Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2003 / 8 Elul, 5763

Thomas Sowell

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Experts without expertise

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | We may become the first society destroyed by its own experts -- especially experts in fields where there is no expertise that can be verified by facts.

Over the past several decades, no one has been victimized more by so-called experts than parents and children. And no one has done more to expose the frauds of "experts" in child-raising and education than Kay Hymowitz.

Her recently published book, "Liberation's Children," is a devastating debunking of fashionable ideas that have brought much frustration and heartache to parents and children alike. (CLICK ON LINK(S) TO PURCHASE. Sales help fund JWR) As in her previous book, "Ready or Not" Ms. Hymowitz shows what personal and social disasters have followed from treating children as if they were already adults.

Premature sex is just one of the consequences of the "liberation" of children in accordance with the theories of child-raising experts. We are not talking about teenage pregnancy. We are talking about kids experimenting with sex before they become teenagers. This is about "ten- or eleven-year-old girls arriving at school looking like madams," about group sex at thirteen, imitating things they saw on the Playboy channel. Contrary to the trendy notion that early sex is due to "raging hormones," Kay Hymowitz argues that this and many other signs of degeneracy are due to adults' abdication of responsibility.

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Busy parents, latchkey kids, and fad-ridden schools are all part of the problem, as spelled out in "Liberation's Children." But behind all these things is a pervasive undermining of authority throughout society -- largely in response to untested theories by glib experts. A whole chapter is devoted to the courts' role in making it virtually impossible to assert authority in the schools, even in the face of disruptive students who prevent other students from learning -- and who sometimes assault the teachers. This includes hoodlums who have sexually assaulted teachers and have then been returned to the classroom, for fear of lawsuits if they were kept away.

These and other ugly and dangerous consequences of trendy courts and hip attitudes among parents and teachers go back to a Utopian vision of the world that often passes as "expertise" because this vision has become pervasive among those who are considered to be experts, despite lacking any factual evidence that their expertise has made anything better.

The crucial factor is that experts pay no price for being wrong, even when children, parents and society at large pay an enormous price. "Liberation's Children" points out again and again how kids who are allowed to run wild are often unhappy and confused kids, even when they are given both material things and virtually no adult supervision.

One of the modern mothers says: "I can give them my opinion, tell them how I feel. But they have to decide for themselves." The notion that children can raise themselves, and create for themselves a moral universe that took whole societies centuries to evolve, is one of those notions that fit George Orwell's remark that some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them. "No ordinary man could be such a fool," Orwell said.

It is considered hip stuff to buy into these new ideas. In reality, you can find such nonsense in 18th century writers in France and England. But people who are ignorant of history are forever imagining that they have come up with something new, as they repeat centuries-old fallacies that have led to disasters many times before.

What is amazing is how gullibly parents, teachers, courts and society at large have accepted pretentious nonsense with no hard evidence behind it and no track record of success after it has been applied. After all, it was the children raised by the permissive philosophy of the 1960s who had rising rates of crime, venereal disease, academic deficiencies, and suicides.

It is impossible to summarize the many insights of " "Liberation's Children," or Kay Hymowitz's other book, "Ready or Not." Get a copy of each and discover their sobering message for yourself.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Controversial Essays." (Sales help fund JWR.)

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