The ghettoization of childhood: a rant

Apparently, the powers that be in the City Next Door believe that children should not be allowed to associate with adults who are not either (a) their parents or (b) properly credentialed and compensated professionals until they are 18, at which point, I guess, they magically become capable of functioning in adult society, despite having been shielded from it their whole lives.

You say I'm being ridiculous. I say, try reading the papers.

In just the last week, I have learned from our local newspaper that the entire second floor of the main downtown library has become off limits to adults unaccompanied by children1, and the campuses of our community colleges have become off limits to children, accompanied or not.2

When I first read about the library thing, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. Misguided and over-reactionary, sure, but not beyond the realm of reason. But taken together, along with the dismaying attitudes betrayed in many of the comments on the stories on the newspaper's website, these policies seem to represent a thoroughly warped perspective on children. It would seem that children are so fragile and vulnerable that they need to be aggressively protected from every worst case scenario however vanishingly small the risk, and at the same time children are so disruptive and annoying that the adults who have exercised the responsibility to keep parenthood from happening to them need to be protected from any exposure to or inconvenience from other people's kids.

Give. Me. A. Break.

Have we forgotten that children are people? Yes, parents need to exercise common sense; yes, there need to be developmentally appropriate limits on what children are exposed to and what independence they are entrusted with; yes, some library patrons make some parents uncomfortable and some parents take advantage of public facilities when better arrangements for their kids are available. But is the best answer really such sweeping age segregation?

(I find it particularly ironic that the first thing that comes up when you Google our community college district is the boilerplate: "Ventura County Community College District does not discriminate on the basis of age..." Right. Unless you are under 15 or so and want to step foot on campus.)

When I was a little girl, I briefly believed that no children lived in Ventura, California. I think we must have read a story at school in which the protagonist visited her grandparents in a retirement community, and I, in a rigorous application of kid logic, extrapolated that all grandparents live in retirement communities, therefore any community in which grandparents live is a retirement community, therefore any kids present in a community where grandparents live are only visitors, never residents.

This ironclad conclusion was demolished when I discovered that there were indeed children living in the house right next door to my grandparents. (Playing in their own front driveway! Unsupervised!) But now it's starting to seem that at least some residents would prefer that Ventura -- or at least its public spaces -- become the child-free land of my childish imagination. Let's tuck all the underaged away in their own restricted designated areas, so that we mature adults who can't handle even the possibility that a child might act like a child while out in public don't haven't to deal with them.

How childish is that.

1. Yes, I'm being a bit hyperbolic here. Adults can still enter the second floor to obtain materials from the children's area without a child escort; they're just not allowed to linger. It is unclear how much browsing will be tolerated.
2. Again with the hyperbole. There are exceptions. But you get the picture.


Anonymous said...

That is pretty unreasonable. Kids are people, too. They might be annoying from time to time, but so are adults. I don't think the mere possibility of bad behaviour should be enough to wholesale ban them from participating in the world. How else are they supposed to learn to behave?

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