kathleen mcdonnell continues her crusade to kick conventional wisdom in the butt with Honey, We Lost The Kids, a very readable essay on the changing state of childhood.The local scribe argues that the barriers between childhood and adulthood are crashing down.
Adults, she says, should avoid the conservative responses that focus on putting the barriers back up -- censorship, media control and promoting teen celibacy, for example -- and instead find ways of engaging with young people in order to build the future.
In clear-eyed prose, McDonnell traces the history of the term "childhood" -- a relatively new phenomenon -- and the reasons why the protective casing for kids has fallen away. Television and movies, even the news, she says, are not what they were (as anyone who had to watch the Lewinsky/Clinton debacle with young kids is painfully aware), pre-teens are now major marketing targets and new technologies have changed the landscape entirely.
Adults who leave the Internet to the kids are missing the point. Get to know new technologies, McDonnell urges, and stop trashing popular culture. TV and movies are vast and diverse media. Make them something that unites us, not divides us.
My main cavil with the book is that it's too cursory. A section on how kids teach grownups about new technology underplays the extent to which 'tude-heavy tech nerds were holding corporate America hostage until competition made them clean up their act.
A section damning Internet censorship is a little bit naive. You get the sense that McDonnell's never had the experience of downloading a porn site and having it take over your computer for half a day.
And her wise promotion of media literacy leaves out the fact that the Harris government has eviscerated media programs in schools across the province.
But McDonnell's is an important voice in an intensifying debate.
Write books at email@example.com
Honey, we lost the kids: Re-thinking childhood in the multimedia age by Kathleen McDonnell (Second Story), 191 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN