Hysteria Over Mass Effect and the Infantilization of America: On the Benefits of Exposing Children to Adult Material

Volumes have already been written regarding the recent clash between several conservative pundits and the gaming community over ‘objectionable’ material in BioWare’s newest addition to the RPG genre, Mass Effect. What the conservative pundits found abhorrent was that the game offers the option for the main character to develop a romantic involvement with a bi-sexual member of another species which culminates in a 40 second love scene somewhere around the 30 hour mark of game play. Yet another editorial in defense of the game would likely serve little to no purpose. (A forthcoming review of Mass Effect will hopefully provide all the defense the game needs from misinformed critics.) In this instance, my reason for setting finger to keyboard is to focus briefly on the detrimental effects of the rapidly escalating, conservatively rooted, child protection fetish.

All she wanted was a true love.

For the two of you out there who do not know how this controversy began, here is what happened:

On January 11th, 2008, in an article entitled Sex in Video Game Makes Waves Through Industry the conservative news outlet Cybercast News Service reported that according to pro-family analysts (I love these terms of theirs. How could you disagree with a “pro-family” analyst? What are you from San Francisco?): “Mass Effect is marketed to young kids and presents a moral danger to them…” The article goes on to quote one Cathy Ruse of the ultra conservative Family Research Council. In an attempt to simply document the chronology of this festival of irrationality, I offer the quotes from Ruse without comment (for now):

“There are cultural implications for feeding porn to kids in this way… when you do this, you’re teaching them a distorted lesson about human sexuality and human dignity. These are lessons that they will take with them into adulthood and ultimately society.”

“When you expose children, whose brains and personalities are still developing, to degrading and harmful material, you’ve got to believe that’s going to have an effect on the way that they view themselves, others, and the world. It is profoundly naive to suggest that feeding children graphic sexual material is going to have no effect on their psyche. That’s just stupid to think that.”

Inspired by the above mentioned article, conservative commentator/blogger Kevin McCullough published an outraged article of his own on townhall.com entitled The ‘Sex Box’ Race for President.” Due to the widespread outcry on the part of the gaming community in response to some of the assertions in McCullough’s article, it has since been taken down from townhall. As a matter of fact, at this point, finding the article in its entirety proves to be virtually impossible. Still, I offer a couple of quotes from McCullough that are representative of the general tone of the piece:

“It’s called “Mass Effect” and it allows its players… to engage in the most realistic sex acts ever conceived. One can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images they wish to “engage” and then watch in crystal clear, LCD, 54 inch screen, HD clarity as the video game “persons” hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of.”

And a little later in the article:

“…And because of the digital chip age in which we live – “Mass Effect” can be customized to sodomize whatever, whoever, however, the game player wishes.”

Soon after the article hit the ether, McCullough’s inbox became flooded with e-mails from outraged gamers. Many of them were no doubt written by insipid youths with poor vocabularies who found it easier to insult rather than argue in a cogent manner. But no doubt there were many e mails that lucidly pointed out the absurdity of McCullough’s assertions. This in turn prompted the following response from the pundit on January 15th, 2008: Life Lessons: GAMERs “Rights” to Lesbo-Alien Sex!

In particular, McCullough’s point # 4 proceeds thusly:

“They (the angry gamers who wrote him) also took outrageous umbrage to the claims I made in the column that the game is marketed to teen-age boys. (Though many of those giving me feedback happened to be under the age of 17/18.) The common argument is that because the game is marked “M” that means that no kid under 17/18 (depending on your state) would be allowed access to it. Asinine thinking through and through though. Simply like the fact that movie theaters are this night allowing children underage to purchase tickets, refusing to ask for ID, these games are being sold over the counter by the major chain stores with no enforcement of the age limit suggestions posted on the games themselves. The Gamers act as though the packaging itself is all the responsibility that needs to be taken. Of course they themselves probably started hiding their collection of Hustler Magazine under their beds when they were eleven and have thus a good idea of how the “letter of the law” differs from the “intent.” Thus the explanation of why they were so sore with me for pointing out the obvious. The silly “M” label stands for, and accomplishes precious little.

(I know how this sounds and likely how it makes you feel but please be patient, remember we are holding off on comments.)

On January 16th, after his ‘response’ did little to quell the anger of the mighty ‘Gamer’ McCullough published a milder piece titled: “Gaming “M” ratings follow-up.

