In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff


We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.







Try Advanced Search



  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update


CultureBlogs
Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
PhilosoBlog
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Gregdotorg
BookSlut
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Cronaca
Plep
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Seablogger
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette


Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Samizdata
Junius
Joanne Jacobs
CalPundit
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Public Interest.co.uk
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
Spleenville
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
CinderellaBloggerfella
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
InstaPundit
MindFloss
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes


Miscellaneous
Redwood Dragon
IMAO
The Invisible Hand
ScrappleFace
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz

Links


Our Last 50 Referrers







« Elsewhere | Main | They Know Too Much »

August 23, 2003

Bad for Your Mental Health

Michael:

Is there no end to the hypocrisy of American journalism aimed at young women? These glossy magazines seem to have an endless ability to sell girls utter conformity in the guise of “self improvement.”

With two teenage girls in the house, as you might imagine, we have a lot of magazines aimed at young women lying around. I happened to glance at a copy of the September 2003 issue of Self yesterday, and noticed the beaming smile of Alicia Silverstone gracing the cover:

Being a big fan of "Clueless," I’ve kept some fondness in my heart for Ms. Silverstone, so I picked it up and took a closer look. What I found, though, made me laugh out loud:

My first reaction was, gee, what were they going to say on the cover of Self magazine? Alicia Silverstone: desperate, lost and guzzling M&Ms?

I flipped through the magazine to read the profile on Ms. Silverstone. Like all such profiles, it conforms to the degrading female magazine ritual of forcing Ms. Silverstone to exploit her personal life, and especially her personal misfortunes, in order to plug her upcoming roles in the film “Scooby-Doo 2” and in a NBC series, “Miss Match.”

The misfortune in question was Ms. Silverstone’s weight problem of the latter 1990s. As I recall, this pretty much derailed her ascent to Hollywood royalty. However, according to Self, she no longer has a weight problem, apparently as a result of becoming a vegan. Ms. Silverstone claims she adopted the vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, which may well be completely true, but our friends from Self magazine immediately zoom in on what they see as the real payoff:

Soon after she began living the vegan life, that commitment had a huge health payoff. “My skin started glowing, my eyes got brighter and I lost weight,” Silverstone says. This, incidentally, made her more marketable to Hollywood, but that was icing on the (nondairy egg-free) cake. “The way I love to eat and the way I love to live made me look the way they want me to look, so it works out,” she says. [Emphasis added]

The magazine is working hard at making you think, of course, that the “they” mentioned in that last sentence is the evil patriarchy of Hollywood. But, come on, who’s kidding whom here? We have met the enemy and they is Self magazine!

There are no fat or even pleasingly plump girls in Self magazine. No, wait, there are actually two, in an ad from One-A-Day WeightSmart, which asks: “You’re working on your metabolism. Is your multivitamin?” In the editorial portion of the magazine, the only women who are permitted to appear while being even slightly less than stick-thin are recovering foodaholics who have "gone straight", so to speak, and lost 50-100 pounds. They appear only in tiny little pictures.

Sure, the magazine covers exercise and diet, but only for the ultra-critical purposes of permitting young women to fit into contemporary fashions, provide a worthy palette for make-up, have long enough hair to shampoo and condition, and, of course, land some nice young man.

Meanwhile, of course, the magazine is plastered with headlines ripped from the pages of self-help tomes like “What moves you?,” “Find balance,” “Self Expression,” “Happiness Handbook,” “Self Portrait,” and, of course, my favorite: “Beyond Skin Deep” (!!!)

Interestingly, the profile on Ms. Silverstone points out that at the age of 26 she is the executive producer for the animated children’s series, “Braceface.” I mean, Ms. Silverstone must have some really amusing and interesting anecdotes about being a young producer in Hollywood. Moreover, Ms. Silverstone in her guise as an executive producer may even have some interesting insights for young women that don’t revolve strictly around body image. Does Self magazine dig for these nuggets? Nah, they know what’s really important:

…Silverstone is more relaxed about her body than ever before. “I’ll go to any nude beach. I will take off my clothes in most circumstances. In fact, I even garden naked,” she says.

