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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Males, but not men

Posted by Richard on July 12, 2013

In the last few years, a lot of people have been expressing concern and/or making urgent recommendations about the rearing of children in general and boys in particular. See, for example, this, this, thisthis, this, this, and this. The statistics regarding boys and young men that some of these sources cite are disturbing. And the problem is more wide-ranging and fundamental than the growing educational achievement gap (boys receive three-quarters of all Ds and Fs and are barely over 40% of college graduates).

For real human examples of the consequences of not properly rearing boys, Daniel J. Flynn says to look no further than the Zimmerman trial. As everyone awaits the jury’s verdict, Flynn has already reached his (emphasis added):

They don’t make men like they used to. One can consult a Danish study that shows plummeting testosterone levels for scientific confirmation of this. Or, one could more easily turn on any cable news network’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Zimmerman-Martin case, a tragedy involving two males fumbling in the dark on how to be men.

Whatever the protagonists may be guilty of they are surely innocent of being men.

Zimmerman’s screams and Trayvon slamming Zimmerman’s head into the concrete weren’t the acts of men. A man is neither a woman nor an animal. The proper response to an assault by a 158-pound teenager isn’t to scream for help or grab for a gun. It is to punch back or better yet subdue and issue a spanking. And a sucker punch, the repeated hitting of a downed opponent, and the bashing of a skull against the concrete doesn’t pass muster with the Marquess of Queensberry. Perhaps the “No Holds Barred Fighting” dojo that Zimmerman had signed up for would approve.

Their households lacked strong male role models; their society, even more so. Four in ten American kids enter the world without their father married to their mother. When schoolboys begin to exhibit traits natural to their sex, the energetic fellows earn the wrath of detention and Ritalin. Any game that highlights contact — from dodgeball to football — comes under attack. Primetime television celebrates the fop and makes a buffoon out of fathers (see Simpson, Homer; Everybody Loves, Raymond). Jobs relying on the physical characteristics favored in males have been outsourced to robots and foreigners. When a pundit asked “Are Men Necessary?” a few years back it reflected the scarcity rather than the superfluity of the genuine article.

Civilizing men out of existence has come at great cost to civilization. Instead of men, we get feminine imitations lacking beauty. We get lost boys compensating by becoming barbarians. We get Sanford, Florida, February 26, 2012.

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Madness … chilling madness

Posted by Richard on July 8, 2010

Mohammed Abu Mustafa, a Palestinian infant from Gaza, was just four and a half months old and facing death in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Israel. He had a genetic immune system deficiency. According to Haaretz, his mother Raida had experienced this heartbreaking situation before:

"I had two daughters in Gaza," she continued, her black eyes shimmering. "Both died because of immune deficiency. In Gaza I was told all the time that there is no treatment for this and that he is doomed to die. The problem now is how to pay for the [bone marrow] transplant. There is no funding." 

Shlomi Eldar, a reporter for Israel's Channel 10 News, went to the hospital to report little Mohammed's story. He ended up spending eight months filming the family, creating a full-length documentary, Precious Life, that's set to premier this week at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It's already won effusive praise. 

But first, Mohammed's life was in the balance and depended on a marrow transplant. Eldar reluctantly went to the hospital to do a story about the infant, convinced that nothing good would come of it: 

"I got to her after all the attempts to find a donation for the transplant had failed," he relates. "I understood that I was the baby's last hope, but I didn't give it much of a chance. At the time, Qassam rockets falling on Sderot opened every newscast. In that situation, I didn't believe that anyone would be willing to give a shekel for a Palestinian infant."

He was wrong. Hours after the news item about Mohammed was broadcast, the hospital switchboard was jammed with callers. An Israeli Jew whose son died during his military service donated $55,000, and for the first time the Abu Mustafa family began to feel hopeful. Only then did Eldar grasp the full dramatic potential of the story.

Thanks to the generous donations of countless Israeli Jews, Mohammed Abu Mustafa's life was saved. And despite his editor's misgivings, Shlomi Eldar decided that the story should be followed, leading to the documentary film.

