I’ve been thinking recently about the innocence of youth. Since when is it a good thing? We adults like it: it’s nice to see children not knowing about horrible things in the world. Many of us look back fondly on the ways when we weren’t aware of the unpleasantness that pervades humanity. Why do we do this? Because we’ve been disappointed by life, and long for a time when we had it all to look forward to?
It seems astonishingly selfish to put kids through this sheltering just for our benefit, if that is indeed what we are doing. Is it good for them? They’re just destined for disappointment and disillusionment. Would it be better to treat children like adults while they are growing up? Would they then be able to deal with the world far better than we adults can? It seems unlikely to me that they’d just grow up depressed, as they’d have had no illusions to start with. This isn’t to say that they would just accept that the world is a nasty place and therefore be less optimistic; they could just be as happy as we were, but with a more worldly-wise attitude. Wouldn’t this be a good thing? Do apes / chimps shelter their children from knowledge of the world? Did our ancestors? How many other species commit suicide?
I don’t know, I haven’t really attempted to create a full argument in my head. I’m sure there are compelling arguments both ways. I read an article last week about this kind of subject – things that you’re not allowed to say in ‘polite’ company. It’s a fascinating read. Tell kids about sex? Good god no, that’s Just Wrong. And were you to you ask why, you’d be eyed with suspicion. It’s a victorian attitude that seems most bizarre to me.