Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, January 15, 2007

Building on Sand

So I got a free copy of Maclean's in my mail the other day, presumably as an enticement to have me sign up as a subscriber. The edition in question had a cover story entitled, "Why do we dress our daughters like skanks?" Another way of putting the title, I figure, would have been to ask, "Why is childhood disappearing (for girls)?"

So I read the article, curious to see what it had to say regarding Neil Postman's 1982 classic "The Disappearance of Childhood" (note the quote from the book at Amazon, "As I write, twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls are among the highest-paid models in America...") and his theory that the ever decreasing age at which we treat children as adults is being driven primarily by changes in technology - especially the switch from reading to television as the primary mass communication medium. But there was not a word on Postman to be found. Reading the article, you'd never guess that someone had written a widely read and respected book on the topic - predicting exactly what the cover story was complaining about - some 20+ years ago.

If a mainstream newsmagazine can't even reference or remember the most obvious sources for it's cover stories, that doesn't bode well. How can we possibly build up our store of knowledge, when we have no memory?

Anyway, I'm not planning to subscribe to Maclean's.


  • I think the fact that Postman was complaining about this in 1982 is a good sign that childhood isn't actually disappearing, or at the very least isn't news... Mentioning his book would sort of put the lie to the scaremongering, no? I mean the supposed non-children of Postman's era are the over-worried parents of today.

    I say this without reading the Maclean's story; maybe it's a good piece. I'm just always wary of these Kids These Days! stories. (It is interesting how this is one of the few issues where social conservatives and the anti-corporate/culture jammer/pomo theorists types can find common ground.)

    By Blogger J. Kelly, at 3:49 AM  

  • C'mon now, you could as well argue that because Al Gore was concerned about global warming 20 years ago, it's a good sign that there's nothing to worry about today.

    It's not something that happens all of a sudden one day, it's an ongoing process. It seems fairly indisputable to me that children are taking on the characteristics of adults at earlier ages as time goes by, working our way back to the era of Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed 13 year old lovers.

    The fact that the last generation had 'kids these days!' concerns and this generation does as well may be an indicator of steady deterioration, not a static situation.

    The more interesting questions (to me) are why this is happening, whether it is a process we want to interfere with (e.g. slow down or stop) and whether there is any way to do so even if we wanted to.

    I also find it odd is how little common ground the culture jammers and social conservatives realize they share. I think the anti-capitalism, pro-culture mindset of the jammers and the pro-capitalism, anti-culture mindset
    of the social conservatives prevents them from finding their common ground.

    i.e. Social conservatives blame hollywood and jammers blame capitalism and they can't quite connect the dots.

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:57 AM  

  • I agree that on this issue there ought to be room for social conservatives and the left to work together. TRUE social conservatives (in the US, the segment of which I speak are sometimes called paleoconservatives) aren't actually pro-capitalist, but rather see capitalism as interfering with 'tradition' (que a Fiddler on the Roof song here).

    This reminds me of a professor I once had who was speaking about how the critiques of liberalism/capitalism are largely similar regardless of whether we're looking at Burke (the father of conservatism) or Marx. It seems, to borrow a phrase from this professor, that "all the best people despise liberalism and capitalism".

    By Anonymous Paul, at 4:49 PM  

  • Good point Paul. Personally, I generally support capitalism, but I'd like to see (most forms of) advertising banned.

    Not likely to happen of course, but I think it would be beneficial to society in many ways.

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:33 PM  

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