Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Village Taken

Alternate Title: The Teacher's Advocate

I've recently read a most curious and refreshing post by a Brazen Teacher some days back about, for the most part, group parenting. It talked about the formative years of the child and how it1 learns what it lives. Indeed. It talked about how many people go into parenting thinking that it will be easier than it looks: perhaps because of some imagined "oneness" with the child, perhaps because they think children will be more obedient to their friendlier approach, perhaps because they think raising a child and assembling a Lego Castle are one and the same2. The post spoke on how this consequence reflects in the formative years. Conclusively, the article spoke on how the tribal groups in New Guinea, Africa, perhaps South America or a few places in un-modernized China or The Golden Triangle3 are perhaps doing something right in having the village raise the child instead of the parents alone. Now, she made quite the point and I think the argument was very well put together. But, as always, a few details not mentioned in the post resulted in this Devil's Advocacy to the vision she proposed.*

The village could raise the child, instead of the job being solely on the parent. And it's a lovely little sentiment for the people of the community to share that responsibility. Perhaps then, young parents can just shoot them right out and expect everyone else to pick up the slack, since the village would look forward to the opportunity to do so. The article does say that "Children are not [completely] taken away from their biological parents, but they are not left with them to fend for themselves either", but in today's world and generation, where becoming a parent is envisioned as weighty a prospect as putting together model airplanes4, when the full reality of child-rearing hits that young or naive couple, I'm pretty sure they'll resort to letting the community take over the job. We could then ask, if the potential parents are going to do that, why even bother having the children at all? That is psychological guesswork for another time, but the scenario does happen.

Also, village parenting would work in a world where every adult was a properly trained potential parent and had room in their lives, emotionally and physically, for the task. This is not that world. Of course, it is that kind of world for the New Guinea and African tribes, but I'll get to that later. We must assume the village is unified enough to be a clear, solid presence in the child's life and all of its constituents on some sort of level with each other. They can all teach the child different things about life or a different skill or any kind of range of things, but most importantly, disciplinary measures will have to be shared by most if not all. You can't have the child getting one message here and another there. But, since one adult believes in hitting their child and another doesn't, another believes the child shouldn't risk hurting themselves in the playground and another thinks the child should explore, and another thinks the child should pick up labor as early as possible and another thinks they should focus on their studies, etc. ad nauseum, the "village parent" would self-destruct before it even began, since the variance in message is inevitable.

How does the village parent effect the child's formative years? Well, in one aspect, if that unity were to be achieved, I imagine it would end up looking something like a small rural town or a commune in its group psychology, which in turn would destroy the child's drive to rationally search for the true self/individual. In these kind of social environments, the focus is usually on preserving inherited values, making sure to practice customs, instilling and conserving a specific set of beliefs, so on and so forth. Since the elders and adults of the community have, by default, more experience and embodiment of these things, any kind of purpose or passion for the growing child will be emptied and replaced by respect, worship and the carrying out of the will of the elders, which the child eventually grows up to be, for the sole purpose of pointlessly repeating the process in the future. It becomes much less like a vibrant and vivid person or people raising a new human being to embrace life, and more like robots gearing and tooling another for future self-replacement. Any venture out of set programming will result in dire consequences to be discerned in another discussion.5

I haven't bothered to go into issues such as there not being any kind of real source of intimacy for the child or other ways this affects its formative years because in the end, I think those points are really just derivatives of everything said here. And while I will state again that I don't think what the Brazen Teacher suggests is wrong per say, I will say that I disagree with it. I do not believe the Village Parent can work or is an answer to the problem of new parents facing hardships. As implied in the last paragraph, the tribes of New Guinea and Africa have specific ideals, values, practices and beliefs for the child. They have a specific envisioned being they want that child to be, for the sole purpose of that child one day teaching their own child to be the same thing, so that the cycle continues to roll........albeit with no real direction. The village may coax the biological parent's responsibility, but will the child be raised right?

*For the sake of the argument, the rest of this post will not refer to a literal village, but rather any kind of geographical community or group.
1) Yes, I will call the child "it". It is hypothetical and has no gender. So shut-up.
2) In all cases, the parent deserves each and every moment of rude-awakening, ball-busting hardship in parenting that God wills. As a matter of fact, I pray for the experience to be downright traumatizing. Why? Because the worst kind of parents are the ones who likes to sugar-coat life to keep themselves happy instead of addressing problems like they're supposed to.
3) The article just mentions New Guinea and Africa. I wrote all the other places.
4) Meaning in this generation, both of those things have become something people could just do in their spare time and not really take that seriously.
5) Now, I'm not saying that isn't possible for someone to be traditional and pursue rational self-interest at the same time. I'm sure it's done often. But even more often, [today's] culture clashes with tradition. I will also venture forth to say that environments of this form are what produce school shootings, but I digress.

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