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Voorkant Postman 'The disappearance of childhood' Neil POSTMAN
The disappearance of childhood
New York: Vintage Books, 1994, 1982/1
ISBN-13: 978 03 0779 7223

(8) Preface to the Vintage Edition

De eerste editie verscheen twaalf jaar voor deze Vintage-uitgave. De auteur heeft intensief gecheckt of hij zich in de eerste uitgave misschien vergist heeft in zijn feiten en voorspellingen en of er iets wezenlijks is veranderd sinds de publicatie ervan. Helaas is dat niet het geval, constateert hij.

"To put it plainly, the book set out to describe where the idea of childhood came from, why it flourished for 350 years, and why it is rapidly disappearing. My re-reading of the book, sad to say, leads me to change nothing of importance in it. What was happening then is happening now. Only worse."(10)

"I will stand by the theme of the book: American culture is hostile to the idea of childhood. But it is a comforting, even exhilirating thought that children are not."(12)

(13) Introduction

"Unlike infancy, childhood is a social artifact, not a biological category. Our genes contain no clear instructions about who is and who is not a child, and the laws of survival do not require that a distinction be made between the world of an adult and the world of a child. In fact, if we take the word children to mean a special class of people somewhere between the ages of seven and, say, seventeen, requiring special forms of nurturing and protection, and believed to be qualitatively different from adults, then there is ample evidence that children have existed for less than four hundred years. Indeed, if we use the word children in the fullest sense in which the average American understands it, childhood is not much more than one hundred and fifty years old." [mijn nadruk] (14)

"To have to stand and wait as the charm, malleability, innocence, and curiosity of children are degraded and then transmogrified into the lesser features of pseudo-adulthood is painful and embarrassing and, above all, sad." [mijn nadruk] (17)

[Mijn vraag is steeds: welke kenmerken geeft Postman aan die kindertijd. Hier staan er een paar. Nieuwsgierigheid, zeker. Maar de andere drie? Hangt er vanaf hoe de die woorden definieert. Ik ben met name benieuwd hoe Postman 'innocence' gaat invullen. ]

(18) Part 1 - The Invention of Childhood

(19) Chapter 1 - When There Were No Children

"As I write, twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls are among the highest-paid models in America. In advertisements in all the visual media, they are presented to the public in the guise of knowing and sexually enticing adults, entirely comfortable in the milieu of eroticism. After seeing such displays of soft core pornography, those of us not yet fully conditioned to the new American attitudes toward children yearn for the charm and seductive innocence of Lolita."(19)

[Hier zitten gekke dingen. Er wordt meteen een waardering aan gegeven ('soft core pornography). En wat bedoelt hij met dat 'Lolita' (ik neem aan die van Nabokov) een 'verleidelijke onschuld' zou hebben? Heeft hij het boek niet gelezen? Ze is helemaal niet zo 'onschuldig' namelijk, tenminste: niet in de betekenis die Postman er denk ik aan hangt.]

De verschillen in criminaliteit, kleding, spel tussen kinderen en volwassenen beginnen weg te vallen, aldus Postman.

[Wat een beetje overdreven en een beetje waar is ... ]

"Everywhere one looks, it may be seen that the behavior, language, attitudes, and desires — even the physical appearance — of adults and children are becoming increasingly indistinguishable. No doubt this is why there exists a growing movement to recast the legal rights of children so that they are more or less the same as adults."(16)

Postman verwijst naar de sterk opgekomen 'geschiedenis van het kind'. Hij noemt Ariès (1962) bijvoorbeeld. Daarna bespreekt hij de status van het kind bij de Grieken en de Romeinen.