Based on the lengthy interview with him by Haaretz, it's clear that Eldar is a compassionate, liberal (in the best sense of the word) person who feels deeply for the suffering of the people of Gaza, who was conflicted about Israel's conflict with Hamas, and who covered the conflict in a way sympathetic to the suffering of the residents of Gaza. But that's not the point of this post.

No, the point of this post is an exchange Eldar had with Raina Abu Mustafa, little Mohammed's mother, that almost led him to abandon the film project (emphasis added): 

From an innocent conversation about religious holidays, Raida Abu Mustafa launched into a painful monologue about the culture of the shahids – the martyrs – and admitted, during the complex transplant process, that she would like to see her son perpetrate a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.

She also explained to Eldar exactly what she had in mind. "For us, death is a natural thing. We are not frightened of death. From the smallest infant, even smaller than Mohammed, to the oldest person, we will all sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. You're free to be angry, so be angry."

And Eldar was angry. "Then why are you fighting to save your son's life, if you say that death is a usual thing for your people?" he lashes out in one of the most dramatic moments in the film.

"It is a regular thing," she smiles at him. "Life is not precious. Life is precious, but not for us. For us, life is nothing, not worth a thing. That is why we have so many suicide bombers. They are not afraid of death. None of us, not even the children, are afraid of death. It is natural for us. After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid. If it's for Jerusalem, then there's no problem. For you it is hard, I know; with us, there are cries of rejoicing and happiness when someone falls as a shahid. For us a shahid is a tremendous thing."

That was enough to drain Eldar's motivation and dissolve all the compassion he had felt for Raida and Mohammed.

… 

Madness. Disturbing, chilling madness. 

How do you coexist with people who not only despise your mere existence, but don't value their own? Or even their children's? How do you coexist with people who will rear their son to perpetrate a suicide attack on the very people whose donations made his survival possible?

It cannot be done.

If your eyes fill with tears upon reading this — you're not alone.

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Yet another condoms for kids story

Posted by Richard on June 20, 2010

In the previous post, I approved of the growing willingness of conservatives to set aside contentious social issues — the drug war, abortion, gay marriage — in order to focus on the critical economic and fiscal problems that threaten our nation.

On the other hand, I think there are some social issues that conservatives and libertarians can agree on. For instance, when arrogant government educrats want to provide condoms to elementary school students, whether their parents approve or not: 

A New England school district has approved a measure that will provide free condoms to elementary school students and direct teachers not to comply with parental wishes to the contrary.
 
The policy, unanimously approved by the Provincetown School Committee does not include an age limit — meaning children of any age ask for — and receive — free condoms. …
 
The committee also directed school leaders not to honor requests from any parent who might object to their child receiving condoms.

If this outrageous decision stands, it reinforces the idea that children belong to The State, not to their parents. Conservatives and libertarians ought to join forces to oppose statist crap like this.

Conservatives and libertarians can find common ground in situations where the government is trying to impose its social agenda on its citizens (or their children). And maybe they can agree (at least for now) to set aside those issues that involve individual choice and difficult moral decisions. 

Sounds like a winner to me. 

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Kid Peoples Republic

Posted by Richard on August 28, 2007

I dropped by Babalu Blog to see if they had any fresh news about the rumors of Castro's death — no news, but some interesting and intelligent speculation. While there, I spotted this post from Saturday about one of the kids in the new CBS "reality" show, Kid Nation. He's 11-year-old Guylan from Massachusetts, and here's his answer to the question, "What world leader do you admire?":

Fidel Castro is a world leader that I admire for many reasons. Firstly, he led a revolution against a corrupt government ruled by an evil dictator named Fulgencio Batista. Then he went on to lead the country of Cuba by ousting their existing political system in order to instill a socialist government throughout the country. That meant out with the rich and corrupt and in with a more fair and balanced environment for his people. …

There's much more in his CBS Kid Nation bio. I don't suppose this will surprise you: Guylan thinks that George W. Bush is one of the worst presidents ever, that we invaded Iraq for the oil, and that we should be "severing our ties to fossil fuels" in order to save the planet.

I wonder how many 11-year-olds use phrases like "severing our ties," "putting it aside," "foster the skill," and "specify the artistic value" when they write. You think maybe his commie mommy helped him with his responses?

