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WORTH THINKING ABOUT: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHILDHOOD

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From: Lawrence A. Parker (occti_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Aug 20 2002 - 09:55:35 PDT


WORTH THINKING ABOUT: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHILDHOOD
       Media critic and philosopher Neil Postman writes:
       "One might say that the main difference between an adult and a
child is that the adult knows about certain facets of life -- its
mysteries, its contradictions, its violence, its tragedies -- that are
not considered suitable for children to know. As children move toward
adulthood, we reveal these secrets to them in ways we believe they are
prepared to manage. That is why there is such a thing as children's
literature. But television makes this arrangement quite impossible.
Because television operates virtually around the clock, it requires a
constant supply of novel and interesting information to hold its
audience. This means that all adult secrets -- social, sexual, physical
and the like -- are revealed. Television forces the entire culture to
come out of the closet, taps every existing taboo. Incest, corruption,
sadism -- each is now merely a theme for one or another television show.
And, of course, in the process, each loses its role as an exclusively
adult secret.
       "As a consequence of all this, childhood innocence is impossible
to sustain, which is why children have disappeared from television.
Indeed, all the children on television shows are depicted as merely
small adults, in the manner of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century
paintings. On any of the soap operas or family shows or situation
comedies you will see children whose language, dress, sexuality, and
interests are not different from those of the adults on the same shows."

 

Lawrence A. Parker

Philosopher and Educational Consultant

 

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