November 18, 2002
Good prison versus bad liberation?

As a would-be radical child liberationist, postings like this one by Joanne Jacobs pull me apart like chewing gum being stretched out by a chewing gum chewer. Am I appalled at what my friend Alice would denounce as the "manipulation" of it all, or am I impressed at the sheer drive and efficiency of the stuff that Joanne is holding up for our admiration? (It's the usual stuff. High expectations. High academic standards. Frequent tests. Usually inept minorities making rapid progress. The kids also being "stretched".)

Both, in truth. I think that the arguments for freedom for adults do apply to children, even though children are indeed different. (Adults are also different, etc. etc.) But although I wouldn't want to be one of these efficient prison officer educators myself, I am impressed at how the best of these people go about their business. If you are going to be sent to prison for the crime of being young, it's probably better to be imprisoned in world that prepares you somewhat for life after your stretch inside than to be imprisoned in a place that prepares you to do nothing except whine and complain that you aren't being looked after and entertained properly by the big bad mysterious world that your plasticene games and dance and drama classes and yoof culture rebellions have so completely not prepared you for. I guess to the hardcore child liberationists, I must sound like a "progressive" Southern plantation owner, agonising about whether the slaves can handle freedom.

And here's another concession to the lock-em-up and smarten-em-up school of schoolers. Chucking the kids out into the streets as the streets now are wouldn't be ideal either, now would it? As so often, getting from here to there means choosing your next few steps with care.

Actually, I don't think that the changes needed can come from the official system at all. I think it goes to the state of mind of the consumer/victims of it all. Do these people – parents and children (especially children) - decide that they're consumers, or that they're victims? That's what matters. Expect a lot more from me about this last bit.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:26 AM
Category: Compulsion