You couldn't pay me to watch Kid Nation. After all, I've never watched Survivor or any of the umpteen other reality shows, and I'm not about to start with this piece of crap example of the genre. But I'm at least idly curious about how many of the 40 kids think that Bush is the worst president and that people are destroying the planet. I suspect a comfortable majority think the former and probably 90% the latter. I think "progressive" parents are much more likely to send their kids off to play Lord of the Flies in front of cameras in the desert, and the kids' political thinking (such as it is) would reflect that.

I'm not curious enough to check out all those bios, though.

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Preschool predator

Posted by Richard on December 13, 2006

Denver counted votes for a week after the November election — until they found enough to pass "Preschool Matters," a sales tax increase "for the children." The proponents argued that too many kids are "not ready" when they get to kindergarten and need preschool to get them ready. I wonder how long until educators inform us that kids need some new institution to get them ready for preschool. But I digress. Denver officials were chagrined to learn yesterday that Denver’s passage of the kiddie tax could result in less "free money" from the state:

Denver voters’ approval of a sales tax increase to help pay to send more 4-year-olds to preschool may have unintended consequences.

State funding that the city receives to provide preschool education to at-risk kids could be affected by Initiative 1A, which will generate about $12 million annually for 10 years, though Denver won’t know for sure until it’s implemented.

"I’m sitting here ready to explode at the thought of it," Councilwoman Carol Boigon said Tuesday after the city’s lobbyist, Todd Saliman, broke the news to a council committee.

I’m amused. The mayor and council told voters, "You’ve got to give us this tax increase so we can help these poor, at-risk kids," and now the state is saying, "Well, it looks like you no longer need all that money we’ve been giving you for poor, at-risk kids,"  and these people are shocked and surprised. Hah!

If pre-school administrators, teachers, and teachers’ aides in Denver are like those in Waco, TX (and college education programs are doing their best to insure that all educators think alike), then little boys are at risk when they go to preschool — at risk of being emotionally scarred for life and labeled as a sexual predator at the age of four:

When a Bellmead father received a letter from his son’s school district saying the 4-year-old had inappropriately touched a teacher’s aide, he said he couldn’t believe what he was reading.

"When I got that letter, my world flipped," DaMarcus Blackwell said.

The Nov. 13 letter from La Vega Independent School District stated his son, who was 4 years old at the time, was involved in "inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment" after the boy hugged a teacher’s aide and "rubbed his face in the chest of (the) female employee" on Nov. 10.

"I’ve been violated! He touched my boobies! He touched my boobies!"

Jeez, I thought I’d heard all the insane stories of hypersensitive, "zero tolerance" educators — kids punished for kissing a classmate on the cheek, for drawing a picture of dad, the soldier, with a gun — but this may be the craziest one yet. What kind of screwed-up, emotionally crippled people are we going to create if we punish four-year-olds for expressing affection and emotional attachment?

Whatever happened to that "Hugs, Not Drugs" program?

And why are people like this whack-job teachers’ aide and the school officials who backed her up allowed within 1000 yards of a child?
 

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The shifting meaning of child

Posted by Richard on October 16, 2006

Just about everything worth saying regarding former Rep. Mark Foley (and a lot not worth saying) has been said already thousands of times. But, since I’m a bit of a language pedant, allow me a bit of a rant. A Google search for "foley pedophile" (minus the quotes) returns 1,860,000 hits. The first few pages of results suggest that the vast majority of those hits accuse Mark Foley of pedophilia. And that’s simply wrong.

From Psychology Today’s Diagnosis Dictionary (emphasis added):

Pedophilia is considered a paraphilia, an "abnormal or unnatural attraction." Pedophilia is defined as the fantasy or act of sexual activity with prepubescent children. Pedophiles are usually men, and can be attracted to either or both sexes. How well they relate to adults of the opposite sex varies.

From the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (emphasis added):

Pedophilia is a paraphilia that involves an abnormal interest in children. … Pedophilia is also a psychosexual disorder in which the fantasy or actual act of engaging in sexual activity with prepubertal children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement and gratification. …

Britannica Online says pedophilia is a (emphasis added):

…psychosexual disorder in which an adult’s arousal and sexual gratification occur primarily through sexual contact with prepubescent children. The typical pedophile is unable to find satisfaction in an adult sexual relationship and may have low self-esteem, seeing sexual activity with a child as less threatening than that with an adult. Most pedophiles are men; the condition is extremely rare in women.