"Moreover, the Romans began to make a connection, taken for granted by moderns, between the growing child and the idea of shame. This was a crucial step in the evolution of the idea of childhood, and I shall have occasion to refer to this connection in discussing the decline of childhood in both medieval Europe and our own times. The point is, simply, that without a well-developed idea of shame, childhood cannot exist. " [mijn nadruk] (19)

[Wat een vage stelling. Is een wereld vol met schaamte zo geweldig dan? Volgens Psotman is die noodzakelijk. En ja hoor, daar komt-ie ...: ]

"Here we are confronted with an entirely modern view, one that defines childhood, in part, by claiming for it the need to be sheltered from adult secrets, particularly sexual secrets. Quintilian’s reproach to adults who neglect to keep these secrets from the young provides a perfect illustration of an attitude that Norbert Elias in his great book The Civilizing Process claims as a feature of our civilized culture: that the sexual drive is subjected to strict controls, that great pressure is placed on adults to privatize all their impulses (particularly sexual ones), and that a “conspiracy of silence” concerning sexual urges is maintained in the presence of the young."(20)

"But it is an extension of the idea that children require protection and nurturing, and schooling, and freedom from adult secrets. And then, after the Romans, all such ideas disappear." [mijn nadruk] (20)

[Kinderen moeten volgens Postman dus beschermd worden tegen en afgeschermd worden van de wereld van de volwassenen. Je zou natuurlijk ook kunnen stellen dat al die mensen het bij het verkeerde eind hebben, maar Postman weet al wat 'kind-zijn' is, daar heerst onschuld, daar bestaat seksualiteit niet en ze moeten vooral geen getuige zijn van de 'geheimen van volwassenen'. Zucht. Waren er maar wat minder geheimen. Dat zou veel kinderen / jongeren enorm geholpen hebben in het ontwikkelen van een volwassen seksualiteit.]

Postman beschrijft dan de 'donkere Middeleeuwen', waarin de geletterdheid, het onderwijs, de schaamte sterk achteruit gingen met als gevolg dat de kindertijd ook verdween (in de zin van het verschil tussen de jeugd en volwassenheid).

"Reading is the scourge of childhood because, in a sense, it creates adulthood. Literature of all kinds — including maps, charts, contracts, and deeds — collects and keeps valuable secrets. Thus, in a literate world to be an adult implies having access to cultural secrets codified in unnatural symbols. In a literate world children must become adults. But in a nonliterate world there is no need to distinguish sharply between the child and the adult, for there are few secrets, and the culture does not need to provide training in how to understand itself. " [mijn nadruk] (23)

"What we can say, then, with certainty, is that in the medieval world there was no conception of child development, no conception of prerequisites or sequential learning, no conception of schooling as a preparation for an adult world."(24)

"Neither, one must add at once, did it have a concept of shame, at least as a modern would understand it. The idea of shame rests, in part, on secrets, as Quintilian knew. One might say that one of the main differences between an adult and a child is that the adult knows about certain facets of life — its mysteries, its contradictions, its violence, its tragedies — that are not considered suitable for children to know; that are, indeed, shameful to reveal to them indiscriminately. In the modern world, as children move toward adulthood, we reveal these secrets to them, in what we believe to be a psychologically assimilable way. But such an idea is possible only in a culture in which there is a sharp distinction between the adult world and the child’s world, and wherethere are institutions that express that difference. The medieval world made no such distinction and had no such institutions. Immersed in an oral world, living in the same social sphere as adults, unrestrained by segregating institutions, the medieval child would have had access to almost all of the forms of behavior common to the culture.(...)
Brueghel’s paintings, in fact, show us two things at once: the inability and unwillingness of the culture to hide anything from children, which is one part of the idea of shame, and the absence of what became known in the sixteenth century as civilité, which is the other part.(...)
They did not, for example, have the same concept of private space as we do; they were not repelled by certain humanodors or bodily functions; they were not shamed by exposing their own bodily functions to the gaze of others; they felt no disgust in making contact with the hands and mouths of others. Considering this, we will not be surprised to know that in the Middle Ages there is no evidence for toilet training in the earliest months of the infant’s life. And we will perhaps expect, as was the case, that there was no reluctance to discuss sexual matters in the presence of children. The idea of concealing sexual drives was alien to adults, and the idea of sheltering children from sexual secrets, unknown. “Everything was permitted in their presence: coarse language, scabrous actions and situations; they had heard everything and seen everything.” Indeed, it was common enough in the Middle Ages for adults to take liberties with the sexual organs of children. To the medieval mind such practices were merely ribald amusements. As Aries remarks: “The practice of playing with children’s privy parts formed part of a widespread tradition....” Today, that tradition will get you up to thirty years in prison." [mijn nadruk] (24-26)

