The goodness of Children, revisited.

We all admire the intelligence of people who think the way we do.

Bruno Bettelheim wrote a book called The Uses of Enchantment designed (as far as I can tell) to defend and promote the use of fairy tales in bringing up children. Naturally it is referenced in a number of storytelling articles I have read. I have only just started the book, and so far it is quite intriguing. Here is a quote that reminds me of the arguments I began articulating earlier.

There is a widespread refusal to let children know that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to our very own natures– the propensity of all men for acting aggressively, asocially, selfishly, out of anger and anxiety. Instead we want our children to believe that, inherently all men are good. But children know that they are not always good; and often, even when they are, they would prefer not to be. This contradicts what they are told by their parents, and therefore makes the child a monster in his own eyes.

I have often thought about how ridiculous it is that adults continue to assert the inherent goodness of children (as one who has cared for/observed them most of my life), but I had never before considered how it must seem to the honest and thoughtful child who is aware of his or her own shortcomings.

Indeed, if a sensitive child is told that children’s goodness comes naturally, and honestly observes that his own goodness does not– I can see that being rather distressing, even if not completely “mak[ing] the child a monster in his own eyes.”

One thought on “The goodness of Children, revisited.

  1. This is a really interesting point. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it makes sense to me.

    I like the way you think…your ponderings and processings almost always help bring clarity to thoughts I’ve had spinning around in my head as well.

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