It’s a rarity for me to agree with an Archbishop. In fact I’m not sure it has ever happened before. But I was amazed to find as I read this article in The Times that my head was nodding involuntarily at what Rowan Williams was saying.
The main thrust of his piece seemed to be that we are making children grow up far too fast. In his Christmas sermon at Canterbury Cathedral he said: “The message being sent out to children today was: ‘We shall test you relentlessly in schools, we shall bombard you with advertising, often highly sexualised advertising, we shall worry you about your prospects and skills from the word go. We shall do all we can to make childhood a brief and rather regrettable stage on the way to the real thing, which is
And it’s true. The whole childhood experience seems to have disappeared over recent years. Everyone from about 8 or 9 is classed as a mini-adult. Education is less about fitting you for life, and more about fitting you for a job; kids are tested relentlessly (in England in particular) in order to provide the Department of Schools or whatever they call it, with figures, figures, figures to show that targets are being achieved... for the advantage of Ed Balls and his team, and the disadvantage of the children, who are, in any case, now called students.
He went on: “Parents should learn to enjoy their children’s dependence on them, instead of forcing them prematurely into independence.”
Of course that takes a lot more effort on the parents' part, and maybe that is what is wrong. More and more kids are mini adults, dressed in fashion clothes with fashion accessories, hairstyles, and accompanying electronic gadgetry: in fact mini-consumers forced to grapple with problems and aspects of life for which they are not prepared.
Every stage of life only comes once, and when it's gone, it's gone. Childhood should be one of the best times. Yes, above all it's a time to learn, but a time to enjoy, to play, to get muddy, to skin your knee, to fall off your bike, to run to your mum and cry, ......and to relish lack of responsibility; to be free from the big worries and decisions of life.
I suspect that children who have never had a childhood, at least not past 8 or 9 years, who have never really had that innocence that leaves you blissfully unaware and unworried about certain things, will have lost something very special from their lives. There’s time enough to worry about teenage things when you are a teenager, and when maybe you can cope with them. To force them on our children too early is a cruelty.