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Childhood is Certainly not the Happiest Time of your Life




 

It's about time somebody exploded that hoary old myth about childhood being the happiest period of your life. Childhood may certainly be fairly happy, but its greatest'moments can't compare with the sheer joy of being an adult. Who ever asked a six-year-old for an opinion? Children don't have opinions, or if they do, nobody notices. Adults choose the clothes their children will wear, the books they will read and the friends they will play with. Mother and father are kindly but absolute dictators. This is an adult world, and though children may be deeply loved, they have to be manipulated so as not to interfere too seriously with the lives of their elders and betters. The essential difference between manhood and childhood is the same as the difference between independence and subjection.

 

For all the nostalgic remarks you hear, which adult would hon-estly change places with a child? Think of the years at school: the years spent living in constant fear of examinations and school re-ports. Every movement you make, every thought you think is ob-served by some critical adult who may draw unflattering conclusions about your character. Think of the curfews, the martial law, the times you had to go to bed early, do as you were told, eat disgusting stuff

 


 

that was supposed to be good for you. Remember how "gentle" pres-sure was applied with remarks like "if you don't do as I say, I'll..." and a dire warning would follow.

 

Even so, these are only part of a child's troubles. No matter how kind and loving adults may be, children often suffer from terrible, illogical fears which are the result of ignorance and an inability to understand the world around them. Nothing can equal the abject fear a child may feel in the dark, the absolute horror of childish night-mares. Adults can share their fears with other adults; children invari-ably face their fears alone. But the most painful part of childhood is the period when you begin to emerge from it: adolescence. Teenag-ers may rebel violently against parental authority, but this causes them great unhappiness. There is a complete lack of self-confidence during this time. Adolescents are overconscious of their appearance and the impression they make on others. They feel shy, awkward and clumsy. Feelings are intense and hearts easily broken. Teenagers experience moments of tremendous elation or black despair. And through this turmoil, adults seem to be more hostile than ever.

 

What a relief it is to grow up. Suddenly you regain your balance; the world opens up before you. You are free to choose; you have your own place to live in and your own money to spend. You do not have to seek constant approval for everything you do. You are no longer teased, punished or ridiculed by heartless adults because you failed to come up to some theoretical standard. And if on occasion you are teased, you know how to deal with it. You can simply tell other adults to go to hell: you are one yourself.

 

(From: "For and Against" by L.G. Alexander)

 

Formulate the central problem of the text. By what arguments does the au thor support It? Do you agree with them?

Debate the major points of the text either in pairs or in teams. Use the argu ments and counter-arguments below.

 

For

 

A happy childhood is a myth.

 

Children have no right to opinions of their own; adults choose their clothes, books, even friends.

The children are manipulated by the grown-ups so as not to interfere with them.

 


The difference between manhood and childhood is the differ ence between independence and subjection.

The years of school are hard: homework to prepare every day, examinations to take, lack of understanding on the part of the teachers.

 

The grown-ups are tyrants: the everlasting "don't-do-that's" and "do-as-I-tell-you's" are hard to bear.

Children are vulnerable; they suffer from the ignorance of the world around them, from unreasonable fears, nightmares faced alone.

 

8.'Adolescence is the most painful time: lack of self-confidence; over-consciousness of one's appearance; shyness and diffidence.

Adolescence is the time of intense, sometimes violent feelings which may lead to unpredictable actions.

 

An adolescent may feel himself alone in what seems to him a hostile adult world.

 

 

Against

 

1. Childhood means complete freedom from care, responsibility, social and economic pressures. Isn't it happiness? By comparison, adults are anxiety-ridden, tired, worried.

 

Adults have to choose everything for their children who don't know anything about the surrounding world and so cannot choose for themselves. Of course, a grown-up woman knows more about good taste in clothes than her adolescent daughter and can advise her better than her teenage friends. As to choosing friends, it is the parents' duty to protect their children from bad influence.

 

Children should be manipulated so as not to interfere with the elders who have lives of their own to live.

Children cannot be "independent": first, they are dependent on their parents for food, clothes, place to live in, education, entertain ments. Second, they are spiritually dependent on their parents be cause their own spiritual values are yet unformed.

 

Going to school every day and doing homework may be heavy tasks for a child. But is there nothing to say for the sheer joy of ac quiring knowledge? Are there no good, understanding teachers whom one remembers all through one's life?

 

As to "tyrants", what about children who harass their bewil dered parents with constant demands for expensive clothes, motor-

 


 

cycles, luxury holidays, etc., without stirring a finger to earn at least part of the money for all these things?

 

Childhood is the incomparable joy of discovering the world for the first time. All things around are full of colour and life which we nostalgically miss in our adult life.

 

Adolescence is the spring of adult life, of the first awakening of "grown-up" feelings, romantic dreams, hopes and plans for the fu- Х ture. No matter how painful the process of growing up may be, the young are secretly sure that something wonderful is in store for them.

 

Adolescents have moments of intense happiness never recap tured in adult life.

 

Friendships formed in adolescence sometimes, last through all life. It's people with whom you made friends when very young who understand you best.

 





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