[Ja, dat is zo, maar is dat vooruitgang in beschaving dan? Waarom is dat zo. Postman accepteert het gewoon als een gegeven.]

(28) Chapter 2 - The Printing Press and the New Adult

De boekdrukkunst zorgt voor de omslag en zorgt voor die scheiding tussen de wereld van kinderen en de wereld van volwassenen.

"Or perhaps we might call them Frankensteins, and the entire process, the Frankenstein Syndrome: One creates a machine for a particular and limited purpose. But once the machine is built, we discover — sometimes to our horror, usually to our discomfort, always to our surprise — that it has ideas of its own; that it is quite capable not only of changing our habits but, as Innis tried to show, of changing our habits of mind. "(30)

"In the case of Gutenberg’s press, we know, of course, that European culture was ready to receive it. Europe not only had an alphabetic writing system of two thousand years standing but a fairly rich manuscript tradition, which meant that there were important texts waiting to be printed. The Europeans knew how to manufacture paper, which they had been doing for two hundred years. For all of the widespread illiteracy, there did exist scribes who could read and write, and could teach others to do so. The revival of learning in the thirteenth century, and the rediscovery of the wisdom of classical culture, had whetted appetites for books. Then, too, the growth of commerce and the beginnings of the age of exploration generated a need for news, for durable contracts, for deeds, for reliable and standardized maps. "(31)

(42) Chapter 3 - The Incunabula of Childhood

"The first fifty years of the printing press are called the incunabula, literally, the cradle period. By the time print moved out of the cradle, the idea of childhood had moved in, and its own incunabula lasted for some two hundred years. After the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries childhood was acknowledged to exist, to be a feature of the natural order of things. "(42)

"Among other things, what this meant was that childhood evolved unevenly, for after one has sifted through the historical complexities, a fairly simple equation emerges: Where literacy was valued highly and persistently, there were schools, and where there were schools, the concept of childhood developed rapidly. That is why childhood emerged sooner and in sharper outline in the British Isles than anywhere else. "(44-45)

"What all of this led to was a remarkable change in the social status of the young. Because the school was designed for the preparation of a literate adult, the young came to be perceived not as miniature adults but as something quite different altogether — unformed adults. School learning became identified with the special nature of childhood."(45)

"As the form of childhood took shape, the form of the modern family also took shape. "(47)

" Unquestionably, childhood began as a middle-class idea, in part because the middle class could afford it. It took another century before the idea filtered down to the lower classes. " [mijn nadruk] (48)

"As self-control became important as an intellectual and theological principle, as well as a characteristic of adulthood, it was accordingly reflected in sexual mores and manners."(50)

[Ik vind dat historisch moeilijk te geloven. Religie was altijd al tegen seks en genieten van je lijf en wilde altijd al zelfdiscipline op dat punt. Misschien dat die ontwikkelingen die Portman schetst die negativiteit versterkte, maar nieuw was dat toch zeker niet.]