I think I may cancel all of my daughters’ magazine subscriptions. They’ll yell and holler, I know, but someday I’m pretty sure they’ll thank me.

Cheers,

Friedrich

posted by Friedrich at August 23, 2003




Comments

Let her get stung by a bee and see how much she likes to "garden naked," cooed breathlessly. The very fact that she feels the need to say that proves how desparate she is to have her career back, and how much she hopes someone important in Hollywood reads this article and thinks---Alicia Silverstone...perfect for my new star vehicle!! Which means in another five years, you will read a DIFFERENT article, in which she will say, "I used to care about my status in Hollywood in 2003, and it made me miserable, but now I don't, due to my newest guru..."

But kids don't have the perspective to know that these actresses change their line every five minutes (no article ever says, "I 'm miserable now. actually..." It always says, "I used to be miserable and now I'm grrrreat!"). So, yes, you're damn straight they may thank you if you throw it out. Unrealistic expectations is an understatement.

I began to figure this out in my late teens, after watching several Phil Donohue/Mike Douglas interviews with Susan St. James when she was a veg, due to her then husband, and she never, never touched red meat or chocolate. A couple years later, she's dumped the veg hubby, and was downright sparkly as she talked about the first thing she did was to eat a cheeseburger and a Snickers bar. Oh...not a new lifestyle, after all?? Shoot, I gave up meat to have hair like you...now I need to eat meat?

Somwhat more pragmatic is Jodie Foster. When she was being considered for "The Accused", the producer asked her agent, "How is Jodie?" Jodie, veteran that she is, said, "He wants to know if I'm still fat." No breathless cooing there.

Posted by: annette on August 23, 2003 07:50 PM



Don't take this the wrong way because I would never presume to tell another parent how to raise their children, whom I have never even met, but I just wanted to say that during my teens I had few restrictions on reading material, movies, TV etc. I think I turned out okay. Of course it depends on the girls themselves - are they falling for it or are they already developing a healthy skepticism. I'm sure there are some articles somewhere out there reporting the negative side of veganism. They should see those too.

Posted by: Lynn S on August 23, 2003 09:09 PM



I have to admit that my first reaction to this was "Gosh, Mr. F, what planet have you been living on!" This isnt new--that stuff was around when I was a sweet young thing, back when dirt was new.

Annette, I havent thought about the Mike Douglas show in years. I was a big Merv Griffin fan. And Susan St James!!!! I remember her being interviewed by John Denver filling in for Carson and introducing the world to a new tea called Red Zinger. That was back when dirt was new!

I use my wallet to control what my teenager daughter reads--you want to spend your dollars on that stuff, go right ahead. She almost always opts for something else like horse magazines.

Posted by: Deb on August 23, 2003 10:17 PM



"Sell girls utter conformity in the guise of “self improvement” -- that's good! You can get yourself a job in mag publishing anytime you want one.

I often feel half-and-half about these things. On the one hand: cute, fairly harmless, and they work. These are the media products that have succeeded in the market, and as a freer-rather-than-less-free marketeer myself, I applaud and do my best to find it interesting. On the other hand: sheesh, these things are real assaults on people's vulnerabilities, dreams and desires, and they're really effective. They don't dictate much, but they amplify an awful lot. I think Naomi Wolf ("The Beauty Myth") is an idiot, and I think we all need to learn ways to negotiate the culture without being too thrown by all its sales pitches, and lord knows it's better to live in a culture of abundance. But at the same time, these people are clearly doing their best to stir up desires and dissatisfactions and then sell supposed remedies and solutions. Nothing about that should be illegal, but they are playing with dynamite, aren't they? These are deep urges and dreams and needs they're doing their best to exploit. (And they're doing so with big guns: color, design, beauty, stories...)

