That duty manifests in different ways, among them the need to provide education, opportunities and guidance that will allow our kids to mature into successful, happy, well-adjusted, productive members of society. But at its most basic level, protection means exactly what the word implies, to keep them from imminent harm, be that assault, starvation, abuse or worse.
The way the world works, at some point, to some extent almost all of us have to delegate some of that protection to others. Out of necessity we hand our children over to care-givers and educators. With no small measure of parental trepidation, we place faith that those people we trust share our interests in protecting and nurturing our children.
The worst nightmare for a parent, and of course, for any child so victimized, is when that faith is betrayed in despicable ways. It doesn't happen most of the time. But it does happen.
Next month, The University of Toronto and its Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) will be holding a symposium for schoolteachers called Bodies at Play: Sexuality, childhood and classroom life in which the keynote speaker will be University of Southern California Professor James R. Kincaid.
The ideas behind that choice suggest are both a betrayal of trust and confirmation that the nightmare we fear for our children is real. Indeed, those fears are being mocked by the very people responsible for shaping our public schools.
|OISE's keynote speaker Kincaid says|
this is an image
"vacated so we can write our passion there."
There are people who view children as erotic, sexual objects. That is a view that society, at least mainstream North American society, finds abhorrent and vile.
But the person U of T/OISE has chosen as its keynote speaker takes a different view; that the eroticizing of children is normal. In the introduction to his book Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting, Kincaid wrote, "..most adults in our culture feel some measure of erotic attraction to children and the childlike; I do not know how it could be otherwise."
U of T and OISE's imprimatur of such values and concepts by promoting their advocate to educators of small children is thoroughly loathsome.
The means by which Kincaid attempts to illustrate his theories are more revealing of his own beliefs than they are about society as a whole. His claim that Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone or the young Shirley Temple "look like cartoon characters: Buster Brown or Betty Boop - images vacated so we can write our passion there" is a bizarre interpretation. In my opinion, anyone who truly believes that should be kept well away from children.
Kincaid suggests that we have created bogeymen of child molesters to the extent that "it raises such fears of touching that any form of intimacy may seem hardly worth the risk." When thinking of normal people, Kincaid is wrong, but it is easy to see how someone who believes that most adults view children as erotic objects might think so.
Children need comfort and assurance and sometimes that can be in the form of a hug or an arm around a shoulder. For a normal, sane person, there is no more of an erotic aspect to that than there is when in patting a dog or cat.
Kincaid is fundamentally wrong in his belief, that "most adults in our culture feel some measure of erotic attraction to children" and even more so in his belief that we are committing some sin by denying it.
For most of us, the acceptable "range of erotic feelings towards children" would be exactly zero. Not so for Professor Kincaid, who wrote we should "see what might be done by positing a range of erotic feelings with and toward children. Rather than assuming that such feelings exist in only two forms - not at all or out of control - perhaps we could learn something of their differences, manner of expression and effects, allowing them a complex and dynamic relativity."
As a society, we have every interest in deploring and condemning the odious postulations that Kincaid proposes. By normalizing the eroticization of children, it is only a small measure away from normalizing the logical next step of that reprehensible idea. Will the next OISE symposium for educators feature someone who tells us we're overreacting when we condemn actual sex between adults and children?
There are depraved individuals who derive erotic stimulation from children. Evidently, it has eluded the brain trust at OISE that suggesting to educators such feelings are normal is not likely to instill many parents with confidence in them.
While Kincaid's writings may have esoteric philosophical value, the choice of having him as a keynote speaker at a symposium for teachers of young children suggests stupidity at best, and an acceptance of the most repugnant values at worst. That either is guiding an institution which influences the approach taken to education in Canada is indicative of the appalling state of our public school system.