In the Keyword Essay: Childhood by Karen Sanchez-Eppler, as well as the novel, Little House on the Prairie, the theme of protecting children, specifically young girls, from things that are not appropriate for their innocent minds, represents the concept of control as it relates to the relationship between adults and children.
In the Keyword Essay: Childhood, it is mentioned that “the dependency that is implied within the notion of childhood has been used to naturalize the lack of autonomy” (Nel 36). By this, the author makes the argument that because the concept of childhood is understood to represent a group of young people who are dependent and therefore incapable, it is only fitting that children should not have autonomy in certain circumstances.
Similarly, in the novel, Little House on the Prairie, Laura experiences many instances where Ma and Pa neglect to tell her certain things that they deem to be “inappropriate” for her to know or understand. More often than not, Ma and Pa divert Laura’s curiosity through establishing “manners” that she must follow, many of which involve the idea of being “seen but not heard.” In this novel, we see adults deciding what is and what is not appropriate for children to understand, and using rules such as manners to deter children from questioning those in control of the information, their parents.
This relationship between parents and children in terms of controlling information by deeming it “appropriate” or “inappropriate” relates to many of the comments I have seen over the recent Super Bowl Halftime show performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. During the halftime show, J.Lo and Shakira sang and danced in a way that represented the culture in which they identify with, and used props to make a political statement reprimanding the government for the “overwhelmingly large number of black and brown children locked at the U.S and Mexico border.” After the show, many people took to social media to express their disgust for the performance, as the two powerful women were said to have danced in a “promiscuous way” that was inappropriate for children to view on TV. In the opinion of some adults, the performance was a form of “soft porn” and should have had a parental advisory notice for children to leave the room. However, what many failed to understand, is the fact that this type of performance was an expression of empowerment and culture that has currently been marginalized by dominant groups, and should be seen by both adults and children as a way to better understand different cultures in our world.
This thematic withholding of information that is deemed to be “inappropriate” by adults seen in both literary works as well as current events, reflects the power structure between adults and children and highlights the way that this negatively impacts children, as often times adults use their own false biases to determine what is and isn’t appropriate for their children to know. Through this type of informal education, parents are influencing their child’s understanding of the world by choosing what information their children do and do not receive.
Nel, Philip, et al. Keywords for Childrens Literature. New York University Press, 2011.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie. Scholastic Inc., 1953.