"Erasmus knew, as did John Locke later, and Freud later still, that even when stripped of its theological connotations, shame is an essential element in the civilizing process. It is the price we pay for our triumphs over our nature. (...) It is stretching a point only a little to say that print — by separating the message from the messenger, by creating an abstract world of thought, by demanding that body be subordinated to mind, by emphasizing the virtues of contemplation — intensified the belief in the duality of mind and body, which in turn encouraged a contemptuous regard for the body. Print gave us the disembodied mind, but it left us with the problem of how to control the rest of us. Shame was the mechanism by which such control would be managed."(50)

[Postman blijft dat herhalen, maar dat is wat anders dan het ook te onderbouwen / bewijzen. Waarom is het geciviliseerd als je je schaamt voor dingen? Het is allemaal erg op Elias gebaseerd. Ik zie die samenhang niet. Het is zoals in Postmans andere boeken: er worden grote historische samenhangen geschetst die we blijkbaar maar moeten aannemen. Waarom zou geletterdheid samen moeten gaan met de onderwerping van het lichaam aan de geest en met schaamte als gevolg of met zelfdiscipline op het vlak van seks? ]

"That is why, by the end of the sixteenth century, school-teachers were already refusing to allow children to have access to “indecent books,” and punishing children for using obscene language. In addition, they were discouraging children from gambling, which in the Middle Ages had been a favorite pastime of the young. And because children could no longer be expected to know the secrets of adult public behavior, books on manners became commonplace. Erasmus, again, led the field. "(51)

(53) Chapter 4 - Childhood’s Journey

Het verloop van deopvattingen vanaf de 17e eeuw.

" In some cases it was enriched; in some, neglected; in some, degraded. However, at no point did it disappear, although at times it came close enough."(53)

[Het zou fijn zijn om een tijdlijn en een gegrafische kaart te hebben in combinatie met de lagen van de bevolking waarover het gaat. Het voorbeeld van de Industriële Revolutie dat volgt laat namelijk zien dat kinderen gewoon weer de rol van volwassen hadden, of dat ze dat nog steeds hadden, zeker in de arme bevolkingsgroepen. Waar was dat dan anders? Waar werden kinderen gerespecteerd als kinderen? Waarom duurde het dan zo eindeloos lang voordat er een wet kwam tegen de kinderarbeid? Zit ik hier een geschiedenis van de midden- en hogere klasse te lezen die rijk genoeg waren om hun kinderen een eigen wereld te geven van school en zo? En die uiteindelijk eind 19e eeuw hun eigen waarden en normen aan de bevolking in het algemeen wist op te leggen? ]

"Volumes have been written, including several by Charles Dickens, that tell of the reign of terror visited upon the children of the poor from the eighteenth century until the mid-nineteenth in England: the workhouses, the penal institutions, the textile mills, the mines, the illiteracy, the lack of schools. I choose the phrase “reign of terror” carefully, because it is important to say that just as the Reign of Terror in France did not and could not destroy the idea of political democracy, the brutal treatment of lower-class children did not and could not destroy the idea of childhood. Happily for the future, the idea was made of sterner stuff than were the children who never benefited from it. There were several reasons why childhood survived the avarice of industrialized England, and one of them is that the middle and upper classes in England kept the idea alive, nurtured it, and extended it. This fact could not have been of the slightest interest or comfort to Sarah Gooder. But it is of significance to world civilization, and particularly to England. Once they had been introduced, the ideas and assumptions associated with childhood never left England; they were merely blocked from reaching a certain class of people. And although England paid a heavy price for this—for example, by remaining until recent times the most class-conscious society in the Western world—eventually childhood and all that it represents penetrated to the lower classes."(54-55)

[Precies. In plaats van de materiële leefsituatie van de armen te verbeteren drong de rijke bovenlaag hen een moraal op. Een proces dat wereldwijd nog steeds doorgaat.]