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 24, 2003 12:19 AM



Hey, as I think I remarked a while back, I'm not only behind the times, I applaud retrograde efforts of all kinds, even my own. Actually, I have probably been remarking on how women's / girl's magazines are bad for their readers' mental health since dirt really was new. Of course, I only got hooked up with this neat 'blog thing about a year ago, and sooner or later I had to haul out this old hobby horse of mine, since in the meantime the offending publications have steadfastly refused to mend their ways. I guess I was particularly stung into action by looking at Self magazine, since I have a fairly vivid memory of its New York City "rollout" back in the very late 1970s--when it was working hard to appear as a feminist screed! (At the time, I mentally parodied it as "Self: The Magazine for the Self-Centered Woman!" Given what it has morphed into (or always been), older-but-wiser Friedrich would gladly embrace a magazine that was really aimed at the Self-Centered Woman (as opposed to the neurotically other-driven teenage girl.)

Question: is this ultra mass-conformity drive an equal opportunity thing, or like what? Do boys imbibe such soul destroying messages with equal eagerness, or is this trend something that has its roots in some special vulnerability of teenage and twenty-something girls?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 24, 2003 02:41 AM



Well, I guess boys would have to answer for boys, but I'm not sure magazine publishing is the outlet for "endless self improvement", if it happens, since Esquire, SI, GQ, et al seem to focus mostly on commenting on "women we love" rather than endless articles on how to be "worthy" of their love. (Maybe "Rolling Stone", making boys think rock stars are "cool", with all the attendant baggage).

It was something I noticed in my twenties, and spent awhile being furious about---you see all these bold Cosmo headlines about, essentially, "How to Get A Man"---but I never saw the equivalent headlines in men's magazines. Men's mags always focused on---here we are, and why aren't there more great women for great guys like us? Not exactly a primer on how to make themselves greater, or, what they might bring to the table. Recently , on the internet, I saw a list of "how to know if she's the one." The list included: beautiful, really smart, independent, but never, never posessive or a nag, and willing to bring you beer and sandwiches when you play poker with your buddies and never complains no matter how many times a week you do this. (Actually, the soul-destroying part for guys may be the unrealistic expectations they have of what interacting with women is and should be like). Anyway, this list did not focus on: if she was all these things...what do you need to be to keep her interested? Why would she want you? It didn't jump straight to self-loathing for guys...

And I guess that's a good thing. But I think it jumps quickly to "entitlement" for guys, and "self-improvement" for girls, a deadly combo.

Posted by: annette on August 24, 2003 05:27 AM



Not having been a boy but finding myself living with a teenage son, I am finding that boys externalize the competetion. It's not how cool is my hair or what, it's I have the latest computer gizmo and I know the best websites to get the cheat sheets off of. The ones I have contact with compete with their toys, not their personal adornments.

Perhaps that's why eating disorders are primarily found in girls and women.

Posted by: Deb on August 24, 2003 08:58 AM



I agree with annette's comments.

She may want to garden naked, but aside from sun damaged skin (causing skin cancer) the danger might be the little insects. If I were her, I would worry about West Nile virus carrying mosquitos.

As for "vegans", as a doctor, I would warn about B12 deficiency and malnutrition. And, of course, I wonder how many of these "thin" stars are thin thanks to stimulants/cocaine/crank/methamphetamines.

When I was in high school, I made the decision that I could either spend my time and energy studying to be a doctor, or exercizing/dieting.

So I guess I could never be a "role model" for SELF...

Posted by: Nancy Reyes on August 24, 2003 09:46 AM



You can be a much better role model! Not being a role model for "Self" is sort of a badge of honor! But congrats to you for figuring that out as a teenager. Not too many do.

Posted by: annette on August 24, 2003 10:57 AM



Fried - I understand your concern for the unfinished minds of your daughters. However, unless they're reading "Jane," which is evil, bad, and wrong, they'll be fine. "Twist" is one of the finest magazines published in America today.

Also, a lot of the women my age, and many of the teenage girls I know, like the lad mags. Stuff, especially.

Doesn't it seem to you that what the ingénue magazines really do is let girls know that other girls have the same worries and fears? I think they're descriptive, rather than prescriptive.

The average mall seems chock full of chubby girls who think they're all that. Diabetes, not eating disorders, is the health threat we need to worry about.

Nancy Reyes - as a doctor, reading the health articles in women's magazines must give you fits.

Posted by: j.c. on August 24, 2003 03:02 PM



I can't recall, ever in the last forty years (well, the thirty-four of them that I've known how to read) reading the male equivalent of Self magazine. I suppose GQ comes closest, with advice on how to dress for success and all that, but then I've never read GQ either.

