It’s funny how adults always think of childhood as some paradise. They fondly reflect on it as a time of colour and happiness they lived in before reality kicked in and they started worrying about jobs or relationships or impressions or money or anything. I’ve had conversations with adults before where they retold their childhood experiences, wistful-voiced, eyes glazed over and a small, longing smile playing on their lips as though they were talking about an amazing dream, and been quite bemused as to why they wanted to relive them. I mean, why would you want to be a child again? Adults say that most children have a distorted view of adulthood, one where they get to make lots of money and have unlimited power and responsibility, but adults also have a distorted view of childhood. We don’t wake up every day, sigh and say to a stuffed animal of our choice, “It’s good to be a child,” and we’re not these perfect pictures of innocence that adult culture makes us out to be, which I think is demonstrated by the new trend for novels covering dark subjects such as rape, murder and oppressive totalitarian governments. I don’t think we’re so different to adults, at least not as much as the modern world is increasingly making us out to be.
For example, playgrounds aren’t just full of children running, skipping and playing, completely happy. Even in the younger years of primary school, our playground had its own society. We had a pecking order, groups of children with different functions (the smart ones, the sporty ones, the funny ones), certain areas of the playground that were more desirable and fought over, sanctions created by the children for anyone who did wrong (everyone would run away from you, screaming, until they forgot about your crime) and arguments over the way things worked in the playground. These things don’t seem so unique to children. In the wider society, there’s still a pecking order, people with different functions, colonisation and wars over land, punishments for “naughty countries,” that the UN are sometimes hesitant to put in place due to the money/commodities/foreign investment of the country and especially arguments about how countries, continents and the world are run. A couple of days before writing this, there was a debate on the BBC over whether the UK should stay in the European Union between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. A good proportion of the hour-long debate consisted of the two party leaders hacking at each other with personal insults, Clegg continuously referring to “Nigel’s friends Putin and Assad,” and Farage in effect saying “liar, liar, pants on fire.” All of this doesn’t sound too different to the society at school, does it? Yet children are still thought of as immature, irrational and silly, whereas adults are taken seriously and allowed to have their say in the wider society.
On the other hand, if children do think less rationally than adults, why can’t that be a good thing? Rational thinkers come up with ideas based on the past failures and successes and the current definition of reason. They can be clever and successful and get a good job. Irrational thinkers, however, start from scratch and create new things and new definitions of reason, and they are the reason that any change ever happens. Being irrational means taking risks, going beyond the boundaries of convention, being unapologetically optimistic and bold and crazy. And sometimes, this can backfire, but it’s worth the risk. Children don’t follow accepted norms and think about the past when we come up with ideas, we just, quite simply, come up with ideas. Ideas that seem completely insane, but might actually work. We should be able to use this unflinching optimism and creativity to our advantage, rather than being dismissed as being idealistic or “having our head in the clouds.”
Even children’s lack of experience, which is often seen as the ultimate flaw in our plans, can be a good thing. Firstly, ignorance of past failures means you have a clean slate for future successes – you don’t expect failure because it has never happened before. Also, all our thoughts and opinions in some way are influenced by society, whether through being directly told to (or not to) have this opinion, reading, watching, hearing or experiencing something that enforced it or feeling pressured to think a certain way. Using the world and its forms of expression to gather opinions from is good, but being conditioned, sometimes subconsciously, to think a certain way isn’t so great. Children have had less access to things like the media and peer pressure and less time to be, as Thandie Newton said so rightly in an interview with Psychologies magazine, “polluted by all the f—ing crap of just being on this planet.” Meaning that the views of children aren’t those of society spoken through a child (I know that sounds very Brave New World) and they are more likely to have views that are unbiased and impartial.
Of course, children aren’t superhuman and our viewpoints do have flaws. Blissful ignorance and Pollyanna optimism aren’t always the best tools for producing good ideas. And our brains haven’t finished growing yet, which is a fair reason to doubt us. But I do think we should be allowed to have more say in things normally deemed to be adult issues and be taken seriously. Adults underestimate children and don’t let them make themselves heard, then the children grow up, have their own kids and underestimate them, and that goes on and on in a cycle of restrictions. Kids need opportunities not only to develop our creativity and new ideas, but to show them to the adult world without being labelled a victim of “pushy parenting,” or asked how much money their parents earn. With the internet helping children to set up websites and blogs and self-publish their books and organisations like TEDxTeen which show how younger people can make a difference, children already have a platform to share their ideas. What matters now is how these ideas are received.
I don’t think I have all the answers. I don’t think this will change the world. I don’t think I’m more qualified to write a blog like this than any other child. Sometimes I don’t even think I should be writing this, because claiming to have a truly unbiased and “childish,” perspective on things is a huge claim to make, and I’ve grown up around strong opinions that have undoubtedly influenced me. But we need opinion blogs from untainted young souls. The main reason I’m writing this is to put my own opinions, obtained through 12 years of being a child, out there, and show that childish thinking, with all its big ambition and positivity, is not to be underestimated. You might think that my ideas are idealistic and crazy and stupid and that I’m a wacked-up communist hippie, but this whole blog is open to interpretation and the topics covered in it are made for everyone to have their own opinions on. So, welcome, I guess. Join the thoughtcriminals.