Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are You Affraid of Children?

The Associated Press recently wrote an article detailing why children are such effective devices in horror films. We may recognize the character of Damian from The Omen, Anthony from the classic Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life," or the kids in Children of the Corn and Village of the Damned. According to experts, this phenomenon may not be all that new, and in fact the fear of children (pedophobia) may be the result of something more deeply ingrained in the adult psyche.
"You see the idea in 'Angels with Dirty Faces,' the Dead End Kids, and in the postwar years, the teenpic or 'juvenile delinquent' film of the Cold War that poses the teenager as internal threat to adult values," Sharrett explains.

"Children are seen as 'blank slates' to a degree, and also as essentially 'unknowable,' because they live in a world very different from the adult world, in which fantasy and reality intermingle," he says. "Parents wonder what their children will become, and while they wish the best for them, they often feel as if they have no control over them. It is this essential lack of knowledge, and the fear that the children have a secret world which adults can't enter, which drives our fear of childhood as a separate domain."

"It's a little bit of 'Body Snatchers.' They look somewhat like you and even act a bit like you and eventually, they come to replace you."
The idea that children are scary is, like most attributes ascribed to children, a concoction dreamed up by adults. Adults perceive children to be helpless and innocent with the subtle "in joke" lurking in the background that they are indeed not, and that because of this they pose a threat to the adult world. In reality, children are not helpless or innocent, but neither are they necessarily poised to kill off their parents or endanger society, but this fear isn't anything new. Noted psychohistorian Lloyd DeMause wrote, in The History of Child Abuse, that this primitive fear of children is seen in all cultures and throughout all of history up to the present, and that it has always been the main cause of both the suppression of children and child abuse:
"The main psychological mechanism that operates in all child abuse involves using children as what I have termed poison containers--receptacles into which adults project disowned parts of their psyches, so they can control these feelings in another body without danger to themselves."
DeMause goes on to describe a tradition in Greece whereby it is believed that when an adult is infested by a "demon," the only way to release this demon is to relegate it into a child, because children are thought to be pure or untainted. Once the demon was supposedly harvested inside the child, he or she would have to be bound up to prevent them from "tearing their ears off, scratching their eyes out, breaking their legs, or touching their genitals," because it was believed the child would surely act out the violent projections of the parent. He also points to the rituals surrounding child sacrifice from all corners of the globe as being a further expression of attempting to control this universal fear.

The western world doesn't believe in demons by in large, but the same underlying principle still applies. Instead of subjugating children to counteract the demon threat they pose to adults, youth in the 20th century and the present were and are often subjected in more social ways to counteract the projected threat they pose to adult social values. The AP article goes on to describe the youth threat in post-war America where a whole new cast of demons were praying on children and corrupting them to destroy adult society:
"In a way, this can be seen as a reaction to the nascent rise of juvenile delinquency in the late 1950s -- when American youth culture was first firmly established, along with the rise of rock 'n' roll, as a perceived threat to then normative postwar values."
And this continues to the present day. The fact of the matter still remains: regardlesss of what adults project onto children, children are human beings. They're not "Body Snatchers," beings who resemble adults slowly working to replace human society and they don't absorb adult "demons" either. It all goes to show you how fallible the human psyche is--fantasy and reality always intermingle, whether you are two or twenty.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Public Education- "The War On Kids"

Here's an informative excerpt from the "War on Kids" press kit--a startling documentary about where public schooling in the United States has gone recently. As with any documentary film of this type, the worse cases are given the most screen time, but why not? This is, after all, the side of public education that no one wants to think exists, and most interestingly, it's the side that's becoming increasingly more common.

Do we continue to ignore these issues, act as if they're just "minority cases" until they become even more commonplace? Or do students, teachers, and school districts begin working together to better these environments themselves from the inside out? Do we continually pass responsibility to governments and bureaus, who have no connection with the schools they're controlling? Or do we reestablish control to the administrators, teachers, and students who actually make up our school communities? Do we continue to pass responsibility for conduct issues onto the police, intrusive private security systems, and behavior modifying medications? Or do we get over our fear of disciplining kids and discipline bad behavior? Do we run a school on "Zero Tolerance," or Common Sense?

You don't have to be a parent or a student to find this issue disconcerting. Your tax money goes to fund these institutions. The students may not have any power to do anything about it, but any adult who pays into it does.

You can watch the trailer and find out more about this film here, The War on Kids.

Blame for problems with schooling in America is often assigned to insufficient funding or the inherent failings of today’s kids. In rare cases, parents, teachers, and administrators are also implicated. However, all efforts to improve the quality of education are doomed to fail if the system itself is not examined and understood to be the most significant impediment. After over six years in the making, THE WAR ON KIDS reveals that the problems with public education ultimately stem from the institution itself. Astonishingly all efforts at reform consistently avoid even considering this to be a possibility and the consequences to children and the future of American democracy are dire.

