she wants to think about it before she decides. What’s wrong with that?
I promise you, everything she said in that interview was the result of her own impromptu thinking. I deliberately tried to throw her curveball questions just to see if she could handle them, and she handled the questions amazingly. Her parents did not intervene except for the few times when Mason seemed overwhelmed and buried her face in her hands out of apparent frustration that she couldn’t express herself the way she wanted to. Her parents told her she was doing fine and to keep going. I did the same. But nobody prompted her to say anything.
My father in law and one other reader asked if this was a spoof of some kind. They just couldn’t believe that a 9-year-old could recount the various stages of evolution in such intricate scientific detail, then translate it all into French. I assure everyone, this was no spoof. It was the real deal.
For those of you who were outraged at what Mason had to say, please remember the venue of this interview. We didn’t publish it in Neighbors.go. We published it in Points. The whole idea behind Points is to present unusual points of view and out-of-the-box thinking. We want to stimulate discussion and offer new perspectives. Maybe Mason isn’t the first person on the planet to question religion or the existence of God, but she’s pretty rare among 9-year-olds for her ability to do it so eloquently. She absolutely belonged in Points.
I like this guy. He’s been at the paper for five years, but I wonder how long he’ll stay in Texas.
Oh, and one byproduct: actress Martha Plimpton put this up on Twitter: