• Do children have to be wise? Can't they just be cute and funny? (Getty Images)
While kids are quite funny and occasionally charming, Helen Razer is here to dispel the widespread idea that they have great wisdom.
By
Helen Razer

11 May 2016 - 2:43 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2016 - 2:56 PM

From the outset, let us show our respect to those who have dared to raise children. Yours is an act of compassionate bravery and great sacrifice. It is people like you who provide the world with hope and people like me, with wombs are as vacant as the heart of the Immigration Minister, who can be directly charged with sub-replacement fertility levels. I am far too fond of my Xbox to share it with a child. You are not. For this, I offer you my genuine thanks.

What I do not offer you is my parenting advice. First, I have none to give. Second, I am fairly sure that even if I had produced a child, it would now be grown into a sociopathic beast. I’d have whispered into its ear “You are so much better than all those other dirty babies” from infancy ‘til maturity, and it would have surely become a sort of Dexter-Immigration Minister hybrid.

As far as I’m concerned, if you can tolerate a being that is not half as cute nor one-tenth as independent as a kitten, you deserve all the tax concessions you can get.

So. Just to be gracelessly clear. The observations which follow are not intended as critique on child-rearing, an area in which I am underqualified and one for which I know I have no natural skill. As far as I’m concerned, if you can tolerate a being that is not half as cute nor one-tenth as independent as a kitten, you deserve all the tax concessions you can get.  You can give your kid a ludicrous name, pretend that it has an allergy to all non-kale-based foodstuffs and dress it in fair trade tutus. I don’t care. Your kid, your prerogative. So long as you’re feeding it sufficient calories and teaching it to read without abuse, no other party should be involved. Certainly not me. I’ll be over here with my Xbox wondering if I’ll ever feel bad about my choice not to reproduce.

Do what you want with your kiddies. Really. Be my absent guest. There’s far too much moralising in this world about the private actions of others and even if I were to share my hypotheses about the dangers of kale-based foodstuffs to children, you wouldn’t listen, Anyhow. It’s not your parenting of children that truly distresses me. Rather, it’s the fairly prevalent view, even by the childless, that children have something to teach us that gets up my ginger.

Kids. Don’t they say the wisest things?

Well, no, actually. Despite what every other Facebook post in my timeline declares, they really don’t.

While the words formed by children are often funny and sometimes even adorable, what they inevitably lack is genuine wisdom. These words are uttered by persons whose white matter is yet to work at optimal speed and so, no, it’s not just my nasty opinion that your little Phelony is irrational. It’s the view of all the world’s neurologists.

Human children are not wise, but fairly thick. They will remain fairly thick until about the age of 22, at which point that have attained neural maturity. Even though they sometimes say things that sound just and wise, like “why can’t we all just get along?” or “Why does the Immigration Minister look like a monster?”, they have come to that conclusion by means of poor logic.

In recent years, the use of children at protest actions has become quite commonplace. I mean, I am absolutely certain that the Baby Einstein series of videos is a useful early development tool, but I don’t think even this permits the young mind to grasp complex political issues. Whether they are attending a rally for same-sex marriage or one for Reclaim Australia, children simply do not have the reason to decide where they stand on federal matters.

I imagine it is very nice to believe that your child has come to an independent conclusion about border control, the Marriage Act or labour conditions. It is also very deluded. 

Of course, I imagine it is very nice to believe that your child has come to an independent conclusion about border control, the Marriage Act or labour conditions. It is also very deluded. A person who is yet to master the times tables is not also a person capable of providing policy advice. Yes. Even when they do it in a cute voice.

There is a very old, and very damaging, idea we have in western culture about “state-of-nature” wisdom. We like to pretend that there is such a thing as natural justice and once, the great and most toxic philosophers would write about an imaginary prehistorical state to justify organisation of the present. I hardly need tell you that such accounts have been used to validate racism, homophobia, sexism, capitalism and a host of other ills. Of course, at times this “state-of-nature” has also been used to recommend ideas that I personally like, such as not being a dick.

But the point is, if we look for simple and natural solutions in our complex and social world, we are doomed to come up with a range of incompatible answers. We should not ask of wisdom “is it natural?” but, rather, “is it socially just?”. These are two very different things.

The child is now widely held to function as the innocent, and fictional, “state-of-nature” once did. We look to the “wisdom of children” just as we once looked to an imaginary past.

You are, of course, perfectly free to tell your child that they are marvellous and currently capable of fixing all the problems in the world. You are obliged, however, not to impose that view on a complex world.

 

What to feed a child allergic to non-kale-based food stuffs
Purple sweet potato and kale pastries
"These savoury superfood-filled pastries were a complete hit at our stall at the Adelaide Farmers' Market. You can use any colour of sweet potato you like - or even pumpkin - and substitute the kale with spinach or chard."
Garlicky kale and white bean stew
This stew is a perfect example of the humble food I often eat. If you are someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to mess about in the kitchen, this is the stew for you!