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In Defense of Being a Kid

Should kids be treated like adults in training? James Bernard Murphy writes a defense of kid-dom for The Wall Street Journal:

Amy Chua, the “tiger mother,” is clearly hitting a nerve—especially among the anxious class (it used to be called the upper class), which understands how much skill and discipline are necessary for success in the new economy.

What Ms. Chua and her critics agree on is that childhood is all about preparation for adulthood. Ms. Chua claims that her parenting methods will produce ambitious, successful and happy adults—while her critics argue that her methods will produce neurotic, self-­absorbed and unhappy ones.

It took economist Larry Summers, in a debate with Ms. Chua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, to point out that part of the point of childhood is childhood itself. Childhood takes up a quarter of one’s life, Mr. Summers observed, and it would be nice if children enjoyed it.
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Judy said...

I'm mostly with Murphy on this one, or was until his last sentence. I believe that the popular notion of "we should learn from our children" is well meant and even partially true. However, that notion as practiced today obscures the need for adults to pass on our most important legacy: wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Nice little article, though I tend to take issue on small points he makes throughout the article.

For example, child-like innocence? I'm sure others like to focus on smiles and laughter, but I tend to remember temper tantrums and fights thrown over little plastic toys. Children are not innocent; it takes a lifetime to overcome our sinfulness. In short, children are most certainly not a model for what the world ought to be.

I do agree that there is a lack of child-like curiosity among adults today, as well as a lack of obedience to authority, political or spiritual.


Anthony S. "Tony" Layne said...

"First is the gift of moral innocence: Young children are liberated from the burdens of the knowledge of the full extent of human evil—a knowledge that casts a pall over adult life."

Translation: Kids don't know right from wrong.

"Second is the gift of openness to the future. We adults are hamstrung by our own plans and expectations. Children alone are free to welcome the most improbable new adventures."

Translation: Kids have no foresight.

"Third, children are liberated from the grim economy of time. Children become so absorbed in fantasy play and projects that they lose all sense of time. For them, time is not scarce and thus cannot be wasted."

Translation: Kids have no sense of their own mortality.

"Finally, we parents are so focused on adult superiority that we forget that most of us produced our best art, asked our deepest philosophical questions, and most readily mastered new gadgets when we were mere children."

Translation: Most adults have wasted their adulthood, and aren't all that much better for their knowledge, foresight and awareness of mortality than they were as innocent kids.

Sorry, while I agree that Ms. Chua's "Tiger Mom" nostrum takes child education way too far, Murphy over-romanticizes childhood.

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