In it, he grudgingly admits to the following:

“As my callers had pointed out, the ratings enforcement – particularly by nationwide chains had dropped some forty percent between 2000 and 2005. In 2000, 85% of minors attempting to purchase “M” rated video games were successful in doing so. In 2005, that number had been sharply reduced to 42%. In other words 58% of the time children were now unable to purchase “M” rated games. Despite my own feelings about removing “M” rated games from easy access points all together (National retailers), I have to admit – it appears the enforcement of the rating system has taken a decided turn toward improvement.”

But in an obvious face-saving move adds:

“I still do concur with my original position that the objectionable content in Mass Effect is still offensive, and should be kept out of the hands of those under age.”

McCullough is so holy that he floats gently beneath the dome of the Sistine Chapel.

The story should have ended here. However…

Undeterred by the possibility of incurring similar wrath from the ‘gaming giant,’ on January 21, 2008, a Fox News segment “The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum” discussed Mass Effect with the heading “‘SE’XBOX? New video game shows full digital nudity and sex.” According to Wikipedia, a four member panel slammed Mass Effect as ‘Luke Skywalker meets Debbie Does Dallas,’ doubted the ability of parents to keep their children from playing inappropriate games, and suggested that the game’s raters (ESRB) ‘should have their heads examined’ for not giving it an Adults Only rating, and asked what had happened to Atari (1977), Pinball and Pac-Man (1980).” (Please note these years. The idea of the ‘rosy past’ will be germane in what’s to follow.

As we can plainly see, the underlying theme of the rhetoric issuing from the detractors of Mass Effect is that the game is smut and smut hurts children. Understandably, the gaming community responded by pointing out the obvious fallacy in this strain of thought by refuting the first portion of the argument. “Mass Effect is NOT smut!” we screamed at the top of our lungs. And indeed we were right to do so, since anyone who has played the game or has seen the cut scene that started this whole mess, would know that McCullough’s assertions about rampant sodomy are pure nonsense and as such barely warrant serious commentary.

Thus, on one hand the gamer outcry has concentrated on how ‘Mass Effect is not smut’ and on the other, as McCullough himself notes, we have vehemently argued that the enforcement of the M rating is indeed working. I mean we actually got the man to apologize and renounce his statement that: “The silly “M” label stands for, and accomplishes precious little.” And so, We the Gamers of the United States of America called this a victory and went back to our button mashing.

However, I would argue that our two points (1. Mass Effect is not smut and 2. the enforcement of the “M” rating is working) are at conflict with each other. By arguing that the “M” rating is working, we are implicitly assenting to the idea that Mass Effect, and other games like it, warrant rating/censorship and that they do indeed depict content (and ultimately ideas) that would be best obscured from the minds of those fragile members of our society we deem not “M”ature enough: children. It is precisely this contradiction that even leaves room for someone like McCullough to end his apology with a phrase that undoes that very apology: “I still do concur with my original position that the objectionable content in Mass Effect is still offensive, and should be kept out of the hands of those under age.” With this phrase we are back to square one: Mass Effect is smut and smut hurts children.

What I want to take issue with is the fact that nowhere in the battle of words did the defenders of Mass Effect concentrate on taking on the second portion of the above argument: ‘smut hurts children.’

Using children as an excuse for ideologically motivated stances is nothing new. Politicians, religious leaders, man and women of power have been doing it for a very long time. As a matter of fact, on a macro level, we can trace the desire to protect our young to biology. (Although that evolutionary desire undoubtedly ties with physical harm: ‘I don’t want my offspring to be eaten by a tiger.’) However, transferring this desire to the realm of morality is a whole another can of worms… an ugly, rusty can, with sharp jagged edges, full of guilt-ridden, self-righteous, zealous worms.

Despite growing up during a war and being recruited into the Nazi Youth, the Pope manages to have at least some concept of right and wrong.

The application of morality, and especially the normatives that stem from the fire and brimstone branch of the Judeo-Christian tradition, pervert the perfectly natural impulse of protecting ones young (from tigers) into an impulse of insulating ones young (from ideas). At the risk of sounding obvious, I will say that this is a bad thing.

“Save the children” is an easy but incredibly dangerous cry. Typically, it emanates purely from the selfish psychological and emotional needs of the parent and ultimately causes the actual child at hand more harm than good. It prevents the child from facing reality in its adulthood, armed with reason. In fact, growth towards reason is what defines our passage into adulthood. But the conservative agenda of censorship pushes towards the infantilization of this country. Conservative proponents of censorship, reduce the consumers of aesthetic and artistic output to a child like condition. They condescend to us as if we were all children. The explicit exaltation of innocence as a preeminent virtue (children must not be aware of even the concept of blue alien love) debilitates the adult drive towards reason.