I saw on somebody's blog the other day a gay man agreeing with a woman that most straight guys simply have no fashion sense--someone really has to take them in hand. Everybody, clearly, is supposed to have good fashion sense. More than that, the implicit assumption was that these badly dressed straight guys must think that they were dressing well, because every one wants to dress well; they simply weren't any good at it.

Here's some news--I care so little about clothes that I'm pretty much fashion insensate. I wear clothes to keep my body covered. About ten years ago I hit upon a mode of dress that's comfortable for me, acceptable to my wife, and good enough for the office, and that's what I wear. Beyond that I can't be bothered.

So why read about clothes?

Posted by: Will Duquette on August 24, 2003 03:26 PM



"Why read about clothes"???!!!

How about because all the gay men you knew in high school have partners now and stay home being dull instead of going out and discussing new worthy events of the day, such as the handkerchief halter tops.

And so many clothes are so stupid, you really have to search and search and search to find things that aren't hideous. Men have the superior hunting instincts my ass.

Posted by: j.c. on August 25, 2003 12:56 AM



Men's equivalent of Self: Seen "Men's Health" lately?

Posted by: Rebecca on August 25, 2003 09:52 AM



Yes, throw out all of their magazines.

And burn all of their books that you disapprove of while you're at it.

After all, you're infallible and know what's best for them to think about.

And, despite being infallible, you're incapable of convincing them that your criticisms are valid. Or, they're too stupid to understand your criticisms, or to trust you as a good source of advice. And, they're too stupid to criticize or think skeptically about anything they read themselves.

I'm sure this will improve your relationships with them and encourage them to involve you in all of the important problems that they face, and questions that they have.

Good plan.

Posted by: Gil on August 25, 2003 04:52 PM



Oh, come on Gil, quit beating around the bush and tell me what you really think.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 25, 2003 06:49 PM



Sorry,

I was in deep sarcasm mode.

But I really do think censorship is a very bad idea.

Mostly, because I think teenagers are people, and have a right to pursue ideas that interest them.

But, also, because censoring what they read in the home won't really limit what they think about. It'll just limit what they decide to let you know about.

If you want to help and protect them, the best way is to protect your own status as a reasonable, trusted, advisor.

Posted by: Gil on August 25, 2003 07:42 PM



One thing I have noticed in Cosmopolitan and similar magazines is how dependent they are on cigarette ads, so much so that they never mention that some men (and of course some women) are not likely to be attracted to those who smoke. Is that true of Self, I wonder?

Posted by: Jim MIller on August 25, 2003 08:17 PM



Gil, while I happen to think Mr FvB had his tongue in his cheek when he made the crack about canceling the subscription--blustering about daughters behavior is a father's perogative--I do disagree with you about censorship of teenager's reading matter.

You are right, they are people and have a right to think whatever they wish, but a parent's responsiblity is to teach and protect them and that doesnt stop when they hit puberty and learn to drive. Teenagers are still children in many ways and need limits and curbs not because they arent thinking about sex, drugs and rock and roll, but precisely because they are. They arent ready for complete freedom because they dont have the maturity to handle the responsibilities that come with it. Talking to teenagers about what they read and why you may be uncomfortable with some of their choices can be a way of finding out what they really are thinking about.

But then, I have two of them in my house.

Posted by: Deb on August 25, 2003 09:31 PM



Deb,

Yes, I thought he might not have been serious about it, but other commenters seemed to take it seriously and he didn't do anything to dispel the notion, so I figured I'd go ahead and rant.

Please don't take offense, but the worst parents in the world have had children in their homes. And they all had more life experience than their children. Having children gives you no authority about parenting, and is, in my experience (:-)), just as likely to reinforce your mistaken theories in your mind as to lead you to better theories. You have no idea how many teenagers I have in my house, which is as it should be, since it's quite irrelevant.

And while I disagree with your generalizations about teenagers and their need for limits and curbs, I'm still unclear about our disagreement on the subject of censorship of teenagers' reading matter. If I gave the impression that I oppose "Talking to teenagers about what they read and why you may be uncomfortable with some of their choices", then I'm sorry. I heartily approve of this (as long as the advice is welcome). I think sharing our best theories with our children is exactly what we should be doing.

