The Thinking 

The Things Children Know

March 4, 2011


STEWART W. writes:

You quote Neil Postman, “Through the miracle of symbols and electricity our own children know everything anyone else knows – the good with the bad. Nothing is mysterious, nothing awesome, nothing is held back from public view.” 

Eve tempted Adam with a single Apple. Today we cultivate vast orchards of the Tree of Knowledge, harvest, juice, and pasteurize the fruit, and feed it to our children in their lunchboxes. 

The fecklessness of most parents today makes me weep.

Laura writes:

Let me give you one small example of how forbidden knowledge is not held back. This information is so pervasive that most of us don’t even notice it anymore.

In today’s New York Times, there is an article about a survey of sexual activity among the young. Now, I know young children don’t read the New York Times, but this article was very likley distributed around the country through the Times news service and was probably in many local newspapers. Adolescents do glance at and peruse newspapers.

First of all, the mere presentation of the fact that more than seventy percent of adolescents have engaged in sexual activity, most of it non-marital, normalizes such activity. Only a culture that was imbued with disregard for the young – and I include adolescence as a stage of childhood – would trumpet such facts.

Secondly, we find these sentences in the article:

The study, released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on interviews with about 5,300 young people, ages 15 to 24. It shows that the proportion in that age group who said they had never had oral, vaginal or anal sex rose in the past decade to about 28 percent, from 22 percent. [emphasis added]

There we have the admission by a voice of authority that “oral, vaginal and anal sex” are all variants of the same thing.


                                                                  — Comments —

Art from Texas writes:

To what extent is adolescence actually a part of childhood? Isn’t it just a period of adult immaturity, a kind of Kidulthood? Doesn’t excessive coddling of that stage cause immaturity and lead to our current set of problems? It was legal to obtain a 12 year old’s hand in marriage 100 years ago. We need to start holding young men and woman to account for their behavior. If we do that we can encourage good behavior. I don’t believe there is another way. The path of the Victorian social reformers is over. It is what lead to the current crop of feminism and moral degeneracy.

Laura writes:

Open discussion of sexual degeneracy, as if it is perfectly normal, is harmful for young adults, not only because of their desires but because they often (not always) are intensely idealistic and want to be confirmed in their impression that intimacy involves love. To say that adolescents shouldn’t be exposed to certain things is not to absolve them of responsibility for what they do.

The Victorian social reformers made morality itself a god. 

Grateful Reader writes:

Art from Texas writes:
“The path of the Victorian social reformers is over. It is what lead to the current crop of feminism and moral degeneracy.”
Perhaps the Victorians, in attempting to stop the process of moral degeneracy, which was already apparent in England, merely slowed it down. So suggests Jack Trotter, writing in the March 2011 Chronicles magazine. He writes:
“In our post-Freudian world, it is often assumed that childhood innocence was yet another product of Victorian repression. There is at least a grain of truth in this. British philosopher Roger Scruton has noted that the Victorian idealization of childhood (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, et al.) was in part a barrier erected against the ongoing secularization of Western society. After all, the concept of innocence is inextricably tied to Christian religious aspirations: The quest for sanctity is a quest for the restoration of a lost moral innocence. Did not our Lord Himself say, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”? No doubt a child’s awareness of herself as a sexual being does begin well before pubescence, but this awareness, under normal circumstances, occurs largely at a subliminal level. What we have witnessed over the course of the 20th century, and accelerating especially in recent years, is an unseemly haste to awaken carnal knowledge at an earlier age. I suggest that there is more at work here than the profit motive and parental permissiveness. A powerful element of perversity motivates our urge to parade before the public eye little girls in the dishabille of the courtesan. It is as though we are now flaunting our loss of faith in the very possibility of moral innocence [emphasis mine], sacrificing our children upon the altar of our defiant cynicism. “

Art responds:

I will not deny that small children are sexually innocent. That is commonsensical, and only modern sex educators have tried to deny that. It is not possible to argue that a girl who was not yet attained the age of puberty is a sexual being on anywhere the level of an adult.

My argument is dealing with youth, those who have attained puberty, especially those over the age of 14. These individuals are today called “adolescents” but I find there is little that distinguishes them from many adults. The willfulness and immorality at age 14 is not much to be distinguished from willfulness and irresponsibility after that point. After the attainment of puberty innocence has terminated to a large extent. The only way to deal with this is to simply teach them that there will be penalties for sexual immorality. The concept of “sexual innocence” makes no sense after the age of 14, except in the sense of sexual virtue, i.e. chastity and modesty. I myself have never engaged in sex, only because I had no interest, and I thought it would not be appropriate. Parental disapproval helped somewhat, but that was probably not the greatest affect on me. For other young men the only thing that can affect them would simply be a vigorous threat of being shoved out the door of the house. That alone will discourage sexual immorality for some. If every 14 year old was liable to laws on statutory rape we could undoubtedly cut down a great deal of the fornication that occurs in our.

And that is one wonderful thing about the late medieval: no juvenile justice system. And that is one area where I once again have to break ranks with so many of the modern commentators such as Hymowitz and perhaps even Postman. I find the attitude towards youth and education expressed by John Gould Fletcher in I’ll Take My Stand much more to my liking than that expressed by those reformers who were ravaging society, and indeed it is a much more traditional point of view. The concept of adolescence is modern, and I am not sure that any defender of tradition should accept it.

Laura writes:

The idea that young adults or adolescents are not fully mature is not a twentieth century invention. Parents formerly chose the spouses of their children themselves.

There is little that distinguishes adolescents from adults except financial responsibility in today’s culture. The meaning of adolescence has changed profoundly. A culture that exposes adolescents to constant sexual imagery, music, televison and literature obviously does not have the will to impose strict prohibitions against youthful promiscuity.  

Jane writes:

“Open discussion of sexual degeneracy, as if it is perfectly normal, is harmful for young adults, not only because of their desires but because they often (not always) are intensely idealistic and want to be confirmed in their impression that intimacy involves love.”

If most are intensely idealistic and want to be confirmed in their impression that intimacy involves love, a college class on human sexuality will surely squash that. I’m sure you heard about the sex toy demo at Northwestern University in Chicago. What I find most interesting is that the live demo was perceived as less graphic than the educational video that was played during the actual class.

Hopefully this will blow the lid off what human sexuality classes are really all about.

Laura writes:

That professor is a good example of what Postman referred to as the child-like adult.

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