The conservative pundits, who have trashed Mass Effect, equate innocence with ignorance of certain ideas. Ignorance keeps people in the dark. And people in the dark are easily manipulated. (usually with fear) In this way, infantilization becomes a tool of exercising power over a pliable populace. I would argue that this system, in turn, is a byproduct of the fact that neo-con ideals are rooted in a highly paternalistic and authoritarian worldview. Think of the idolization of Reagan as a benevolent, wise, father-figure who knows best. The conservatives would like to frame us all as ‘children’ of Reagan. Children who have not yet graduated to the age of reason, who can not be trusted to make their own decisions and who are better of taking the word of authority on faith. Like religion. And like religion their ideology is at odds with reason. Sentiments expressed by Ms. Ruse, and cited earlier in this article, are a perfect example.

Ideas like: we must not expose children “whose brains and personalities are still developing” to certain concepts, stunt the growth towards reason. The nostalgic allusions to the primitive, ‘harmless,’ games of yore, in the Fox News piece, reverse it. Pac-Man? Pinball? It’s their way of pining for a “simpler” time. A time when we left it all to Beaver, father knew best, and mom had that stove that turns into an ironing board. You know, a time when we were kids, with no adult thoughts to trouble us. A time that, I might add, never actually existed and was always a construct of a feeble mind with patriarchal and authoritarian tendencies. (For a more scholarly and in depth look at the idea of infantilization as it pertains to gender, race and censorship, I refer you to Lauren Berlant’s excellent work, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City. For something slightly less academic take a look at this) But you do not have to be a scholar to read a phrase like:

“…we ARE allowed to censor smut in this nation, and it has been defined already by the Supreme Court. (Thus why we are not Europe with our “blue” channel running on broadcast television nightly.)” — McCullough.

…and see that it actually advocates and exalts the infantilization of America. A move that ultimately is nothing but a push for the suspension of reason as a modus operandi for a civilized nation.

Can we really be surprised that they attacked Mass Effect: a game that centers on making difficult, grown up, choices; a game that advocates diversity and harmony among different races; a game that teaches responsibility? What child would not benefit from exposure to these ideas? Do children not benefit from exposure to Brothers Grimm fairytales and Yertle the Turtle alike? These are classic works of great literally and social value, that touch on purely adult themes couched in the guise of children’s stories. The Grimms have introduced generations of children to difficult concepts like death, often in a very dark and mature fashion. Dr. Seuss tackles complex issues like environmentalism and authoritarianism.

The world of Mass Effect has more diversity than the entire Bible Belt.

As children, we learn from these sources and are better adults for it. In this sense, I am actually in agreement with Ms. Ruse when she says that children take the lessons of their childhood “into adulthood and ultimately society.” I simply don’t believe that there are some lessons that we should shield our precious little kids from.

The point that has to be stressed most urgently in response to those like Mr. McCullough is not that the “M” rating is working in keeping the adult and child appropriate material neatly segregated, but that there is nothing in Mass Effect that an underage person should be protected from and much that is beneficial to the development of a young mind.

Children who are treated like children, grow up to be adults who act like children. Children who are treated like adults, grow up to be adults who act like adults. And a nation that treats itself like a child regresses and devolves even as is skips and hops to its ultimate intellectual demise.

30 thoughts on “Hysteria Over Mass Effect and the Infantilization of America: On the Benefits of Exposing Children to Adult Material”

  1. One point I will argue Shota: no one attacked mass effect because it allows us to make grown up choices. None of the pundits actually played the game. How could they know what was in it? A fine article, but that slice right there gives them too much credit.

  2. Thanks Christian,

    Of course its offensive that not one of them has played the game before passing judgment, but they attacked Mass Effect because in the game you can choose to have sex with a blue alien = adult choice.

  3. I guess. I still don’t think they looked at it as a choice thing. They saw some clips and probably thought that this was a gang bang simulator or something. These folks don’t (and don’t have to) put much thought into sensationalist news reporting.

  4. yes, i’m sure that’s true to a degree but there is a larger issue at hand than mere sensationalism. It was not a coincidence that the only sources that ‘sensationalized’ the whole affair were conservative. The fact that they even took offense, and what it was that they took offense with, points to an agenda that goes beyond sensationalism. Thats what i wanted to focus on. I think were are in agreement here. Because, now i feel like i’m nitpicking.