However, if you use talking/uncomfortable as a code for banning reading material, then you're right: I do disagree with that. Both the practice, and the use of false descriptions to obscure the offensiveness of the practice.

Posted by: Gil on August 26, 2003 12:10 AM



Gil,

No one who can give me insights and perhaps advice on parenting offends me. ;o) I have certainly made my share of bad choices when it comes to parenting. However, personnally, I am much more apt to take advice that has some basis in experience rather than that based completely on theoretical knowledge. There are folks who have theories on how to raise kids, and then there are folks who have kids.

Perhaps what I mean by curbs, limitations and censorship should be explained a bit. I do censor what my children read--openly and without apology. When they were younger I did it for two reasons. Much of what is out there for younger kids is pure junk and I wanted them to have better exposure. The "Goosebumps" series comes to mind. I also think that what kids read and watch, for that matter, determines to some extent what they think about and also how they think about the world.

However, now that they are getting older, I have loosened up a tad. Rather than a blatent no to what I consider objectionable material, I have them explain to me why they want to read what they do. If they can give me a well thought out reason, I am more than likely to say it's ok. However, I am still the final authority. The point of this is that after all the years of childhood and my giving them good books to read, they tend to trust my judgement. Because I have been living with them and they with me for years, I know what it is that they can handle and what they cant. When my 12 yo daughter brought home "Catcher in the Rye" because the librarian recommended it, she had no problem with my saying she shouldnt read it because it had themes she wouldnt get and was too mature for her. In a few years, I will have no problem with her reading that book. I may even recommend it.

Does that make more sense?

Posted by: Deb on August 26, 2003 10:38 AM



Gil Gil Gil Gil Gil Gil - If Fried doesn't take away those magazines, how will his daughters learn to sneak around or be motivated to make their own money?

Other people's offspring are not allowed watch full-blown porn on my cable TV or eat things that might be puked up in my car, but otherwise I remain a resolutely bad influence.

Posted by: j.c. on August 26, 2003 10:43 AM



j.c.,

Good points.

And, good for you!!!

Posted by: Gil on August 26, 2003 12:39 PM



Deb,

Thanks for clarifying.

I think this part was important:


The point of this is that after all the years of childhood and my giving them good books to read, they tend to trust my judgement. Because I have been living with them and they with me for years, I know what it is that they can handle and what they cant.

If this is true, (and I have no reason to doubt that it is) I don't know why you think it's necessary to censor them. If you're right about what they'll enjoy and what they won't, then I would expect that you'd be able to convince them of that without resorting to a ban.

I think it's a mistake to declare things to be pure junk and to forbid them. We all have "guilty pleasures" that we enjoy without their having any obvious redeeming social or artistic value.

I also disagree with your requirement that they be able to verbalize why they should read/view "objectionable material". Sometimes our reasons are inexplicit, or private, but still valid. I think that the fact that after hearing the best arguments of their trusted advisor (you) about why they might want to skip the material, they still want to read/view it, is strong evidence that they have a good reason.

I don't want to waste any more Blowhard bandwidth and disc space on this tangential issue. I just hope people might be a bit more reluctant to abuse their parental power by censoring their children's information sources.

Posted by: Gil on August 26, 2003 01:03 PM



Gil,

I agree that this conversation will not resolve for either of us the philosophical differences we have. However, lest I seem harsh and repressive, let me just give one small example of my use of authority.

In our house, we have a strict no TV on week nights rule. It has to do with getting homework done. My son came to me and asked to be able to watch a show called "Greg the Bunny." It was a half hour sitcom, not something we normally watch. When I asked him for a valid reason why the house rule should be set aside, his response was that all his buddies at school were talking about it and he was curious because it sounded really funny. I let him watch it based on that reason. He had thought about it, was honest with me and had a reason.

If that is abuse of parental power, so be it. He watched two episodes, decided it was just stupid, to use his words, and forgot about it after that.

