Artificial Mental Block

What can little kids do?

They can play, they can laugh, they can sing, they can dance. They can think small thoughts and imagine big things.

What can’t little kids do?

They can’t do more than the most basic of math, they can’t read well, they can’t grasp the tough concepts, and they can’t understand death.

Or can they?

I Dunno Lol

This is what most people think, but does that make it correct? Especially, when you look at it, not so long ago the world was radically different.

Once, children were not shielded and were unprotected from the world around them. There was no entertainment specifically for them, no areas to stay in for their safety, or anything to separate them from the intrinsic dangers of life.

The conditions of children prior to the twentieth century can be best summed up in the old saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” The phrase comes from the middle ages, when bathing was an infrequent affair and their was a strict hierarchy for the bathers. The baby came last and was bathed in water that had more in common with solids then liquid. And sometimes it would get lost and, whoops!, when the water was thrown out, so was the baby.

Even later on, children were used for a variety of tasks involving small spaces. Chimney sweeps purchased small boys chimneys for them. Children were employed in mines and other highly dangerous areas. Charles Dickens Oliver Twist was created to expose these horrendous conditions.


Isn't that cute? But it's wrong!

And the age of adulthood was younger as well.

Juliet was a mere 13 when she was fell in love with the much older Romeo, and even then, as her nurse would tell her, she was no spring chicken.

So why do we persist in the fiction that children are unable to grasp higher concepts? Even within the boundaries our own society puts up we have evidence to the contrary.

The Animorphs was a science fiction series of the late nineties that attracted children to it like flies to honey, particularly due to the flashy cover art.

The Underground

Note to future authors: this is what little boys like. The bat, not the girl, just to clarify.

I myself began reading them in the second grade and continued until the series conclusion in the fourth. I still own a large chunk of the series to this day.

Yet despite being for children, these were not “child friendly.” They heavily involved fighting, with strong description of battle wounds and deaths (in one particularly memorable scene, one of the main characters picked a chunk of alien flesh from her teeth, left from when she was a wolf). The young band of freedom fighters set up rules which they later break causing considerable psychological anguish for at least one of the members. The kids, despite being sixteen at most, suffer from post traumatic stress disorder due to the admittedly horrible battles they partake. Also for your reading pleasure is body control which leaves your mind intact to experience the full horror of another being controlling your body, creatures with appetites so insatiable that they will eat their own at the drop of a pin, and oatmeal that causes addiction in the antagonistic alien race.

Ya, it’s a children’s book.

In addition to the nightmare fuel mentioned above, it is rife with adult themes (not those kind, you dirty, dirty person). It asks us who the real monsters are, as the most physically intimidating race is genetically engineered to be docile, kind, and simple. It asks to what lengths we can go before we give up all that makes us decent. It meets death face to face and holds him up for all to see. It shows homicide, specism, the finer points torture (albeit minus the blood and such), and everything else the uncaring universe would like to throw at you.

And it does it for children.

Now, I must remind you that the series were fairly popular, so obvious children were understanding things that are commonly to be far to complex for their wittle bitty minds.

This suggests to me that we ramp up education. I’m not suggesting we bring the whips and chains  and force the little ones to slave away at math, reading, and science, but maybe, instead of assuming something is far to advanced for them, we should tell them the skies the limit.

Who knows? They might just surprise someone. Preferably a TA straight out of college.

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 1:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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