November 28, 2003
Perfecting children

This is worth a look:

A Stepford Wives that worked as social satire today would be different from its predecessor: It would be at least as much about the project of perfecting children as that of perfecting wives. It would be about the collaboration between ambitious fathers and mothers who believe both in the meritocracy and in doing what it takes to rig it in the interest of their own offspring's Ivy League prospects. It would be about shameless string-pulling to get kids into the right nursery school. Status anxiety about three-year-olds. The subtle assessing of other people's children in relation to one's own.

And part of the art of "perfecting children" is not making it feel like that.

Home schooled children are, sometimes, a little like Stepford Children, in that when they are dealing with adults, they often behave a lot more like adults themselves. They are a lot more confident – assertive in a good way, rather than veering wildly between over- and under-assertion. Not necessarily such a bad thing, but food for thought.

Have any movies been made in which children behave in a much more adult way than most children do now? Gregory's little sister in Gregory's Girl spring to mind, as does the younger sister of the Eric Stoltz hero of Some Kind of Wonderful. And of course there's Lisa Simpson, which would suggest that the way to create a super-together child is not necessarily anything much to do with being a perfect father. But how about the boys? Will it really be possible to create Stepford Boys?

John Stuart Mill perhaps?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:17 PM
Category: Parents and children