14 March 2007

Childhood c. Mid-19th Century - 2007

Children The death of Childhood - which was confirmed yesterday by the publication of the government's new curriculum for the under-fives - cannot truly be counted as unexpected. Under increasing pressure from the joint effects of a society bent on buying girls under ten clothing bearing the logo of US porn magazine Playboy (at the same time as threatening to lynch everyone from paedophiles to paediatricians and podiatrists) and a government bent on cramming the maximum number of exams into the life of everyone under 25, the only cause of wonder is, perhaps, that it managed to survive so long.

While children had existed since time immemorial, the institution of Childhood was only born during the reign of Queen Victoria, when people began to feel that children were not merely handily chimney-sized mini-adults but cherubic innocents, closer to the angels than the adults about them and ideal for being pictured on the cover of any chocolate box.

Freed from the close confines of assorted soot-choked chimney stacks, dark coal mines and machine works, Childhood became for many a time of innocence and play, when the young could learn to experience their world first-hand - whether it be the joys of skipping merrily through a meadow, blowing soap bubbles and fashioning daisy chains or the even greater joys of scrumping apples, burning their dad's shed to the ground while discovering the wonder of matches and making their parents' lives as miserable as possible.

Soon Childhood was everywhere, becoming so popular that a significant proportion of those over retirement age (particularly senior judges) decided to indulge in it a second time. As the decades passed, more and more people began to realise that Childhood really was (contrary to their hopes when they themselves were children) the best time of their lives. Increasingly people well into their twenties, thirties and forties decided to cling onto Childhood (not to mention the childish things that went with it such as Xbox 360s, doll collections and the belief that the Harry Potter books have some literary value).

Soon it became clear that there was not enough Childhood to go around. Parents - urged on by a society eager to turn anyone capable of holding a coin into a consumer, a media eager to push pictures of semi-naked women at tweenies and an internet leaping over itself to insert images of donkey-sex into the minds of anybody it could find - rushed to thrust adulthood upon their offspring just as soon as they could find an ear-piercing salon willing to carry out its work in utero.

The government too became aware of the shortage of Childhood and, over the years from 1997, worked steadily to cut it down, loading everyone under twenty with so many standard assessment tests, GCSE exams, GNVQ exams, AS-level exams, A-level exams et al that the only way that anyone could find time to trip merrily was to drop some acid on the way to the exam hall.

It was the government's curriculum for the under-fives - a curriculum that will test them on everything from their ability to count their toes to their capacity to programme a computer - that proved Childhood's end, crowding out the last period of time in a child's life not already filled with examinations. Starved of time, freedom and love, Childhood passed away last night.

Childhood will be buried at St Herod's Church. The reading will be the first four words of Mark 10:14 "Suffer the little children".


james higham said...

Savage and excellent post. You gentlemen need a medal for the service you're providing.

Phoenix said...

Fantastic post as ever. 'Cept I have to disagree about the Harry Potter books.