Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: Childhood in history, dependence, autonomy, community

“In certain respects, today’s children are more autonomous than young people have ever been. They have their own institutions and media, most now have their own rooms, and many teens have their own cars. Contemporary children mature faster physiologically than those in the past and are more knowledgeable about sexuality, drugs, and other adult realities. They are also more fully integrated into the realm of consumer culture at an earlier age. Yet from the vantage point of history, contemporary children’s lives are more regimented and constrained than ever before. Contemporary society is extreme in the distinction it draws between the worlds of childhood and youth, on the one hand, and of adulthood, on the other. Far more than previous generations, we have prolonged and intensified children’s emotional and psychological dependence. Children are far more resilient, adaptable, and capable than our society typically assumes. We have segregated the young in age-graded institutions, and, as a result, children grow up with little contact with adults apart from their parents and other relatives and childcare professionals. Unlike children in the past, young people today have fewer socially valued ways to contribute to their family’s well-being or to participate in community life. By looking back over four centuries of American childhood we can perhaps recover old ways and discover new ways to reconnect children to a broader range of adult mentors and to expand their opportunities to participate in activities that they and society find truly meaningful.”

–Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood

Misdiagnosing the culture of violence

“American culture is a violent culture; it has always been a violent culture. […] A sick society produces sick people. A society in which many forms of violence are valorized will produce many incarnations of violence that are not. This does not excuse the killer’s actions, or rationalize his motivations, but it is an honest assessment of factors which produce such behavior and which [gun control] legislation and medicalization will not succeed in muffling. […]

In a classic study of the relationship between war and violence within war-making societies, Dane Archer uses historical, cross-national data to demonstrate how war making produces significant and consistent elevations in homicide rates among ordinary citizens. The legitimation and sanctioning of murder, atrocities and the targeting of civilians in war causes an increase in murder at home. […] Criminalizing all those labeled as mentally ill or (attempting) to make guns harder to get will not change that basic universal precursor to all atrocious acts – that of seeing other people as not worthy of life.”

— Mike King, “Misdiagnosing the culture of violence” (Counterpunch, December 18, 2012)