February 24, 2007
OK, now that my feelings are out of the way (at least under control for the time being), I can get back to the business of the post at hand. Or would that be the business at hand of the post?
I had been meaning to write about feral children, because earlier this week Dr. Helen linked one of Kim du Toit's masterpieces on the subject. The whole thing is a must-read (and I also can't wait to see the book) but I'll stick with this excerpt:
When we talk to people about homeschooling our kids, and are asked what we did about "socialization", our answer is dismissive. Here's the gist of it.Not only is the topic of feral children not a new one for me, it's one of my pet peeves. I was attacked by a pack of brats when I was two years old, and ever since that day, I have harbored no illusions about the true, monstrous, animal nature of untrained, unsupervised brats. One of the few things which triggers genuine feeling of sickness in me is to hear some lamebrain prattling about the "innocence" of children. Innocent hell! They're as "innocent" as cheetahs.
And therein lies the paradox. A mentality quite similar to that which calls children innocent also tends to worship the "innocence" of animals. This ties in quite nicely with Rousseau's condescending "Noble Savage" pap. Nature is said to be "innocent," and civilization is said to be "guilty." That this is highly judgmental, even religious, thinking does not seem to occur to its proponents. Indeed, they often deride religion, which makes absolutely no sense because they are substituting their own bad logic for the "superstition" they claim to abhor.
Yet, as I condemn this mentality, I am willing to concede that the inability to distinguish right from wrong can be called a form of innocence. The children who attacked me were, in the legal sense, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, although they did run away when an adult finally appeared wielding a broom -- in much the same way a vicious dog might. Why a vicious dog is seen as more worthy of euthanasia than a vicious child is another Rousseauvian paradox, I guess.
I suppose it's worth asking whether this sort of innocence matters, and why it should. If a feral dog attacks me, even though I love dogs, I might have to shoot it. Not so fast in the case of attacking feral children.
But what are feral children?
Do they look like this?
Or maybe like this?
Via Jonah Goldberg, who "thought the appropriate response would be to slap the kid."
What is the appropriate response? (The thing is, by today's standards, an angry, fulminating kid like that would not be considered particularly feral, but worthy of receiving an "A" -- if not admission to a top Ivy League school.)
While a stern lecture, a slap in the face, or a better education might be all that's needed for the angry kid in the video, what is the appropriate response in dealing with a dangerously innocent feral kid?
I don't know, but when local I saw a Philadelphia news item linked at Drudge, and realized that the same item touched on Dr. Helen's and Kim du Toit's posts, I realized that the issue was before me, whether I felt like blogging or not.
Two Germantown High School students nearly killed a beloved math teacher during a trivial argument yesterday morning over an iPod, police said.The "trivial argument" consisted of the teacher taking an iPod from the student who had brought it to class. My reaction is that the teacher should have been armed with something other than his bare hands, and allowed to defend himself.
The reaction of others is that the feral children are innocent, and should be loved and nurtured, that nothing be done which might harm their "self-esteem," and that maybe it's the iPod that's at fault.
I love cheetahs, but find it hard to love feral innocence in children.
It's even tougher to love feral children who remain children -- and feral -- into adulthood.
posted by Eric on 02.24.07 at 11:00 AM
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