Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold (Plough Publishing House)
I was sent this book for free from the publisher as a part of library thing’s early reviewer program. The author’s beliefs concerning God, and also what makes a family differ a great deal from my own. While the author is perfectly entitled to his own opinions, supporting he or the publisher with my purchase would not happen. The chance that profit from my purchase could be used for spreading beliefs and ideals against my own is too high.
Yet, I felt a responsibility as a reviewer to read and review the book based on its own merit, regardless of how I differ in world view from the author. My criticisms are based on my experience and qualification as a parent, scholar, and one-time bullied child.
The good bits of his book are themes repeated throughout concerning:
*the importance of unstructured play
* the importance of hands on experience/trial and error, learning from mistakes
*the need for good adult role models
*childhood as a time that should be without the stress of overscheduling, achievement/safety obsessed parenting (say no to the tiger mom), or the stresses of an adult world
*that medicating children should be used as last resort, as changes can be made to environment
*testing/standards focused education making little room for addressing individual needs or time for free exploration.
I agree wholeheartedly.
BUT this good stuff was outweighed by:
*Solutions the author suggests are in no way unique to those suggested in numerous magazines and books on the same subject.
*Much like “Last child in the Woods” (link to my review) this author reminisces about and romanticizes a childhood that simply isn’t the reality of the average 21st century child or family.
*Every chapter was filled to the brim with anecdote that the author then used to make generalizations.
*He seemed to really be addressing a very specific audience, one that shared his world view and socioeconomic class.
*Citations were often links to other people’s opinion pieces, similarly themed books, or news articles about studies in some cases, non-definitive (correlation is not causation) or only slightly related to the topic.
That leads us to:
THE REALLY UGLY
People make my brain hurt.
In an anecdote a mother talks about how her teen told her that “he is comfortable talking to people on the computer because he does not get bullied.” She goes on to call what her son says was bullying as “awkward childhood moments” being “opportunity for growth.” That maybe, just maybe, if he hadn’t been online, he’d have better social skills.
Interesting anecdote. To my knowledge there is no study saying online communication causes problems with face to face social skills. The author certainly doesn’t cite one.
I was bullied from elementary through high school. It didn’t teach me social skills. Those “awkward childhood moments” of being spat on, pelted with rocks, and sexually harassed did teach me something. I learned fear, shame, and self-hate. Oh how it would have been nice to have the internet back then and to have been able to connect with people who understood.
Arnold tries to say internet research where children have access to the libraries of the world is poor, and somehow not spending time in a limited resourced library creates lazy students.
While teaching how to find good resources is necessary, saying that internet research is limiting is preposterous.
For a fellow interested in solid research, he really drops the ball with this:
“Many children find themselves unable to communicate with a real person who requires a thoughtful verbal response. More and more children arrive at preschool with speech difficulties; some do not speak at all. Since this is a diagnosable trait in autism spectrum, how many children may be categorized as autistic when they have simply not had the opportunity to learn human interaction?”
So lets get this straight…
Technology=less social skills=autism?????
Even if he were right regarding technology and social skills (and he isn’t) poor social skills does not equal autism. Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that research shows is present at birth and leads to significant differences in brain development especially in the first year. There is far more to it than merely communication or social skills issues and autism would not be diagnosed merely on speech delay.
Further autistics, because of difficulty (in varying degrees) with spoken face to face communication, benefit from having technology as alternate means of communication both online and in day to day life.
The author hasn’t done his research. We face stigma and ignorance and here he encourages a common dangerous misconception.
This book gets one star…its already in the recycle bin and filed in my mind under “ableist crap.”