  5. I’m only partway through the article, but I just reached the point where Fox asked “What happened to the Atari?”

    I’d like to point out, for the record, that Custer’s Revenge happened to the Atari in 1982, making the 2600 (as far as I know) the first video game system to offer content featuring full nudity, graphic sex, bondage, and racially motivated on-screen rape.

    I feel like we may be whitewashing the past just a tad.

  6. Great article, Shota. I am fairly certain, unfortunately, that the “average” gamer will never get through it, but nonetheless, I appreciate the intellectual energy that went into this thing 😉 One argument that conservatives could probably put up to your line of reasoning (and which should therefore be preemptively incorporated into your framework) is that while you do not want to completely isolate children from ideas, there is a certain maturity level required to digest ideas of certain complexity, and therefore, it could be meaningful to “filter” (though not altogether exclude) the ideas to which children are exposed. That, I think, is the biggest judgement call of all: when, exactly, are our kids mature enough to learn about since like death, sacrifice, betrayal, and, of course, sex? The real challenge is not to prove that isolating our children from ideas is bad – it’s to prove that the right time for our kids to learn about diversity and complex relationship is way before their pampering parents decide to buy them their first Mercedes.

  7. Max makes a point I’ve been struggling with. I agree that shielding kids from ideas is detrimental, but there are documented stages of development. My question is if I show a child a movie they don’t get yet, is it actually harmful or do they just not fully understand it? I’m focusing on themes and ideas here, not extreme close up of gaping wounds and sexual intercourse. Actually, when writing this out it seems to me I don’t think ideas are dangerous at any age and it’s simply explicit images I’m more hesitant of.

  8. Thank you for your comments guys.

    I answer Max/Jays question like this:

    There is always a way to put any issue/theme in proper context for a kid. You could say when is it appropriate to expose a child to the idea of death of totalitarianism? some might say certainly not when he is four. And yet the Grimms and Seusses of the world do it just fine. This answers Max IMO. But this is also were Jay comes in with his ? of some ideas kids are too young to understand. I’d say that this is irrelevant because setting something outside the grasp of a child’s mental capacity and encouraging her to reach for it promotes growth. Think of it like intellectual evolution. (this also means that we should be eating half the evangelical voters of this country)

  9. Okay, having finished, I’m going to expand my comment and sort of supplementary attack on the rosy bygone golden age.

    First, if you’ll indulge me in a syllogistic restatement of a slightly modified “Mass Effect is smut and smut hurts children”:

    Major Premise: Available smut is harmful to children
    Minor Premise: Mass Effect is available smut
    Conclusion: Mass Effect is harmful to children

    Now, in his January 15th, 2008 piece, McCullough’s point #4 argues that ratings are not enough to protect children. This was effectively an attempt to reinforce the minor premise, arguing the availability of Mass Effect to children. What makes this interesting is that he attempts to argue that this Smut is available by claiming that smut has _always_ been available. Specifically, he says:

    “Of course they themselves probably started hiding their collection of Hustler Magazine under their beds when they were eleven and have thus a good idea of how the “letter of the law” differs from the “intent.””

    He is basing his argument on the implication that these collections were widespread and common, even among young children. This does to an extent reinforce the minor premise…at least some children probably will find a way to play Mass Effect. Effectively, he is supporting the minor premise with a further syllogism:

    Major premise: Smut is always available to children
    Minor premise: Mass Effect is Smut
    Conclusion: Mass Effect is available to children.

    Let’s now look at what happens when we apply this “Smut is always available to children” major premise to his original reasoning:

    Major Premise: Available smut is harmful to children
    Minor Premise: Smut is always available to children
    Conclusion: Children are always harmed

    If smut has always been commonly available to children in a widespread manner, we are logically forced either to discard the major premise or to conclude that we live in a world where the vast majority of people were harmed by the availability of smut.

    The assertion that the standard human condition is to be damaged and screwed up by smut is an interesting one, but I don’t think it’s one that McCullough is actually advocating, particularly giving the tone of tacit acceptance he uses when describing the collection of adult magazines, as opposed to the playing of sexual video games.

    If he is not, in fact, asserting that we live in a world populated primarily by the screwed-up victims of smut, then the argument he is making in support of his original minor premise is actually also a strong argument against his original major premise. McCullough is so interested in proving that smut is available to children that he ends up arguing against its harmfulness.

  10. Shota, psychologists have actually identified learning stages. Children of a certain age are supposed to be unable to understand certain abstracts. Now I don’t really disagree that presenting kids with concepts they don’t fully get is a bad thing, but this idea that some things will be above a child for physiological reasons should at least be acknowledged. Again, we don’t really disagree, I just want my initial question framed properly and that is only done when it’s clear there are physical things at play and not simply intellectual.

