The wisdom of children isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

At the Spectator Coffee House

Here’s an uplifting story from the vanguard of the culture war. As the New York Times reports:

‘At the Advent School in Boston, Erina Spiegelman, who is an instructional coordinator, recalled that a teacher last year asked a group of students the big question: ‘What is gender?’. The first answer came from a second-grader: ‘It’s a thing people invented to put you in a category.”

I have a daughter that age (second grade is the equivalent of Year 3) and I love her as much as any human has loved another, but she’s not an evolutionary biologist, and for me to present her very vague understanding of such a fraught, difficult and controversial subject as some sort of font of wisdom would be sheer self-indulgence. Other people’s children are like other’s people drug stories: they really mean a lot more to you than anyone else.

Yet there seems to be this strange fixation with repeating what children say on the issue of politics as if somehow their opinions were not just as interesting as a grown adult’s, but actually more so.

The ‘Woke 8-year-old’ who tells her progressive parent that Donald Trump is going to create the Fourth Reich – her thoughts being suspiciously like a Simple English version of the parent’s own musings on the subject – is such a cliché on social media that more often than not it’s done in jest. I guess that like all aspects of progressivism it’s a mutation of Christianity, and comes down via Matthew 21:16: ‘And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?’ The problem is that once you take the supernatural out of the faith then what you’re left with is less rational; sympathy turns to sentimentality, and we’re overrun with the ‘what about the kiddies?’ mawkishness that now pervades politics.

We’ve seen lots of these stories but my personal favourite is that of the 5 year old girl who wrote to the Pope calling for looser immigration control because ‘My dad works very hard in a factory galvanizing pieces of metal.’ I’m not mocking her situation, which I believe considerably more than that she came up with those words and ideas herself; but to decide one of your country’s most important and complex areas of policy based on what a five-year-old writes in a letter is a sign of mental enfeeblement.

The truth is that children do come out with lots of funny things, but when they say something truly profound it is moving not because it’s normal but because it’s so unusual, spooky even. But almost all the time children simply repeat what they’re told by parents and teachers, so retelling the meme that the in-group is good and the out-group stupid and bad is not a sign that their words have great wisdom. Quite the reverse: children are by far the most easily indoctrinated and manipulated section of population, and since their prefrontal cortex has yet to develop they find logical thinking, risk assessment and complex planning far harder than those over the age of 24 – which is why people with very simplistic political ideas tend to idolize youth. This is what my daughter told me, anyway.

What do you think?