"The European-wide movement toward a humane conception of childhood was due, in part, to a heightened sense of government responsibility for the welfare of children."(56)

" ... the intellectual climate of the eighteenth century — the Enlightenment, as it is called — helped to nourish and spread the idea of childhood. "(56)

[O, wat lief! Diezelfde bovenlaag die de problemen veroorzaakte die voortkomen uit armoede wilde die problemen als criminaliteit en ziekte en prostitutie niet meer. Het stonk te veel waarschijnlijk. Het was met andere woorden gewoon disciplinering van bovenaf zoals Foucault laat zien. Hoezo Verlichting? Locke hoorde bij de conservatieve bovenlaag. En Rousseau was een conservatieve romanticus. ]

(63) Part 2 - The Disappearance of Childhood

(64) Chapter 5 - The Beginning of the End

"The period between 1850 and 1950 represents the high-watermark of childhood. In America, to which we must now give our exclusive attention, successful attempts were made during these years to get all children into school and out of factories, into their own clothing, their own furniture, their own literature, their own games, their own social world. In a hundred laws children were classified as qualitatively different from adults; in a hundred customs, assigned a preferred status and offered protection from the vagaries of adult life. " [mijn nadruk] (64)

[Belangrijk punt, want als het om media en al die dingen gaat vormen de VS vanwege de commercialisering en deregulering daar een totaal andere wereld dan bv. Europa of Azië.]

Maar precies ook dan begint geleidelijk aan de afbraak van die kindertijd. Het begin allemaal met Morse en communicatiemogelijkheden via de 'elektrische weg'.

"Morse’s ideas were, in a sense, irrefutable, because no one knew that electric communication implied any ideas. As is usually the case with communication technology, people assumed that the telegraph was a neutral conveyance, that it was partial to no world view of its own."(65)

"The telegraph eliminated in one stroke both time and space as dimensions of human communication, and therefore disembodied information to an extent that far surpassed both the written and printed word. For electric speed was not an extension of human senses but a denial of them. It took us into a world of simultaneity and instancy that went beyond human experience. In doing so, it eliminated personal style, indeed, human personality itself, as an aspect of communication. "(66)

"Indeed, it is stretching the point only a little to say that the telegraph helped to create a new definition of intelligence, for as the world became flooded with information, the question of how much one knew assumed more importance than the question of what uses one made of what one did know. "(67)

"The maintenance of childhood depended on the principles of managed information and sequential learning. But the telegraph began the process of wresting control of information from the home and school. It altered the kind of information children could have access to, its quality and quantity, its sequence, and the circumstances in which it would be experienced. " [mijn nadruk] (68)

"Taken together, the electronic and the graphic revolutions represented an uncoordinated but powerful assault on language and literacy, a recasting of the world of ideas into speed-of-light icons and images. " [mijn nadruk] (68)

"By 1950 the competition between the two symbolic worlds finally became visible and the irony manifest. Like many other social artifacts, childhood became obsolete at the same time that it was perceived as a permanent fixture. I choose 1950 because by that year television had become firmly installed in American homes, and it is in television that we have the coming together of the electric and graphic revolutions. It is in television, therefore, that we can see most clearly how and why the historic basis for a dividing line between childhood and adulthood is being unmistakably eroded. " [mijn nadruk] (70)

"We may conclude, then, that television erodes the dividing line between childhood and adulthood in three ways, all having to do with its undifferentiated accessibility: first, because it requires no instruction to grasp its form; second, because it does not make complex demands on either mind or behavior; and third, because it does not segregate its audience. With the assistance of other electric, nonprint media, television recreates the conditions of communication that existed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries."(74)

(75) Chapter 6 - The Total Disclosure Medium

" There is a prior question that must be addressed: Why is television forcing the entire culture to come out of the closet? Why has the subject matter of the psychiatrist’s couch and the Confessional Box come so unashamedly into the public domain? "

[ De voorbeelden zijn nu inderdaad bijzonder Amerikaans. Televisie ook nog ... Wat nu volgt lijkt erg op Amusing ourselves to death van Postman. Ik zal niet ontkennen dat de televisie als medium - en later natuurlijk ook de sociale media - een enorme invloed heeft op mensen en hoe ze met informatie omgaan, etc. Maar dat onderscheid kinderwereld-volwassenenwereld dat er door zou verdwijnen is wel het minste probleem. Dat mensen er dom en oppervlakkig door worden bijvoorbeeld lijkt me een groter probleem, maar dat komt door complexer zaken zoals de inbedding van media in de commerciële context van een kapitalistische economie, niet door de media op zich. Ik lees hier bij Postman geen kritiek op dat laatste aspect bijvoorbeeld.]

