To properly identify this refuge, I’m going to attempt to coin a new term – “Childrenism” – as in “Childrenism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
So, if I’m going to have the audacity to create a new term, I guess I have to offer up a working definition. Let’s try this one on for size:
child-ren-ism noun (2007) 1: any attempt to restrict personal freedom,
infringe on public liberties, or forward an agenda “for the children” 2: any use of the rhetorical question “what about the children?” to justify a weak argument 3: filler
Be honest, how many times have you listened to, or even engaged in, an exchange of ideas and you’ve heard the person proposing something truly pathetic – or even abhorrent – as being an absolute necessity “for the sake of the children”? By the way, when you say “for the sake of the children”, “What about the children?” or any other phrase associated with childrenism, you must do so with an extremely earnest expression on your face and in your voice – you know, almost whine it out of your very being.
One of the most common uses of childrenism is in the realm of censorship and broadcasting. We’ve all heard the conversation:
Self-Appointed Moralist: You have to sign this petition to the FCC! We have to make sure that these radio stations keep their language clean and stop making crude jokes!
Free-Market Advocate: Um, if you don’t like what they’re broadcasting, why don’t you just switch to another station – I mean, I’m not interested in listening to some of this stuff, either, so I just don’t
Self-Appointed Moralist: Well, yes, you and I can do that –
But What About the Children?
That’s it, end of discussion, thank you for playing, you can pick up your parting gift at the door.
Now let’s go into something a little meatier.
I have two teen-aged children attending a local public school. A while back there were two incidents, one involving some girls taking over-the-counter cough medicine to get high, the other involving a student bringing a starter pistol to school.
The school administration and PTA held a meeting with parents to discuss these incidents and address any questions or concerns we parents had. As you can imagine, there was much more of a focus on the gun incident than the cough medicine. Personally, I found the administration’s approach and answers to be informative, forthcoming, and reasonable.
Then, it happened. One of the other parents started asking about the possibility of installing metal detectors in the school. That’s right, metal detectors in a middle school in Newark, Delaware.
And why would we need metal detectors in a middle school in Newark? Why, for the sake of the children!
Like I said, I’m a parent. I have two children attending this school. If this school were to install metal detectors, it is somewhere in the realm of possibility that at some point a student bringing a gun into the school could be stopped and my children would be safer. If I oppose this idea, then am I saying that I would rather my children live with that risk hanging over their heads?
Yes, I am willing to put them at risk of physical harm. I would rather have them live with that risk than be trained and conditioned to sacrifice their freedom for some added sense of security. And yes, I’m willing to fight for the rights of every broadcast radio and television station to air whatever they think the market will bear even if it means my kids might happen to hear a few naughty words and an obnoxious shock jock once in a while.
Why? Why would I have this attitude? Why would I choose a course of action that could risk my children’s physical and mental health? Well, for starters I would rather they lived with a sense of freedom than a sense of security. I would rather they think for themselves than try to create a false world around them.
Yes, I am doing all of this for the children.
By the way, Samuel Johnson wrote something else, and this one remains true today and will most likely remain true until the end of time: “Hell is paved with good intentions.”