  11. Stefan, to follow your excellent post, I want to point out that if the assumption is smut will always be available to children then it becomes exceedingly difficult to demonstrate why Mass Effect in particular is evil and should be banned.

  12. On the learning stages argument: thing is, past a certain (minimum) age, the human brain is wired to always draw conclusions from available information. The danger of exposing a child to material they are not ready for is that their brain will draw the “wrong” conclusion, i.e. “death is an acceptable fact of life”. Of course, there is a way to introduce them to the concept of death in an age-appropriate manner, but that, as they say, is “custom work” – the presentation needs to be custom tailored based on the age, background and stage of development of particular child. That’s not something a hard-coded video game can be expected to do. Yet. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see games that actually ask you (or a parent) to input your age, and handle the presentation of various “mature” themes differently based on that setting.

  13. Great point Stefan. And a study on whether “the standard human condition is to be damaged and screwed up by smut” would indeed by a very interesting read :))

  14. Stef, you leave me breathless. Logic always does.

    Max – Re: ““custom work” – the presentation needs to be custom tailored based on the age, background and stage of development of particular child.”

    I agree! I am not suggesting that parents should detach wholly from what their children are consuming. I am merely saying that EVERYTHING has a proper context at EVERY point it time. The difficult job of a parent is to put ALL things in their proper context for a kid. (guidance without exclusion) And if the kid is too young to understand than the parent should help the child reach for the particular idea with his mind. The thinking is that even if he is not ready to get it now he’ll be prepared to get when the physiology catches up.

    But lets not bogged down here too much. We are not talking about four year olds with mass effects. We are talking about adolescents. Teenagers. And I defy anyone to find me any concept expressed in Mass effect that is beyond a 12 year old.

    Also, lets not lose sight of my favorite central point: conservatives tread ADULTS like children. Because the implication is that Mass Effect is smut not only for children, but for everyone. It just seems like their point is conditional. In fact its fundamentally universalism. Mass Effect is smut. (no conditions, just their understanding of an immutable fact.)

  15. Oh, I am wholly with you on treating adults like children thing. Hell, why not? That way you can just dictate dogma and never be wrong, instead of having to justify your decisions with reason and being accountable for mistakes.

  16. Thanks Shota, Max, and Jay.

    To jump in on the development argument, neurological and psychological development are some really absurdly complicated processes…which is in part why I’m with Shota on the importance of context. Because sometimes death _is_ an acceptable fact of life. And sometimes it really isn’t.

    The solution to information which might lead to fallacious conclusions is not to have less information. It’s to offer more information, which helps children to realize their fallacies and properly interpret the scary/disturbing/new information they just encountered.

  17. mmm, I don’t know if I fully agree with that… In essense, you are saying that a way of insuring that a child correctly understands death is to expose him to more death? That sounds like a nutcase in training to me 🙂 I know what you are saying philosophically, but that’s the whole difference between a child and an adult: an adult, given enough information on a subject, can (usually) be trusted to reach reasonable conclusions using their powers of reasoning and deduction; a child can’t. A child needs _interpretation_ and _contextualization_ of a _smaller_ number of facts precisely because they don’t know how to correctly establish context based on a pool information alone – no matter how much of it they have.

  18. You’re right, contextualizing death with nothing but further death probably would produce a nutcase 🙂

    I wasn’t so much advocating that as advocating the parents providing surrounding, usually different, information. Events need to be put into context, and that interpretation and contextualization is exactly what I was talking about when I said “more information”.

  19. So it’s official: serious, intelligent conversation about video games gets… (drumroll, please!)… a total of 14 diggs! Just splendid.

  20. Sadly the Digg response to an article like this would be ‘TLDR’. And that’s part of the problem.

    Nice work Shota, this topic is going to be pervasive in our society for our generation and beyond. I hope to see some real research done on it so we can have some better analytical tools and data for these debates. Not that real science ever stops people who have already decided video games are bad.

  21. I appreciate the sentiment behind your comment a lot Max. But i am feeling pretty discouraged. Maybe this was the wrong format for something like this. Putting it on a blog i mean. Like you said in your first post the ‘average’ gamer probably stopped reading when it became clear that there was more then one paragraphs worth of reading between the shiny pictures. and yet i’ve seen pretty long reviews for games on popular sites like ign and such. So, maybe it’s not length thats a deterrent. Maybe people just don’t want to be made to consider seriously a topic that has the word “game” in it.