"Like alphabetic writing and the printed book, television opens secrets, makes public what has previously been private. But unlike writing and printing, television has no way to close things down. The great paradox of literacy was that as it made secrets accessible, it simultaneously created an obstacle to their availability. One must qualify for the deeper mysteries of the printed page by submitting oneself to the rigors of a scholastic education.(...)
Television, by contrast, is an open-admission technology to which there are no physical, economic, cognitive, or imaginative restraints. The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer. Television, in this sense, is the consummate egalitarian medium of communication, surpassing oral language itself. For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.
The most obvious and general effect of this situation is to eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, to eliminate one of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood." [mijn nadruk] (77)

[Dat is het hoofdargument en de rest laat zich raden. De geheimen van de volwassenen worden onthuld en de volgens Postman noodzakelijke schaamte verdwijnt. Daarom dus verdwijnt de kindertijd. ]

"If one lived in a society in which the law required people to be nude on public beaches, the shame in revealing certain parts of the body would quickly disappear. For clothing is a means of keeping a secret, and if we are deprived of the means of keeping a secret, we are deprived of the secret. Similarly, the shamefulness in incest, in violence, in homosexuality, in mental illness, disappears when the means of concealing them disappears, when their details become the content of public discourse, available for examination by everyone in a public arena. What was once shameful may become a “social problem” or a “political issue” or a “psychological phenomenon,” but in the process it must lose its dark and fugitive character, as well as some of its moral force. " [mijn nadruk] (79)

[En wat is er dan mis met naakt zijn en met naaktstranden? Waarom moet het menselijk lichaam een geheim blijven? Maar nog ondoordachter is het vervolg: moeten incest en homoseksualiteit en huiselijk geweld en psychische problemen dan verborgen blijven voor anderen? Zodat mensen in het verborgene hun gang kunnen gaan zonder dat wie dan ook dat weet? Hier zie je hoe gevaarlijk dat idee van 'schaamte' is zoals Postman dat hier neerzet. Het is een conservatief standpunt en bijzonder normatief.]

"Certainly it would be hard to defend the proposition that a healthy society demands that death, mental illness, and homosexuality remain dark and mysterious secrets. And it would be even less defensible to argue that adults ought not to approach these subjects in any but the most restricted circumstances. But that the opening of these subjects to all, in unbound circumstances, poses dangers and in particular makes the future of childhood problematic must be boldly faced. For if there are no dark and fugitive mysteries for adults to conceal from children, and then reveal to them as they think necessary, safe, and proper, then surely the dividing line between adults and children becomes dangerously thin. We have here, in other words, a Faustian bargain, and it is very sad to note that the only sizable group in the body politic that has so far grasped the point is that benighted movement known as the Moral Majority. For through them the question has been raised, What is the price of openness and candor?" [mijn nadruk] (80)

[Dit is gedraai. O, voor volwassenen kan die openheid wel, maar niet voor kinderen, zegt Postman nu. Maar je voelt de hele tijd zijn weerzin van openheid over al die zaken in het algemeen, ook voor volwassenen. En dat hij dan met de Moral Majority komt aandragen illustreert dat.]

[Heel zijn pleidooi roept bij mij de vraag op: wat is er zo erg aan het verdwijnen van die kindertijd zoals hij die beschreven heeft? Het wordt gewoon een andere kindertijd. De scholen verdwijnen echt niet, dus die geletterdheid zullen kinderen nog steeds ontwikkelen. Maar ze zullen ook met steeds meeer 'volwassen' zaken in aanraking komen. So what? Moeten we dan maar geen seksuele voorlichting geven op de scholen zoals die Moral Majority in de VS zo graag wil? Want zo kun je dit standpunt van Postman natuurlijk gebruiken.]

