utopia part three
October 22, 2004 02:17 PM

This morning, I caught a bunch of what I believe to be really stupid misinformation about children and teenagers on the news. One piece casually dismissed kids on skateboards as a menace to society while it seriously considered whether old people on scooters and motorized wheelchairs ought be able to drive 5mph down a local street. Kids are bad! Old people, who may have more experience but impaired senses, aren't.

And then (or before, whatever) there was a bit about how sexual predators are coming into your home (via the internet), thereby making your home about as safe as the mall. Which is, in essence, true - kids have about a 1:1,000,000 chance of being kidnapped or assaulted by a stranger in the mall, which isn't much higher than the chance of it happening in your house. Of course, if you factor in the possibility of a kid getting sexually abused, they're much more in danger from the people their parents bring home (and the parents themselves) than from strangers. The suggestion touted in this ridiculously badly researched piece was that you try to invade your kids' privacy as much as possible.


So, I'm continuing my continuence of the utopia piece, with the bit about education and children (#1 from my original list). The essential tenet of dealing with children is that they must be granted every human right granted adults and granted individuality. As the t-shirt my partner covets said, children must be seen, heard and believed. (narf) But they also deserve what every adult deserves - the basics of life, of course, but also trust and assumption of their competence.

My views on education and rights for kids are based upon (or at least reflected in) those espoused by John Holt and the like, and those theorists have written many books on the subject that I trust you can read if you're interested. Their main idea, and mine, is that the most important thing we can do is educate kids to become better thinkers.

Humans have a strong impulse to learn, and our current system of education and parenting squashes that more than it values it. Education in my ideal world would allow for a lot of different types of schooling, for more freedom for families and communities to interact with children (and for kids to participate in the adult world they want so badly to join), and for a notion of learning that isn't classroom- or youth-bound but rather all about experience. It would not include rote learning, forced adherence to curricula or standards of proficiency in subjects - or, for that matter, subjects themselves.

There'd still be a need for schools for kids to meet at and for teachers who could offer guidance, answer questions & provide approaches for people to select from when they, for instance, wanted to learn to read. I think the single greatest use of teachers and schooling would be in asking questions - not "what's 2 + 2" so much as "why do you think that?". But everyone around you would serve as a sort of teacher in this way.

Kids in happy feministy heaven would also be spared gender bias and all the many million little subtle and not so subtle hints adults send them about the importance of being "normal" or "what girls do" vs. "what boys do" or skin color or any of that other shite. Partially because adults wouldn't have these issues themselves (and so wouldn't, say, treat a baby in blue differently than a baby in pink) and partially because adults would teach with listening and giving real - that is NOT black and white - answers to questions.

Childcare, by the way, would also have little bias of any form, because every child would have a community of chosen family members (all of whom are presumably bias-free, at least in my community) to care for it - those people would generally be of somewhat varied thinking and background. Men and women and those other and in between would all consider themselves equally responsible for childrearing, and this would be facilitated by economic factors as well as the political nature of the community.

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your wicked thoughts

Wow - I confess if I ver procreated I'd be a little more conservative about it that you are. :) Assumption of their competence? I balk at that immediately because that's what growing up is about - becoming competent, right? I mean I can't assume they are competent if they haven't learned how to be yet?

Maybe I'm totally misinterpreting you here. But I think kids do need restrictions - for example, on smoking and drinking - but maybe that's not what you meant.

Of course, I'm the dangerous potential mother to most of my friends because I wouldn't move to a better school district and instead would try to be involved in my kids' public school education right here at home... :)

these are the thoughts of Kim on November 10, 2004 08:00 PM

No, you're not misinterpreting me. I don't think.

Little kids will naturally behave within boundaries and will become competent at making decisions as they get older if you a) let them be around adults most of the time without adults changing their behavior and b) assume that the kids have the ability to become competent. Presuming, of course, that the environment around them is nurturing and supportive and they're allowed to detach from their parents when they're ready. This isn't just my belief, either - this is drawn from research that was the foundation of liberal homeschooling and attachment parenting. It's true of adults when you work with them, too. If you assume competence and good intent, you are almost always returned with competence & good intent.

I was speaking more to our general paranoia about kids being "destructive" AND (ironically) easily victimized, not to the specific ideas of age-of-majority and such. But. Restrictions on things (i.e. smoking, drinking, sex, driving, voting) based purely on age disregard the fact that people become ready to make decisions at different ages. They're convenient - I mean, can you imagine if everyone who wanted to drive had to individually apply to be assessed mature enough or something? Bureaucratic nightmare. But at a community level, it makes more sense to grant a person rights and responsibilities based on her individual situation.

these are the thoughts of april on November 11, 2004 09:18 AM

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