Posted by: Deb on August 26, 2003 02:46 PM



Gil, would you let 10-year-olds drive on the interstate if they had sufficient size and motor skills? I wouldn't, for precisely the same reason I wouldn't want a 10-year-old to have carte blanche at a convenience store's magazine rack. A child's judgment is still maturing. An involved parent is much more likely to know how mature his/her kids' judgment is than either of us.

Posted by: Kari on August 26, 2003 02:56 PM



"You are right, they are people and have a right to think whatever they wish, but a parent's responsiblity is to teach and protect them and that doesnt stop when they hit puberty and learn to drive. Teenagers are still children in many ways and need limits and curbs not because they arent thinking about sex, drugs and rock and roll, but precisely because they are."

Teenagers are still children in our culture because (1) there's no profit in behaving responsibly, since it doesn't shorten their sentence and (2) most parents and teachers in this culture flatly refuse to teach them marketable skills and adult behavior in a timely fashion.

Biologically and intellectually, they are fully capable of handling whatever the adult world throws at them. Shortcomings in training and experience leave them at a disadvantage, but there is nothing inherent in human beings that dictates that this must be so... it's purely a cultural thing.

At any rate, I don't see anything to justify restrictions on reading and thinking. Behavioral restrictions are all well and good, and the antidote to bad information (which they have to learn to filter out one way or another) is good information, and lots of it. They need the good info anyway, so we're really not left with any good reason to filter out "bad" information from people who are capable of understanding it and being taught to properly classify it.

Posted by: Ken on August 26, 2003 04:20 PM



Deb,

If it makes you feel any better, I don't think you're unusually harsh or repressive. While, I disagree with you about what the default state of access should be, I sense that you are open to criticism from others and (most importantly) from your kids about any specific situation. I think that puts you way ahead of most parents. So, I'm not worried about your kids.

Kari,

I agree with you that, in our culture, most 10-year-olds lack the judgement to drive safely. But, I think that's partially because they are crippled by adults who restrict their knowledge and experience. Children are smart, and a child who is interested in something can learn it as well as an adult (usually better).

And what horrors do you imagine will come from a 10-year-old having access to a magazine rack? He'll see breasts? Diet tips? What?

Most kids aren't interested in the things you're probably afraid of and can easily ignore it. When they are interested, that's the best time for them to learn about it, and have the benefit of their parents' best theories to help them understand. If they don't have that opportunity, they'll probably learn about it some other place, some other way, and won't involve their parents. This doesn't seem like a solution to me.

Posted by: Gil on August 26, 2003 05:28 PM



Actually, you don't need to restrict forcibly what kids have access to if you are a good enough parent that they never choose anything bad in the first place, or are bright enough to criticise things adequately for themselves. You can discuss such things with them and help them make good decisions for themselves. A bit like how you don't need to ban kids from crawling in order to make sure they learn to walk. Or how you don't need to ban kids from your house in order to make sure they don't steal your purse.

In my view, Goosebumps is brilliant. So is Vogue. So are Sex and the City and Terminator and Big Brother. That's unless you're fucked-up enough not to be able to handle them, of course, and liable therefore to start thinking that ghosts are real, or Arnie is a robot or whatever.

I take "kids need censorship" arguments very personally, because I've met kids who do not need censorship and who are wonderful people, so I feel insulted on their behalf. "This might scare you" is useful advice to kids who don't want to risk it. "This will rot your brain because you're way too dumb to understand it sensibly" on the other hand is just bigoted nonsense.

I am particularly incensed by the idea that adults know what's best for kids right now after reading this article which has had me fuming for the whole day.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1028851,00.html

School is not compulsory. Doing what the adults around you say you have to do, is.

Posted by: Alice Bachini on August 26, 2003 05:33 PM



OK, so offering children pornography doesn't bother you. So let's go to an extreme -- how about a racist, how-to, violent manifesto like The Turner Diaries?

And don't say "If you've raised your children right, they won't want to read it," or "If you are a good example, your children will know that stuff is nonsense," because while true in part, it misses the point of juvenile judgment.