"With the gradual decline of shame there is, of course, a corresponding diminution in the significance of manners. As shame is the psychological mechanism that overcomes impulse, manners are the exterior social expression of the same conquest. Everything from table manners to language manners to the manners of dress is intended to reveal the extent to which one has learned self-restraint; and it is at the same time a means of teaching self restraint."(80)

[Even problematisch. Welke manieren? Er zijn zo veel onzinnige voorbeelden te geven op dat vlak. Bovendien verschillen 'manieren' per cultuur en historische periode gewoon, dus wat is het probleem?]

"In the face of all this, both the authority of adulthood and the curiosity of childhood lose ground. For like shame and manners they are rooted in the idea of secrets. Children are curious because they do not yet know what they suspect there is to know; adults have authority in great measure because they are the principal source of knowledge."(81)

"I believe it is clear enough that because of their relentless revelations of all cultural secrets, the electric media pose a serious challenge both to the authority of adulthood and to the curiosity of children."

[Waarom zou de nieuwsgierigheid van kinderen verdwijnen? Die staat al eeuwen onder druk, omdat de volwassenen ze willen 'beschermen' tegen wat volwassenen weten, of liever omdat de volwassenen hun autoriteit willen beschermen en niet kunnen laten zien dat ze het ook allemaal niet weten. Die nieuwsgierigheid is een biologisch-cognitief gegeven, die gaat niet weg, alsd volwassenen met hun opvoeding en onderwijs niet zo hun best deden om nieuwsgierigheid te onderdrukken.
En denkt Postman nou echt dat de autoriteit van volwassenen vooral voortkomt uit het 'meer weten'? Hoeveel ouders proberen die autoriteit niet te verkrijgen door autoritair en gewelddadig gedrag? Mead heeft gelijk: kinderen zullen voortaan allerlei dingen leren buiten hun ouders om. Wat is daar mis mee? Ouders zullen hun 'autoriteit' dus moeten verwerven door andere zaken dan 'meer weten, geheimen kennen' en zo. Ze moeten het respect van hun kinderen voortaan verdienen. ]

(89) Chapter 7 - The Adult-Child

"In the Middle Ages the adult-child was a normal condition, in large measure because in the absence of literacy, schools, and civilité no special discipline or learning was required in order to be an adult. For somewhat similar reasons the adult-child is emerging as normal in our own culture. I shall reserve for the next chapter putting forward the evidence that this is, indeed, happening. The purpose of this chapter is to show how and why it is happening."(89)

"It is probably worthwhile to reiterate here that the childlike conception of political, commercial, and spiritual consciousness that is encouraged by television is not the “fault” of politicians, commercial hucksters, and TV executives who provide TV’s content. Such people simply use television as they find it, and their motives are no better or worse than those of the viewers. To be sure, they exploit TV’s resources, but it is the character of the medium not the character of the medium’s users that produces the adult-child. This is an essential point to grasp. Otherwise we run the risk of deluding ourselves into believing that adulthood can be preserved by “improving” television."(100-101)

"In saying all of this, and in spite of how it may seem, I am not “criticizing” television but merely describing its limitations and the effects of those limitations. A great deal hinges on what we understand to be the nature of this great culture-transforming medium."(105)

[Typisch, dit: niemand willen bekritizeren, niemand ter verantwoording willen roepen of verantwoordelijk willen stellen. Wie zal er dan iets van leren? Televisie is van zichzelf uit slecht, kan niet op een goede manier ingezet worden. Dat televisie slecht is ligt niet aan de mensen die dit middel gebruiken om te liegen, rotzooi te verkopen, en mensen dom te houden. M.a.w.: er is niets aan te doen. En we stellen niemand verantwoordelijk voor de manier waarop televisie gebruikt wordt. Deprimerende denkwijzen zijn dat. Ik denk precies het tegenovergestelde: televisie is op zich niets, het wordt iets door de manier waarop mensen dat middel gebruiken; als mensen het voor slechte doeleinden gebruiken heeft het middel slechte invloed, en andersom. ]