And Wikipedia helpfully describes the origin of the term (emphasis in bullet item added):

The term paedophilia erotica was coined in 1886 by the Vienna psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his writing Psychopathia Sexualis.[3] He gave the following characteristics:

  • the sexual interest is toward children, either prepubescent or at the beginning of puberty
  • the sexual interest is the primary one, that is, exclusively or mainly toward children
  • the sexual interest remains over time

Mark Foley seems to have been attracted to and exchanged sexually explicit instant messages with one or more males who were (depending on whom you believe) either 17 or 18 years old. Now, the parents of a 17-year-old boy undoubtedly consider him their child, and the law may treat him as a child in some ways (or as an adult, if he’s committed a crime). But biologically, boys and girls who are 16 or 17 are fundamentally different from boys and girls who are 7 or 8.

[Note to readers getting angry: I’m not defending Foley’s lecherous and contemptible behavior. I’m just saying it’s not pedophilia.]

Are there gray areas? Of course. Kids mature at different rates. There are some 13-year-old girls who are barely beginning puberty and others who are quite physically mature. But that’s no reason to lump someone attracted to boys or girls in their mid to late teens in with the guy who gets turned on by little kids on the elementary school playground. Because of sloppiness or legal/political considerations, people are using the word pedophile for both those categories, and as a consequence, we’re losing the ability to make an important distinction.

Interestingly, a news story from Sunday suggested that the blurring of that distinction — and the insistence that a 17-year-old is a child — is either recent or selectively applied. Former Rep. Gerry Studds, whose name came up quite a bit during the Foley brouhaha, coincidentally died on Saturday. Here’s how the AP described the scandal involving Studds having sex with a boy of 17:

In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after a 27-year-old man disclosed that he and Studds had had a sexual relationship a decade earlier when the man was a congressional page.

At the time, Studds called the relationship with the page, which included a trip to Europe, "a very serious error in judgment." But he did not apologize and defended the relationship as a consensual one with a young adult. The former page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him.

So in the 80s, actual sex with a 17-year-old was a consensual relationship with a young adult and not a big deal. But today, just talking sex with a 17-year-old is child molestation on such a monstrous and horrific scale that having been even vaguely aware of it without calling the cops is unforgivable.

Maybe it’s the New Puritanism. Can we blame Focus on the Family?
 

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Van der Leun on America, childhood, and cookies

Posted by Richard on April 13, 2006

I’m in awe — simply in awe — of Gerard Van der Leun. I strongly recommended his Watcher’s Council winner, On the Return of History, the other day. Today, I urge you to go and savor a very different, but equally worthy, post of his entitled Higher Education and the Holy Cookie. It’s an elegiac, evocative, and charming essay about childhood and growing up, sibling rivalry, parental love, and the development of character.

It ends with an important lesson and a cookie recipe. It begins thus:

SO ISOLATIONIST IS AMERICA that when confronted with questions of great pith and moment, we immediately turn to questions of great and persistent triviality. In some ways this underscores the bedrock of the country’s greatness. No other country in history, nor any other country you can imagine, has the capacity to win a pocket war on the other side of the globe, play patty-cake with global terrorism, launch a fierce and bitter cultural and political argument at home, pull the global economy upward like The Little Engine That Could chanting "I think I can, I think I can," all while driving a couple radio-controlled web cams across the surface of Mars just to get some snapshots of rocks. Then we all go out to the Food Court, select from any one of the world’s six leading cuisines and try to remember both where we parked and in which one of the family’s seven vehicles we came in.

After that we turn our attention, not to whether or not we shall bomb Iran (We had an election and chose a President based on who we thought would do what needs to be done, remember? ), but on … the much more important and utterly American question: "Just what is the finest chocolate chip cookie in the known universe?"

From that marvelous beginning (damn, I wish I could write like that), it just gets better and better. Go. Read. Treasure. If you have the time, browse around the place. The man can write. And think.

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