Monday, July 14, 2008

Keeping the children safe... but from what?

On Saturday, I saw the movie Hancock. It was an enjoyably stupid movie, offering a totally different take on the superhero.

What worried me, though, was the fact that it was classified as a 12A. For those outside of the UK, this means that anyone over the age of 12 can see the movie. Anyone under that age can see it too, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

Some of the themes in the movie are rather unsuitable for a younger audience, and the language is pretty severe: there is a lot of name-calling which is mildly profane and a fair amount of swearing, including blasphemy and several instances of the infamous F-word. Just a few years ago, even one use of that word would have seen the movie slapped with a 15 certificate.

As we were leaving the movie, I commented on this. My 16-year old son said, "With all the health and safety regulations all over the place, isn't it weird that it's okay to expose your kids to that kind of swearing?" He had a very good point, which has been rolling around in my head ever since.

Teachers and parents alike are being increasingly disempowered in respect of the children in their care. In some instances they have become paralysed by fear of public opinion and official reprisal, and opt to let matters run their course rather than run the risk of stepping over that line. By the same token, teachers and parents are held increasingly accountable for the actions of those same children.

Many schools have replaced the traditional sports day with a non-competitive circuit event, so as not to have some of the children being made to feel like losers. But these same schools employ a system of issuing credits for good work, effort or behaviour and award prizes to those who garner the highest number of these in a year. Just as on the sports field, some of the kids feel they have tried really hard and not earned anywhere near as many credits as another child who appears not to have had to put in any special effort. Later, these same children will have to compete for places at universities. Then they will have to compete in an open job market with a pool of applicants from an increasingly wide geographical area.

If the bank accidentally sends your 11 year old son a cheque book. You are not allowed to phone and discuss this with them. They will only discuss the account with the account holder. I have first hand experience of this. But, let that child go off and write out a cheque for £2,500, and suddenly the bank will be very interested in talking to you about the little matter of recovering their money. Fortunately, I do not have first hand experience of this!

Nursery schools are being required to report instances of racist behaviour on the part of their little charges. This apparently includes a dislike for food which is unfamiliar to their young palates. One journalist offers an interesting take on the story. Prospective adoptive and foster parents are required not to attempt to inflict their cultural and spiritual values on any children they adopt/foster. And yet it's okay to take them to see movies with adultery/polyandry and profanity.

Family planning clinics can provide birth control to kids without notifying the parents. Girls can also have an abortion without their parents being informed of the situation (and yet parental consent is needed for a tonsillectomy). On the flip side, if a child regularly skips school, the parents are expected to know about it and to take action to remedy the situation or it will be them, rather than the child who is held accountable and punished.

Please note that I am not necessarily saying that any of the above are right or wrong, I am simply trying to illustrate the inconsistencies in the system.

Increasingly, adults are being disempowered in respect of the children in their care in whatever capacity. Children are protected from teachers, from parents, from dangerous equipment, from overzealous police officers, from potential hazards to their health. Almost, it seems, they are being protected from receiving any guidance or correction whatsoever, and being excused from accountability for their actions.

And, having survived all these mixed messages, when they grow up, how are these poor kids going to cope with suddenly being held accountable for not only their own actions, but for those of their children as well?

Just wondering...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well said Karyn, I agree with you completely. With my son who will be thirteen I usually find it difficult to explain such things. You brought out a very relevant issue.