Nabbed from a somewhat skeptical (and rightfully so) discussion on the Stephenbaxter mailing list, is this link to an article about so-called “Indigo Children”.
Jake’s mother is a teacher at this Baytown-area school, and worries that he may be ostracized by his peers if word ever gets out about his special gifts. “He questions everything because he wants to know,” she says as her son draws a picture of a lollipop tree. “The questions he asks are not even age-appropriate.”
These children tend to know things without ever being taught or told. Jake’s companion Jan “can use a compound bow very well,” says the girl’s grandmother, Jill Spence. “She can shoot a BB gun; she goes fishing.” It just came naturally to her, Spence says. She can’t explain it.
They go by many names, such as Star Kids, Indigos or Crystalline Children. Whatever they’re called, believers say this group of prodigies started appearing about 30 years ago and may now make up as much as 90 percent of the population under ten. They also exhibit strange side effects, like a higher resistance to pollutants but an increased sensitivity to sugar and food additives. These are babies born with an inherent knowledge of art, language and spirituality, possessing an impressive wealth of wisdom. Some will even go so far as to say these kids are not only prime candidates for the gifted and talented program, but the next step in human evolution.
Ugh! What hogwash! I mean, I know everyone likes to think his or her child is special, unique, and somehow different from all others in a good way — somehow better — but some of the things people are asserting about these kids are just crazy.
Actually, the reason I found the article worth reading, besides the perturbing glimpse it provided into the mind of the modern New Age-addled young parent, was because I think the reporter is subtly mocking the teacher who’s interviewed throughout. Very often she attributes things to her child, only to have him refute her and say she was the one who told him this or that; his inability to furnish the appropriate answer to his question, she takes as a sign of genius. There’s hints of gross misunderstandings of evolutionary theory, all kinds of handwavey assessments of childrens’ “spirituality”, and other very desperate attempts to explain how kids know so much, and have such short attention spans.
Why, they seem to have asked themselves, do so many kids have no attention span, have what we’re now calling ADD and ADHD? Why are we dealing with kids by giving them enough Ritalin to change the chemistry of our sewage?
Gee, you don’t think it might be environmental? TV, perhaps, since the commencement of the “era of Indigos” seems to line up pretty closely with the time when mothers started consistently working outside the home, and kids started being babysat by the TV?
Which is not to say that women ought to be deprived careers, but instead to note that a long-established species-wide practice of intense attention and proximity between mother and child in the early years of life — especially in the first decade — was abandoned largely at that point in history, in favour of 2-income families with children in day-care or school… just as the leap toward the nuclear family constituted. Neither major change could happen without effects being felt. And it makes perfect sense to me as a North American that people would try to comfort themselves by spinning these effects as some kind of supernatural benefit their children have received by virtue of the historical time and place of their birth.
But it’s not just that this is silly. I think it will mess up a lot of kids to be told these things. I suspect that convincing yourself they’re part of a special, transformational generation, and imposing all the attendant expectations onto them, might be a good way to start in on messing them up, at least.
And so some of the symptoms mentioned, like these:
Some of the main attributes they describe are a sense of “deserving to be here” and “knowing who they are,” difficulty with authority, a dislike of activities that don’t require creative thought and a feeling of royalty (and acting like it).
… seem more to be the effect of parents trying to read into their childrens’ behaviour some specialness, when it’s really coming from those kids being spoiled and messed up from being told how special and how much better they are.
Then again, those same attributes look more positive in one of my favorite kids in the world, my friend Ritu’s daughter Koko; I suspect the difference may be largely related to the kind of contact Koko has with her parents, the feedback she gets, the fact that books, stories, and reading are very encouraged, and the fact that she’s reasoned with by her parents in a way most parents seem unwilling or unable to do.
So maybe these kids are unusual — Koko certainly is, in a good way — but what comes out as a negative in the kids in the article to be glorified in standard American style, is probably the effect of too much TV and not enough sensible and healthy interaction with parents. (And it really is just like American culture to turn around and make this all into a grand, majestic leap in human evolution. Is that why such a large majority of American children are also obese? Ah, I didn’t think so.)
Kids with limited access to TV, good throughtful, sensible, and loving relationships with their parents, and encouragement to be creative and thoughtful, invited to question authority with reason and to accept reasonable answers, and who are brought up with a love of books rather than TV, and so on, would, I imagine turn out more like wonderful Koko and less like Jan and Jake in the article linked above.
I wonder whether other generations in past societies have also believed in such things. I’m curious, but have no idea where to start looking; I’d believe such a notion might have floated around in the 19th century, but I doubt such a notion could have gained much currency in Rome or the Middle Ages, though it seems to me rooted in some cultural and religious ideas dating back at least that far. In any case, the mass appeal makes me wonder if Greg Bear was, in his Darwin’s Radio/Darwin’s Children series, consciously using such ideas from pop culture, or unconsciously tapping into some kind of modern evolutionary mythology native to the 20th/21st centuries.