“You can’t say ‘You can’t play.'”

I just listened to Act 3 (46:54) of “The Cruelty of Children” on This American Life again. What stikes me the most is the paradigm, the culture, of how we think about children– that they are, by nature, little monsters.  Holt, Illich and Gatto also talk about this understand we have of childhood. We assume that children default to cruelty, bad behavior and meanness. We rarely question the environment that we create for them or our own behavior as a model for their capacity to be cruel. What this episode demonstrates so powerfully is that under the right conditions, children can feel relieved to leave behind any capacity to be mean to others– to excluded, to shun, to bully. One simple rule created a paradigm shift that effected these kids for years to come: You can’t say “You can’t play.”

Listen to Act 3 of The Cruelty of Children HERE.