Monday, September 27, 2010

The birds and the bees

I read an interesting article on the BBC web site today it's about a recent trend in America that has seen an increase in parents attempting to ban certain books and other learning materials from their children's schools, essentially reflecting an increased desire to censor what children are allowed to see and read in school over and above the filtering already implemented by their teachers and the schools themselves. The New Humanist magazine also had a more detailed assessment of this trend.

Most of the objections centre around sex of course, occasionally it's something more tangential like politics or offensive language but generally the article points a finger at our biological impulses as the root cause of most disputes. Another interesting comment is about how the systems in the USA and the UK are different, apparently these kinds of objections are much more common there than they are here. This may be to do with the more fine grained control that US school boards have over local schools than local constituents do here, it is almost unheard of that people object to particular books etc. in the UK. Religion too must presumably play a big part in this, primary motivator probably, the UK is much less religious than the US even though the US have an enviable clarity of separation of church and state. Evolution remains a religious bone of contention in some parts of the USA, although hopefully that trend is going in the right direction now.

So what is the "right" time for the birds and the bees conversation? As a father of youngsters myself it's a topic that seems like an imponderable, when an advert appeared on TV featuring a naked man in a car showroom my 9 year old son recently looked at me quizzically (of course there was always something covering his modesty like a cactus or a loaf of French bread etc. which was the joke) he asked "but Dad why is this funny and why won't they show his penis?" I felt like a giggling schoolboy whose teacher had just told him to grow up, it's only a naked person! Times do change, when I was his age I probably used see half a dozen feature films a year, now he sees that many a week, even innocuous things like Indiana Jones have "adult" themes in certain scenes and anything that's remotely interesting and challenging has the odd swear word or two. I always think that if parents make a big deal of these things they become so much more attractive; as soon as my kids realise that their parents know all about something and can explain it rationally in a mundane matter of fact way then they seem to loose interest quite quickly, it's a theory at least.


Elizabeth said...

For sure, American parents would ban their kids from reading your blog with posts like this. :)

I don't think I've ever read a blog post with the word 'penis' in it before. My life is obviously too dull.

Steve Borthwick said...

E, I was rather glad he used the "polite" word for it, could have been a lot worse :)