    The funny thing is that the first draft i wrote was much more academic sounding and much less partisan, since my initial thinking was that i should go for maximum objectivity. But then in the editing process we decided to make it more “bloggy,” relatively speaking of course. I guess we failed. or did not make it bite size enough. (even though it irks me that we should even have this as a consideration when trying to discuss something seriously.) either way – “sigh!”

    What do you guys think? (of course it could be that the article sux, but i’ll let others tell me if that is the case)

  22. Guys if we wanted diggs, shota should have written “10 reasons why Mass Effect is better than anything (And why Fox News are stoopy poopy heads (Vote RON PAUL!!))”

  23. Yeah, a blog is probably not the perfect medium for this kind of piece. And, of course, it’s not just a length issue, it’s the style and the vocabulary, which upon any kind of close inspection sends a warning message to the brain: “Oh-oh! This requires thinking!” And that’s just more than your average person is willing to endure on an average Thursday or Monday. But you also have to think about your reasons for writing this, and who your real audience is for this particular piece. I mean, if your intention was really to get these ideas through to your “average” gamer (read: 15 years old, pimples, and little interest in anything besides games, girls, and sports), you probably failed – but then you probably had an unrealistic goal to begin with. If, on the other hand, you set out to present an interesting point of view in the hopes of starting a good discussion amoung a dozen intelligent people who like gaming and also enjoy a little social philosophy, I say you did a pretty good job. I don’t know, maybe that comes across as a little snobbish, but just like genocide and 3 year olds, certain level of writing is meant for a certain level of reader 🙂 So I wouldn’t get discouraged – this isn’t the kind of article you write every day, and as I said, I think it ultimately accomplished the real goal that it set out to attain.

  24. I liked the format, myself…it allows you to set out your ideas in a paper-like way, but also to incorporate discussion immediately and respond. I think the metric we’re using (the digg response) is horribly flawed. The ideas being discussed here aren’t the kinds of things that are discussed on digg. Maybe it would have flown better on slashdot, but even that’s not exactly a haven of philosophical thinking.

    I think we just produce a certain amount of intimidating content. Between academic discussions about sociopolitical trends, conversation regarding psychological and neurological development, and the occasional overly pretentious analysis of syllogisms, this blog and the comments that follow are probably kind of intimidating to a lot of people. But they’re also part of the reason why I check VL every day.

    And so I’m not entirely off-topic, I’m going to take slight issue with Shota’s closing statement. There’s a difference between treating a child as a child who needs to be prepared to deal with the world, and attempting to raise them in a world which operates on fundamentally different principles than ours. I think it’s that second motive which drives people to try and raise children in a world without death, without immorality, and without danger, and I think that’s what we’ve all been arguing against here.

  25. Well yeh Stef thats exactly what my closing statement is meant to say.

    When i say that children who are treated like adults grow up to act like adults i’m not saying that you should blow the smoke from your cigar into a kids face and tell him to kill himself because life is without meaning and all is chance.

    I’m saying that you should talk to a kid like a normal freakin human being, without the “let me pinch your cheek little george” attitude. That’s how you talk to our president.

    Contextualizing is what it boils down to once again. Lets say an adult (maybe from another country) asks you what “Frenching” is. You are not going to say “oh, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.” That’s rude and dismissive.

    But so often when children (from 3 to 16) ask us difficult questions we dodge the duty of explanation and contextualizing with “oh, its nothing, go back to the sandbox.”

    I guess what i’m saying is that its more beneficial to treat a young mind like a an adult foreigner who’s not familiar with your culture.

  26. Is the goal of articles like this necessarily to reach the biggest audience possible? It seems like the idea is more to speak ones mind and get an audience thinking/interacting regardless of how small that audience might be. I know my mindset had to go through a bit of fine-tuning after all the dust had cleared, even if I wasn’t in on the discussion proper. And isn’t that what you set out to do? To get people thinking and maybe even get them thinking a bit differently? Anyway I guess I’m saying take heart, because your insidious social reprogramming has altered at least one person (though I still think parenting is a hard enough job to warrant any help that can be offered). 🙂

  27. Oh TT, if we had six more of you then we wouldn’t complain. We don’t want 100 fly by comments, we want a handful of quality readers who are interested in having real discussions with us. Not getting exposure on sites like digg doesn’t seem to spread the word about vl, so the other option is using sites like digg to spread the word (which also seems to not work at all).

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