Kage Baker was a product of parochial schools – “twelve years in the navy blue, aaaarrr”, as she used to say, with a one-eyed Robert Newton leer.
As such, she had some definite opinions on “hidden agendas” in the education of the very young. It’s certainly necessary to expose children to the basic ideas of civilization as we lead them along the paths to literacy and good grammar. Punishing them for social misdeeds at an adult level during this educational process, though, is – somewhat extreme. Kage was acutely aware of this idea developing momentum, and was very unhappy about it.
The UK is a bit ahead of the US on this. Britain has over 250,000 toddlers on the rolls of “racist offenders”, for racist remarks made in pre-schools. They have also established a precedent for labeling small kids with sex offender status; the usual cause is a hug or kiss bestowed on a classmate. And there are the “baby ASBOS”, kids entered on the rolls of anti-social offenders. Sometimes the BASBOS are nasty pieces of work who light fires, mug old ladies, etc – but there are thousands with this label on their personal histories for crimes like pushing another kid down on the playground at age 6.
It wasn’t this bad when Kage started writing the Company novels. But she postulated a time when kids ended up in Hospital for life as social misfits, for just such offenses. Being Kage, she took it to absurd extremes as well – Mr. Morton, her architect/theatre fan on Mars, has ended up in Hospital for liking Gothic literature. But since she wrote that, those quarter of a million little “racists” in the UK have ended up on the criminal rolls for calling classmates nasty names in kindergarten. Might they and society have been better served by a swat on the behind?
Here in the US we usually wait until they’ve hit puberty before we convict them of sexual crimes. Now there are thousands of kids accused of stalking, harassment and solicitation because they sent a naked photo or a sexy email to another teenager. Are they guilty? Well, yes. Only of being horny, though, and that happens everywhere all the time. Adults never do seem to know how to handle it, but criminalizing it has got to be one of the stupider ideas of the last several generations.
Kage predicted it, though. She saw sex becoming less and less acceptable, sexual behaviour being suppressed, and kids with obviously sexual natures being sent to Hospital or being chemically neutered. Think it doesn’t happen yet? Read the news. We already turn the power down on kids who don’t pay enough attention; we turn it up on the ones who learn more quietly or slowly. We feed kids euphorics, antidepressants, hormone to delay puberty or make them taller or prevent them from going bald in 30 years.
At this point, we are not just messing with our children, but our grandchildren. We are ostracizing small children for life. We are changing the bodies of the people who will give birth to the next generation. We are doing it to suit the fashions or worries or outright neuroses of a few doctors, researchers, politicians, and creepy old ladies of both genders who have loud voices and lots of money.
Kage noticed this and she said some things about it. She’d have said more, in a forum with better acoustics than science fiction novels, but … you know how things get in the way. She died. But she was very aware that prophets get no particular respect until they’re dead. Maybe I can coax a few more people to listen.
Worth a try.
Tomorrow: religion and some other offensive topics