In 99 minutes, THE WAR ON KIDS exposes the many ways the public school system has failed children and our future by robbing students of all freedoms due largely to irrational fears. Children are subjected to endure prison-like security, arbitrary punishments, and pharmacological abuse through the forced prescription of dangerous drugs. Even with these measures, schools not only fail to educate students, but the drive to teach has become secondary to the need to control children.

THE WAR ON KIDS begins with the history of “Zero Tolerance” policy. In the 1990s, almost all schools began instituting guidelines that were originally designed to keep weapons and drugs off campus. Very quickly, school officials began to arbitrarily decide what should be considered a weapon and what should be considered a drug. Hundreds of situations followed where children were (and continue to be) suspended or expelled for possessing food knives, nail clippers, key chains, chicken strips, aspirin, and candy. Kindergarteners were even suspended for playing cops and robbers and using their fingers as guns. Under the guise of Zero Tolerance, administrators have been able to wield tremendous power without the burden of responsibility and this authority continues to be increasingly abused. Students invariably feel despondent and fearful in the Kafka-esque state that has been created.

The film reveals that students’ civil rights have been virtually obliterated. They can be searched, drug-tested, denied the right to express themselves verbally and in print, as well as be physically punished without due process. They are routinely deprived of protection from self-incrimination and in some circumstances can even be strip searched without the consultation of parents. Courts typically uphold the rights of schools to behave in whatever manner they deem appropriate where children’s rights are involved.

Ultimately schools now look astonishingly like prisons in their structure and operation and the film shows that it is hard to tell them apart. A side by side comparison in the form of a tour displays the apparent inferiority of the average public school with regards to prison in terms of its resources and upkeep. Most disturbing of all, the school environment is clearly much more oppressive and dreary.

Schools have become obsessed with security and THE WAR ON KIDS shows how none of the profoundly invasive measures are effective. Security cameras were present at Columbine High School, for example, and did nothing to mitigate the massacre. From the students interviewed in the film, it is clear that cameras are unwelcome and breed paranoia and fear and may actually contribute to creating a hostile environment. Locker searches and metal detectors have been shown to be ineffective and contribute to creating an oppressive environment.

Police footage is shown from a 2003 SWAT team raid on Stratford High School high school students in Goose Creek, SC when the principal suspected illegal drug activity. In spite of the aggressive search involving guns and dogs, no drugs were found. The raid highlights the persistent scrutiny that students are under and the complete lack of boundaries that exist when children are involved.

Beyond physical intimidation, psychiatric abuse in schools is also rampant. Experts are interviewed about the epidemic of ADD and similar diagnoses. The preponderance of evidence is stunning and implicates drug companies in blatantly nefarious activities. Ritalin and other pharmaceuticals that are being heavily prescribed to children are not only physically harmful with lifelong consequences, but can and do lead to murder and suicide. What is presented as treatment is more dangerous and debilitating than the condition it is supposed to cure. In addition, the condition itself is clearly dubious, and the kids getting treated are often the ones who question teachers and authority. Invariably, these kids are drugged into submission.

THE WAR ON KIDS shows how schools are authoritarian institutions that by their nature cannot be reformed. Children are subjected to the most invasive forms of control and are deprived of the most basic and fundamental human rights that are afforded even to prisoners of war. The net effect is chilling not just for the kids who are subjected to these extreme forms of control, but also for American society’s future as a generation grows up with no first hand experience or understanding of civil rights in a democracy.
You can watch the trailer and find out more about this film here, The War on Kids.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Real Child Predators

A word from Bill Maher on who the real "child predators" are:

“But that is America for you, a red herring culture always scared by the wrong things. The fact is there are a lot of creepy middle aged men out there lusting for your kids. They work for MTV, the pharmaceutical industry, McDonald’s, Marlboro and [K-Street]….And recently there’s been a rash of strangers making their way onto school campuses and targeting your children for death. They’re called military recruiters….

You know who else is grabbing your kids at too young an age? Merck, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline…by convincing you that your kids are depressed, hyperactive, or suffering from ADD. In the last decade the number of children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs in America increased by over 400 percent, which means either that our children are going insane (which we might look on as a problem), or that more likely we have created for profit a nation of little junkies.

So stop with the righteous indignation about predators, this whole country is trying to get in your kid’s pants because that’s where he keeps his wallet…So many of our kids are fat drug addicts nowadays that it’s almost as if Rush Limbaugh had puppies!

So we can pretend that the biggest threat to our children is some creep on the internet, or we can admit that it’s us. Because when your son can’t find France on a map, or touch his toes with his hands, or understand that the ads on television are lying (including the one where the marine turns into Lancelot), then the person fucking him is you.”