I’ve never been a huge fan of censorship. I mean apart from god-bothering fundamentalists, who is?
“Yeah, I didn’t want to watch that movie anyway! It may affect my moral judgement and cause me to do something silly with this knife!”
Still, as a parent, I am super aware of what goes into my children’s minds. I don’t even swear much in front of them anymore. However, I’m not one of those parents who sugar coats everything and freaks out if their kid accidentally sees the evening news. Personally, I think we overestimate how fragile our children’s minds actually are. While perusing numerous family and parenting forums in my pursuit of morons, I can’t help but notice how many parents freak out when their kids see something bad. Or see someone naked. Or see two men/women kissing. It’s a therapist’s wet dream out there. I almost worry about this generation of children who are being raised in a wonderful but chaotic world. What happens when they use an un-moderated computer for the first time and type “Tits Vagina War Fuck” into Google? Will their little heads explode? When did we become so worried and anxious about what our kids are learning?
Some people would say that when I grew up information about the world wasn’t as readily accessible as it is now although that isn’t entirely true. You see, we had these wonderful things called books. Some of us even had a series of books called encyclopaedias. I certainly did and my parents actively encouraged me to read them. On school holidays, I’d start at the letter A and work my way, alphabetically, down the list. Yes, I was a nerdy child but I certainly learned a lot. I distinctly remember the first time I used these books to help me at school. I’d used them before but I hadn’t thoroughly utilised them as a research tool.
I was in Grade 5 and I had to do a 5 minute speech on a topic of my choice. Everyone did. I was extremely nervous but also rather lazy. Plus, that was the year Return of the Jedi came out so you can understand I was a little distracted at the time. I did my speech on astronauts and it sucked and I was told to do it again. I refined it and did it again, forgot my speech and sucked even harder. My teacher told me I was being lazy and I wasn’t trying hard enough. I went home that night in a dejected state and stared at the encyclopaedias. It was then that I noticed a large Reader’s Digest book sitting on its own. The Complete History of World War 2. I picked it up and opened it to a page showing Stuka dive-bombers hurtling through the air above Poland. I was hooked. I spent the next couple of hours jotting things down and re-jigging my speech.
I arrived at school the next morning organized and ready to deliver my meticulously prepared speech to the class. I had brought my book along because I wanted to end my speech showing the class a number of interesting photographs contained inside. My teacher asked me what the topic was.
“Nazi Germany and the Final Solution, Miss” I cheerfully said.
She just stared at me but let me proceed.
I then delivered a 5 minute diatribe about the evil Nazi regime, Adolf Hitler and the attempted extermination of the Jews of Europe.
“Here’s a picture of Auschwitz. And here’s a picture of the mass graves containing lots and lots of bodies. See how the dead bodies don’t have any shoes? They took them off, you see.”
I finished my speech to thunderous applause from my classmates, some of whom also wanted to look at the book. I had bookmarked the best photos for them.
My teacher gave me a funny look and said “Very good Andrew. Thoroughly researched even if the topic was a little grim. A-“
I don’t think I would be out of order suggesting that if a Grade 5 kid did that at school in this day and age that there’d be a bit of an outrage. Parents would complain to the school that their kid saw dead bodies in class and now Timmy wants to know why Adolf Hitler persisted with the war even though he was losing and why do people kill each other. No doubt counsellors would be called in and the young child who thought he’d picked an interesting subject would get in a bit of trouble. You never know. Maybe even Today Tonight would be called in and there’d suddenly be a story entitled “Neo-Nazi Primary School Student Participates in a Gruesome Tirade” wedged in between stories about boat people and dodgy land-lords on their show.
I’m not advocating strapping your children down and forcing them to watch the evening news, A Clockwork Orange style. That would require far too much effort. I know that when the time comes when my son sees something bad on the television or in a movie, I won’t freak out and gnash my teeth while wailing “the world is a bad place and I don’t know how to tell my child this!” No, I’ll talk to the kid. Children are smarter than we think and you can’t keep the world hidden from them.
Now excuse me, I’m going to play some Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation with my son. He likes it when I drive over pedestrians at high speed.