Remembering Neil Postman

Childhood was created
when we stopped sending children
down mines, up chimneys,
into factories and out to the fields.
From this imprecise point
children began to be valued for who they are,
and to be protected and educated.
Quite right, too.
It was not, is not the case everywhere.
In some places childhood ends,
at least for girl-children,
with marriage, and its upshot,
So it was for the mid-teens Mary
from Nazareth, two thousand years ago;
and countless others.
Childhood contracts and shrivels,
threatening to disappear
as innocence is torn away.
The secrets of adulthood,
once wrapped in safe brown paper,
lie rude and exposed,
as children are devalued,
sacrificed and cast aside.
Childhood’s beauty is painted over,
and trained to perform before judges;
while digital technology offers
a thousand doorways to a sad adulthood.
Toddlers with cigarettes; children
who know how to calculate the odds.
Let the children come to me,
a carpenter-teacher once said.
Let them climb; let them rise above
all that would limit and deny,
and discover holy childhood life.

Neil Postman (1931-2003) wrote The Disappearance of Childhood, published in 1982.

© Ken Rookes 2012


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