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Almost every problem you read about, you hear that the education system needs to be changed for a better world. It is a different matter that I think it should be scrapped, but even if we don’t scrap it, I think it is a big farce to imagine we can “seed” a new world by brainwashing kids. We already have a lot of such programming about the environment happening and look how useful it is. Kids are growing up to fit their world. They now grow out of concern for the environment as a rite of passage to adulthood. But of course, we aren’t observing, so we think it is working. We also think it will work with other things.

For everything from corruption to better treatment of women, a big and important thing is that the children should be taught to do the right thing. There are several things wrong with this mentality.

  1. Values are inculcated, not taught. This means that you have to fix teachers, parents and assorted adults first so they can live those values for kids to absorb.
  2. Listening to this “design better kids” project, one would imagine that grown ups learn from the example of children rather than vice versa. Kids learn from watching adults. If the adults treat women bad and are corrupt, where is the child going to learn the “right” thing from? From his/her kids?
  3. Ok, if by some miracle, the children suddenly became perfect. What will they do? Change adults, in a world where they don’t have basic rights ensured and are completely at the mercy of adults?
  4. If children became perfect, why should they suffer our generation at all? Or if they weren’t perfect… should our generation be something to be endured by those we should be nourishing?
  5. That would also mean we must wait for a better world till this new and improved citizen replaces the existing citizens when they grow up.
  6. In other words, we are saying, we are hopeless. Beyond repair.
  7. Erm… not to ask you to care about the poor kids or anything, but how many solutions to seed? Our world is quite messed on many things. Or should there be a second “wave” of programming for their kids?

Hmm…

So why is such a lousy idea so popular?

  1. Because, by recommending that change be the responsibility of the education system, you shrug off your responsibility without appearing to be lazy. You just aren’t a teacher, you know? You don’t create syllabus and you passed out of school long ago, so you really can’t do anything beyond saying that schools should do it. You are just “positioned wrong”. Sucks, but now you’re off to molest that girl while you still can.
  2. You can continue to pretend that you are a functional citizen of a functional world and anything better will be the next version. You are at the zenith of evolution.
  3. You don’t have to confront any adults and risk offense. Bullying kids is normal. Even if it means expecting children to do something you can’t and calling it some kind of solution.
  4. You don’t have to admit, face or fix that your condition is unacceptable – personally. It is “the world” (other than you) who are suffering. No shit, Sherlock!

I suggest that unless you can speak for yourself, do not assign the responsibility of change to anyone (except the government, authority figures of various systems – who are administrators and thus responsible)

At least pretend to aim for the goal of leaving a better world for the kids instead of leaving a mess and a laundry list of all that they would have to change. If you want kids to grow up with better values, then make the world surrounding them have better values, so that they grow into them.

Lastly, any work that is too tough for you being assigned to kids is worse than child labor – even if physical work is not involved. Think of it before plonking down even more things to learn on the poor kids. Own your mess.

Think of this the next time you are about to say “XYZ should be taught in schools”

20

What happens when a child gets attention by doing adult things in an adult world?

No, I'm not talking about child porn or human traficking or other established evils. I'm talking good old TV. So many dance shows, and right now, performances by kids in the Film Awards taking place in Singapore. Nothing wrong with kids performing for audiences, but what are they performing? How is it entertaining to watch two seven year olds embracing in public to lyrics that imply heterosexual romantic relationships? Dances are increasingly sexually explicit. Am I the only one to find this really bizarre?

I'm no prude. I would probably whistle and watch with joy some attractive male strutting his stuff. But kids? I'm supposed to enjoy watching two kids doing sexual moves to lyrics describing an adult romantic relationship? This is entertainment? I find it about as repulsive as child porn (I assume, since I haven't been tempted to see any). I don't think it is quality work, and I think the role models for kids in media being so "adult" is also likely to result in increasing sexual behaviour. And I'm fine with teenagers necking. What I am not fine is a seven year old thinking that this is what hep and happening is for kids. Replace one of the two kids with an adult, and see how wrong it would feel. But we think nothing of it when a choreographer is directing kids to do such things. Parents watch with pride, talent show judges shower praise.

Another reason why I don't like it is because it simply isn't quality. An artist brings his emotion to his art. From dark paintings to songs of hope and films of love, sex, war and grief and everything else. An artist needs to feel that emotion to project it. A cheerful person needs to get in touch with some grief in him to sing a sad song well. A virgin actress playing a prostitute isn't going to be very convincing at anything beyond walk on roles of no consequence, simply because she doesn't know what she's doing, not because she is a bad actress. A person who hasn't ever hit anything isn't going to be a very effective action hero. Similarly, the actor who has experienced desire brings a certain playfulness, sensuality or even lewdness to his gestures to the actress he is flirting with. The child doing those pelvic thrusts is talented, but sterile. Exercise and expertise, not dance as an art. And if that seven year old is expressing from experience, there is even more to be concerned about.

I am not asking for censorship or tighter ratings, but how we promote kids on media, particularly TV. Under the guise of talent and modernity, what messages are we passing on as to "okay behaviour"? What messages are we passing on as to the depth of an artist's work? If you can fake it, you'll make it?

It is true that a kid sees some song with excellent music and beautiful choreography and mimics it. However, the meaning escapes them, and as adults, we don't seem to think that the meaning is anything crucial to the performance. We don't help them understand art, but polish awkward attempts and show them off as "mature performances". No wonder the whole thing is about achieving difficult steps than the performance as a meaningful whole. What is a child's life expressed as dance? Whatever it is. What is their experience that can teach them to use art as a narrative rather than sterile gymnastics? Such a glorious little explored terrain.

It is one thing to say that kids aspire to be adults. If we look deeper, there really is no reason for kids to aspire to do something that doesn't appeal to them. Flashy dance moves are cool. They hold a physical challenge, but that's about it. On the other hand, the appeal may be in adult appreciation, where adults today seem to be too stressed or busy to be interested in boring "kid things". A child's creativity often doesn't make sense to an adult. It doesn't give them something to point to and brag with other adults. It is too easy to direct them to something flashy that will bring recognition rather than engage at their level of randomness. We fail to see that presentation follows discovery and end up presenting the final product for the kids to mug up.

Sometimes I think that parents are so stressed with life, that they are in a hurry to get their kids all grown up and off the stress list.

Other times, I think that the adults in society "fake it" so often, that they see no reason that a child shouldn't do what they do, because what they do isn't sexual either.

But always I think that we are increasingly engaging in thoughtless behaviour in the name of development.