(106) Chapter 8 - The Disappearing Child

"The purpose of this chapter is to show that childhood is disappearing. After considering the evidence, the reader, inevitably, will decide if my theory is useful."(107)

"Of course, the disappearance from television of our traditional model of childhood is to be observed most vividly in commercials. I have already spoken of the wide use of eleven- and twelve-year-old girls as erotic objects (the Brooke Shields Phenomenon) (...)
But beyond this, and just as significant, is the fact that children, with or without hyperactive libidos, are commonly and unashamedly used as actors in commercial dramas. (...)
The “adultification” of children on television is closely paralleled in films. Such movies as different as Carrie, The Exorcist, Pretty Baby, Paper Moon, The Omen, The Blue Lagoon, Little Darlings, Endless Love, and A Little Romance have in common a conception of the child who is in social orientation, language, and interests no different from adults.(...)
Although Bugsy Malone uses children as a metaphor for adults, there is very little sense of incongruity in their role playing. After all, what is absurd about a twelve-year old using “adult” language, dressing in adult clothes, showing an adult interest in sex, singing adult songs?"(109-110)

[Dat dat gebeurt is bekend, maar dat is een veel genuanceerder probleem dan 'o jee, de kinderwereld verdwijnt'. Het gaat nog steeds om kinderen en de discussie gaat nu juist over welke invulling van wat een 'kind' is wel en welke invulling niet kan. Er is geen universele norm voor wat 'een kinderwereld' of een 'kind' zou moeten zijn. ]

[Ik ben ook verder niet onder de indruk van alle voorbeelden en cijfers die Postman aanvoert om zijn uitgangspunt te illustreren. Ik laat ze voor wat ze zijn. ]

(124) Chapter 9 - Six Questions

"Having released myself early from the burden of offering “solutions” to the problem of the disappearance of childhood, I wish to conclude this book by putting forward several questions that readers may find of interest."(124)

[Inderdaad zei hij dat al in het begin van het boek. Maar wat een problematische houding is dat toch. Dat krijg je er van als je niemand wilt bekritizeren of verantwoordelijk wilt stellen. En dat terwijl hij zo veel kritiek heeft, maar steeds op het medium televisie, waaraan we zogenaamd niets kunnen veranderen. Verkeerde insteek, vind ik. ]

"Was childhood discovered or invented?
This book begins with the statement that childhood is a social artifact, not a biological necessity. Readers who are well-versed in child psychology will regard this statement as, at best, problematic and, at worst, false. Backed by the authority of such researchers as Freud, Erik Erikson, Arnold Gesell, and, in particular, Jean Piaget, prevailing opinion holds that observable stages of child development are governed by biological imperatives."

[Het is natuurlijk alletwee. ]

"Are there any communication technologies that have the potential to sustain the need for childhood?
The only technology that has this capacity is the computer. In order to program a computer, one must, in essence, learn a language. This means that one must have control over complex analytical skills similar to those required of a fully literate person, and for which special training is required. Should it be deemed necessary that everyone must know how computers work, how they impose their special world-view, how they alter our definition of judgment — that is, should it be deemed necessary that there be universal computer literacy — it is conceivable that the schooling of the young will increase in importance and a youth culture different from adult culture might be sustained. But such a development would depend on many different factors. "(128)

[Kijk nou toch ... En tegenwoordig gebruiken jongeren alle mogelijke vormen van computertechnologie en zijn ze geletterd op digitaal vlak. Tegelijkertijd gebruiken ze al die middelen vaak voor compleet oppervlakkige bezigheden. Ik denk dat Postman - die in 2004 overleed - de huidige tijd helemaal verschrikkelijk gevonden zou hebben.]

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