A 2000 study, "Im)maturity of judgment in adolescence: Why adolescents may be less culpable than adults" (Cauffman and Steinberg), compared a number of traits related to judgment and the likelihood of making anti-social decisions among five non-delinquent groups in grades 8, 10, and 12, young adults (under 21), and older adults (average age 25). The study found significant differences in judgment and antisocial choices between each age level. Another study, this one using brain imaging, showed that the prefrontal cortex, the area adults use to exercise emotional control, undergoes significant change in late adolescence.

So there is some science to this, not just anti-juvenile societal discrimination. It doesn't mean kids aren't smart and capable of learning from their own missteps, but it does support the idea that kids are not just adults who haven't reached their full height yet. Surely a little guidance wouldn't be too oppressive.

In your estimation, are there any justifiable ways for parents to restrict their children's behavior?

Posted by: Kari on August 26, 2003 07:31 PM



Gil, thanks. I'm really not the Nazi mother I seem to be coming across as. The whole goal here is to raise confident, responsible adults who will leave my home and find something worthwhile to do with their lives.

Alice, thank you for that link. I read the article twice and it only reinforced for me how important parents are in making sure that their kids are not pressured, bullied or forced into situations that they are uncomfortable with. It is not my place to comment on the decisions other parents make but I can say that my own child has been in a much less extreme yet similar situation and I seriously contemplate pulling her from school, getting her out of what is essentially a toxic environment and homeschooling her myself.

I prohibited Goosebumps and the like from our house because, after reading a couple, I decided there was much better literature that was just as much fun but of a much higher quality for him to read. He was 6 at the time and an extremely capable reader. He is now 15 and except for extreme cases such as Kari pointed out, I can think of nothing he may come in contact with that I would stop him from reading. I gave him Cannery Row by Steinbeck last summer--it's a story about whores and bums and is a piece of exquisite writing. I may counsel him to wait a few years to read something because he is too young to understand what it is about but at this point by keeping him away from junk and providing him with good stuff, his taste is developed enough that I dont worry, much. I do take children, and my children in particular, seriously.

Posted by: Deb on August 26, 2003 08:49 PM



Kari,

Considering how the child was raised doesn't miss the point of juvenile judgment. It's the major factor that affects it. I don't think a child who is interested in The Turner Diaries and has a sensible advisor around is in any danger from it.

I hope you don't think those studies demonstrate a biological basis for judgment traits. They can't.

Children do start with poor judgment, because they have little knowledge and experience. The way to deal with this is NOT to deny them knowledge and experience. But, rather, to help them develop as well as they can as soon as they want to, with as much help and advice that you can offer.

A little guidance is not too oppressive. It's essential. But, is that really what you mean?

Justifiable ways for parents to restrict children's behavior consist of mostly discussion, argument, advice, and help. In rare cases, force may be required to protect a child's (or someone else's) physical safety, but these situations can usually be avoided by planning.

Deb,

If she wants to be homeschooled then I strongly encourage you to consider it seriously. It sounds like the best thing for her.

Posted by: Gil on August 26, 2003 09:07 PM



Developmental psych, not biological. And those are just two studies in a crowded field coming up with similar results.

I was being a tad bit extreme with my examples. It's quite a leap from Self magazine to the Turner Diaries. Apologies to all.

Posted by: Kari on August 27, 2003 12:37 PM



Kari,

Developmental Psych. So, it's completely consistent with being largely caused by being denied knowledge and experience, rather than being young, since most teenagers have been so denied.

And, don't worry about the Turner Diaries example. I mentioned book burning, and Deb was the first to reference Nazis explicitly; so you're well within the bounds of this particular discussion. :-)

Posted by: Gil on August 27, 2003 01:26 PM



Where teenagers get their ideas, continued.

I've already alluded to the role of fags in all this (Twist magazine, reasons for reading about clothes) and have recently learned that "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is huge with middle school girls in my circle.

Talk about choosing something bad. Ick. I am told, with great enthusiasm, that if I would just watch it, soon I would see that it's really really great and so funny.

Have found one fashionable boy who enjoys knowing more than the Queers.

One thing you can say for gay men, they won't advocate gardening in the nude - terrible for your skin!

Posted by: j.c. on August 27, 2003 01:49 PM






Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:



Remember your info?