Thursday, January 24, 2008

Childhood Robbed

When J asks me a question and I am not quite sure of the answer (which is very often the case) she is prompt to add "Look it up on Google". She has heard of Wikipedia and knows that I often check out books on Amazon. Kids at her age are internet-savvy and I am quite sure there are six year olds out who are much more sophisticated in their use of it than J is.

Neil Postman's observes in his book
The Disappearance of Childhood : ...if we turn over to children a vast store of powerful adult material, childhood cannot survive. By definition adulthood means mysteries solved and secrets uncovered. If from the start the children know the mysteries and secrets, how shall we tell them apart from anyone else?

Back in the dark ages before there was internet, acquiring knowledge was a painstaking undertaking. You had to have access to libraries and encyclopedias not to mention a robust memory to store what you had learned for easy recall. The meaning, etymology and pronunciation of a new word was not one hyper-link away. The word tossed and turned inside you restlessly longing to be spoken but your trusty Webster was ten years too old. You had to wait on finding a newer edition before you knew what it meant and found occasion to use it.

Yet the nostalgia for pre-internet days is not unlike any other "remembrance of things past". One looks back with fondness for an obsolete way of life, for the many inconveniences that in rose-hued hindsight appear particularly alluring. J's generation will grow up to bemoan the loss of some significant part of their own childhood experience in the lives of their children. Yet another generation would be accused of killing the very essence of childhood. Despite all odds and the conspiracy of adults against it, childhood has always managed to survive.

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