BY ILANA MERCER
IN LINE with the prevailing anti-intellectual childishness, public writing has turned into public advocacy. Conjure and cultivate a malady—this generally involves framing bad behavior as an organic disease. Share it with the world. And—abracadabra!—you’re a hero and an activist.
An example is the parent who declared that his “Eight-Year-Old Son’s iPad Addiction Is As Real As Alcoholism, Drug Abuse.” The editorial so titled was published on a large website. You don’t need to read this folderol to know the following:
* It’s the fault of the parent that little snot is addicted not to books or to outdoor ball games, but to gadgets.
* Who gave sonny boy the gadget? The parent did! Take the iPad away.
* If your kid’s an iPad addict; you’re his enabler. Quit paying for your children’s hand-held devices. (It costs a fortune!)
We survived without them. If Kid needs to contact crazy-in-love parent urgently, he or she can go to the principal’s office. It’ll give Kid an opportunity to practice a few civilizing skills parents have studiously refrained from imparting, lest manners mess with their child’s élan:
Knock on the principal’s door. Enter when she says so (a school principal is seldom a guy these days). Address her as Ma’am or Mrs. Ask if you may call mom or dad. Say “please” and “thank you.”
Alternatively, parents can instruct progeny to wait on the corner to be fetched; just like he, the parent, used to do. (Remember walking a couple of kilometers home each day?)
Oh, and if a stranger sidles up to Kid … I bet he knows that protocol better than he knows the Ten Commandments.
Speaking of the Decalogue—the Fifth Commandment, in particular—notice the rise in the phenomenon of kids killing their parents, also the ultimate sin. The “trend” coincides with decades of parental and pedagogic progressivism. A lack of moral instruction early on will do that.
Alas, dare to question the cult of the kid and you get angry reactions from cult members. Once, after fielding furious “Think About The Kids” missives, I thought I’d send parents (I’m one) packing with this bit of advice:
Don’t prostrate your Adult Self before The Kids.
If you can, follows the great Florence King’s injunction that “children have no business expressing opinions on anything except, ‘Do you have enough room in the toes?'” If you can’t, try to remember that traditionalists values hierarchy. A traditional society should be a hierarchical society—one where adults guide children until they’re capable of governing themselves. (For goodness sake, the frontal cortex is not yet fully developed in young adults.)
True-blue cultural traditionalism doesn’t deify kids. Deification of The Child is the hallmark of an infantile—perhaps even an immoral—society, because inverting the natural order will often result in great social ill.
“In America,” observed Oscar Wilde, “the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”
In China, on the other hand, they’re inclined to consider a youth-obsessed society such as ours a silly society. The standard inquiry, I am told, made by Taiwanese engineers about their American counterparts in hardware engineering is, “How many grey hairs and no-hairs are in the group?” Unlike their youth-worshiping American colleagues, these wise Confucians reason that the presence of “grey hairs and no-hairs” in the collaborating high-tech team bodes better for the project.
Adults are certainly to blame for molding kids in their image. It’s not the child’s fault that the adults in his life have conditioned him to be their miserable, sniveling clone. That kids today are a shadow of their former selves is the fault of the grown-ups.
My all-time favorite fictional kid has to be the kid in O. Henry’s (1862-1910) classic short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Not only is “The Ransom of Red Chief” an American classic (written by a southerner, of course)—it hearkens back to a time when kids had character; kid character.
Whatever happened to childish mischief, whatever happened to the Authentic Child? Basically, the kidnapped kid, “Red Chief,” is so imaginatively naughty—never evil or wicked—that his traumatized kidnappers end up paying his wealthy grandad to take him back.
Kids: Reclaim your inner “Red Chief.” Return to being real children. Parents and pedagogues: Allow children to quit banging on about raising money for breast cancer or for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. It’s bloody unnatural, positively creepy. Besides, making kids beg for money is in bad form. Has no adult read “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens?
While you’re at it, buy your little boy “The Dangerous Book For Boys.” Oh boy, are you in for a treat!