Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Let's shock some kids!

Which story am I referring to? Is it this one about a Texas school teacher fired for taking ten year olds to an art museum where they may have encountered nude artwork, or is it this one, about a school for the handicapped and disturbed that uses electric shock as a behavior modification tool?

Let me do the second one first and the first one second.

I'm for shocking the mentally handicapped. Let me tell you a story. My mother teaches autistic children, in the public school system of the town I grew up in. She had a student several years ago who was autistic, had downs syndrome, and was born with both fetal alcohol syndrome and a serious, rare neurological defect that vastly diminished the size of the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is beginning to be thought of as the moral center of the brain. It's involved in weighing rewards and consequences. This student did not have one. She could not 'learn', as we know it. She had preferences. She had behaviors. She could not plan, or delay gratification.

She learned exactly one thing in my mother's classroom: Not to touch the radiator. Because the radiator hurt. Operant conditioning, and classical conditioning don't (as far as we're able to tell right now) use the same pathways as other forms of learning. It's hard to think about hurting children; it's hard to think of a child in pain and not think of abuse; but when a child may not be able to learn to stop harming themselves, or to stay out of danger, or to develop skills that may allow them to walk down the street, or visit their parents, or sit on a bus, without that- I'm not going to deprive them of it. We know how it works. We know that it works.

Ok. Done shocking kids like that.

How about nudity?

This I actually need explained to me. By what mechanism is seeing nudity harmful to children? In what way is Janet Jackson's tit, or marble David's teensy dick, at all dangerous or innappropriate for children? I would understand, perhaps, if we all had a cloaca until age 18, when genitals appear in our pants like fungus after rain...but not when all children have a set of goods of their own.

I understand, completely, the rationale for shielding as much as possible, children from depictions of sexuality and sexual behavior in adults. It's confusing for them, and too much information, and very graphic or lurid depictions may actually be traumatic. But nudity is not sex. (Which is not to say that children don't have any sexual-like behaviors. Fetuses masturbate in the womb. But a fetus doesn't fantasize about putting its penis stub in an unseen unimagined vagina)

How will children be harmed by seeing non-sexual nudity in a completely non-sexual environment? I saw nude statues and nude art often as a child. I'll admit, later (age 12-17) I did spend a good amount of time researching in various books of nordic, south american, greek and roman art for what this thing called an "erection" looked like. I couldn't quite get whether it came up or went out or what, and I certainly didn't know it got any BIGGER. What can I say. I was a late bloomer.

That's off-topic, though. What I really want, and what I'd love someone to tell me, is the PROCESS by which children are harmed by nudity. How was a ten year old boy or girl, verging on puberty themselves, possibly put in danger in any way, by seeing a depiction of some long-dead nipple? I can imagine how their parents were harmed. Perhaps, if you've got a ten year old child who does not yet know that the opposite sex has a different set of equipment, that may be embarassing for you as a parent.


chola said...

See, I don't get it either. I was raised that nudity isn't a bad thing, so maybe that's why it's hard for me to grasp the opposite idea. I think our society is so Puritanical that it's hard for us to imagine that we're sexual beings from birth to death. Not that I condone children getting frisky but it's something that you really shouldn't be ashamed at addressing with them.If you make tits and sex taboo, you end up making it more enticing and at the same time dirty which can lead to unsafe sex and promiscuity. But what do I know, I'm a raging Liberal.

Rob said...

What bothers me is when they sexualize nudity by obscuring it. For example, several times, while watching shows on early hominids and so forth, I have noticed blurring. Not only blurring on the adults, but on the children as well. It automatically focuses attention on the genitals, thereby sexualizing it.