Describing children is always interesting, and is always new. Childhood, however, is more than simply a period of human life. It is also an important social phenomenon. There are the two contrasting ideas of childhood, and it is not surprising that these ideas have been expressed by adults. First, children should be given as much freedom as possible, to live a bright life and be prepared to adulthood. Second, we should engage children into as much useful activity, as possible and contemporary social environment creates favorable conditions for that.
Free the Children by Nancy Gibbs and The Merits of Meritocracy by David Brooks are the two works of writing, in which the authors try to evaluate the role of childhood activities through the sociological prism. Both authors use their children as the examples to prove their positions. Probably, this is a beneficial approach towards evaluating the role childhood plays in the life of a person; probably, if the authors evaluated their own childhood experiences, they would lack objectivity in their observation.
Anyway, both works are interesting although both display certain kind of bias in them. “My daughters are upstairs shrieking. And thumping” (Gibbs 180). “My daughter is a four-helmet kid” (Brooks 193). Gibbs and Brooks begin their discussion in a similar way, but display both the similarities and differences of their views upon childhood. Their works are important to understand the implications of the childhood in general, and the implications of different activities for the childhood, in particular.
“Today’s mode of raising kids generates a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety, some of it on my part. We fear that kids are spoiled by the abundance and frenetic activity all around them” (Brooks 194). Brooks realizes the difficulties the child faces in our society. Parents share these difficulties, and participate in the child’s decision-making. This is the central theme of both essays. The way parents position themselves against the child in the process of the child’s decision making, ultimately determines the place of this child in the society. However, while Brooks parallels the value of “useful” childhood activities with the value of hardships in life, Gibbs asks a simple question, whether the child should be given enough freedom in choosing his activities. “Even camp isn’t likely to be about s’mores and spud anymore; there is math camp, and weight camp and leadership camp, as though summer were about perfecting ourselves, when in fact the opposite may be true” (Gibbs 183). Brooks and Gibbs try to generalize their observations, and to produce certain common recommendations as for the role of the child in the society. However, they still narrow their researches to their personal experiences. Evidently, while Gibbs is concerned with the child’s activities during the summer, Brooks is concentrated on the impact of abundance by which a child is surrounded. Simultaneously, the central aim of both essays is to evaluate the impact of traditional approaches towards childhood. Gibbs speaks about camps as one of the traditional means to engage the child into useful activity. Brooks clearly underlines the importance of extracurricular activities for the social development of the child. However, is it the best approach towards helping the child to live the life full of natural experiences? Does this mean that if the child is not engaged into camp activities, it will necessarily result in crime, deviance, or similar sorts of negative experiences?
Trying to answer this question, the reader faces the situation, in which both Brooks and Gibbs seem to support themselves in their views. Brooks states: “society surrounds the individual with a web of instruction, encouragement, and recognition. The hunger for recognition is a great motivator for the meritocrat” (p. 197). Logically, Gibbs supports this discussion line, and emphasizes the meaning of trust in all discussed childhood activities. When Brooks writes that parents spend their weekends driving their children from one activity to another, Gibbs touches the aspect of trust in parents-child relations. The problem is that parents do not know, whether they will achieve the expected results if they use extracurricular activities to secure the child from negative experiences. “Apart from the challenge of trusting our kids, there is the challenge of trusting ourselves” (Gibbs 186).
Gibbs and Brooks initially position themselves as parents, not as writers. This is why their views on childhood are similar in many instances. Despite the fact that they choose different wording, and objectively, somewhat different approaches, the implications of both essays are identical: contemporary child finds himself surrounded by serious pressures. He needs to be recognized by society. To accomplish this task, he has to study, to learn, to be good at school, to “cope with technological change, and to make daily decisions about everything from the cell-phone rate plans to brands of sugar substitutes” (Brooks 200). If a child is capable of taking such decisions, why isn’t he capable of taking correct decisions during summer vacations? Doesn’t it mean that in the world of numerous conflicts, pressures, abundance and useful activities, the child should be given the moment of unlimited freedom, at least during the summer?
It is difficult to contrast the two essays which imply the same ideas and call for similar actions. It would be correct to say that the two analyzed works not only express identical ideas, but supplement each other. The surface differences and contrasts are deceptive. They create a full picture of childhood as a social notion, and lead the reader to re-considering the role and activities of his own children. In their desire to provide the best for their children, Gibbs and Brooks can hardly contrast each other. Both writers imply that parents must learn trusting themselves. This will ultimately lead to trusting their children when they want or don’t want freedom of childhood experiences and impressions.
Brooks, D. “The Merits of Meritocracy”. In R.B. Axelrod, C.R. Cooper, and Alison M.
Warriner (eds)., Reading Critically, Writing Well; A Reader and a Guide, 2005, pp. 193-201.
Gibbs, N. “Free the Children”. In R.B. Axelrod, C.R. Cooper, and Alison M. Warriner (eds).,
Reading Critically, Writing Well; A Reader and a Guide, 2005, pp. 180-87.
Cite this Comparative analysis
Comparative analysis. (2016, Sep 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparative-analysis-2/