China

I Believe That Roving Gangs of Children Are Our Future

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"India and China are so fundamentally different in so many ways," James Fallows writes, "that it is amazing that Americans often talk about them as a twinned pair." Among the essential differences: the children.

The instant my wife and I walked around [Mumbai] we noticed how different the role of children was here from any place we had seen in urban China.

In Shanghai—or Beijing, or Shenyang, or Hangzhou—children not in school are seen in the presence of one and usually more adult supervisors: parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, people from the neighborhood. But in this one afternoon in Mumbai we came across many scenes of what can only be called roving bands of kids. They were playing cricket in dirt lots. They were throwing stones. They were playing tag. They were running around without watchful adults immediately in sight.

I know the policy background here (one-child mandate in China), and the statistical manifestations of the difference. China's median age is in the mid-30s; India's, the mid-20s. India's population growth rate is about three times faster than China's. China has an aging-population problem; India has a plain old population problem, etc. But those don't prepare you for the way a country full of children looks…

Via Virginia Postrel, who adds: "Which approach will produce a more creative, productive generation: more attention or more autonomy?"

Bonus link: Colin Ward's The Child in the City.

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  1. Who lumps India and China together as a “twinned pair”?

  2. Who lumps India and China together as a “twinned pair”?

    Those jerks from Indochina?

  3. But in this one afternoon in Mumbai we came across many scenes of what can only be called roving bands of kids. They were playing cricket in dirt lots. They were throwing stones. They were playing tag. They were running around without watchful adults immediately in sight.

    Is it me, or does that sound like America during the early years of the baby boom?

  4. Those jerks from Indochina?

    That’s rich, coming from an Americanadexican.

  5. Is it me, or does that sound like America during the early years of the baby boom?

    What is weird is that China sounds like the US now.

    In Shanghai — or Beijing, or Shenyang, or Hangzhou — children not in school are seen in the presence of one and usually more adult supervisors: parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, people from the neighborhood.

  6. “Which approach will produce a more creative, productive generation: more attention or more autonomy?”

    Yep. That’s why those neglected inner city kids always triumph over those doted-upon suburban yuppie kids.

  7. I love Sexual Chocolate’s cover of that song: “I believe that roving gangs of children are our future, arm them well and. . . .”

  8. Thank God you avoided the Wild Boys reference. I have been forever scarred by roving packs of sexually violent prepubescent homosexuals. Wait, that didn’t sound right….

  9. More importantly, do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

  10. Is it me, or does that sound like America during the early years of the baby boom?

    In fact it sounds just like my childhood. Groups of children off playing sports together unsupervised…. Oh the horror!!

  11. My money would be on China. Children who are outside playing all day instead of learning either in school or on their own are not likely to contribute anything to the modern economy.

  12. More importantly, do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

    I’m confident that Mr. Garrison’s song must have gotten the message across.

  13. What is weird is that China sounds like the US now.

    Not where I live. We can’t do any work in the front yard without some of the neighbor kids coming up and harassing us. “What are you doing?” “What’s your dogs name?” “Can I pet him?” On and on and on go the little hoodlums. Then they climb my tree. I’m waiting for them to get a dog with a spot on one eye.
    I’m hoping my boy gets to be Froggy, but right now he looks more like Spanky.

  14. I’ve said this before, but the pinnacle of child discipline was in Austria, before the Second World War. A family with almost military-like order. . .sheer perfection, until that whorish nun came along and ruined it all.

  15. No, really, unless you’re talking “big countries in Asia”, who lumps India and China together?

  16. Best. Headline. Ever.

  17. It sounds nice and new agey for kids to be running around free, but generally cultures that have created structured childrens’ environments seem to do better, at least in economic terms – in particular I’m thinking of the Jews in the Bronx forced to trudge off to their Hebrew schools, and music lessons vs. the Irish kids who ran around like, well, Irish kids. The Irish kids kicked the Jews’ ass literally in childhood, but then the Jews kicked the Irish kids’ asses later in terms of creativity and productivity. Yeah, I’m arguing from a sepiah toned world I know only from Woody Allen movies and borscht belt comedy routines, but what the hell..

  18. Best. Headline. Ever.

    The best headline ever was Gillespie’s 2005 entry It’ll Be a Beautiful Day When the Pentagon Has All the Money It Needs and Bombs Schools Having Bake Sales. This one is pretty good, though.

  19. I’ve seen India and China put together as The Rising Asiatic New World Order or somesuch.

    Personally, I think India will deal with its rank inequality much better than China will, and that will make the difference. Eventually there will be another socialist revolution in China, and that will be it for the world’s fastest-growing economy for another generation. By the time it recovers, India will be ready to outsource to it.

  20. India sounds soooo awesome…

    [googles “young unsupervised indian children”]

  21. “Americans often talk about them as a twinned pair”

    I don’t think so.

  22. Unsupervised? Why, who will protect The Children? of India from media manipulation, second-hand smoke, corn syrup and trans-fats?

  23. We can’t do any work in the front yard without some of the neighbor kids coming up and harassing us. “What are you doing?” “What’s your dogs name?” “Can I pet him?” On and on and on go the little hoodlums.

    You’re not giving them the right answers to their questions.

    “What are you doing?”

    Preparing your grave.

    “What’s your dog’s name?”

    Eater of Children.

    “Can I pet him?”

    Yes, but if he suddenly goes for your throat, throw your arms up for protection and let him bite those instead. You can live with both arms chewed off, but not with a torn open throat.

  24. I am at the end of the baby boom. Growing up in the suburbs, we were allowed to roam freely within the busy streets that defined our neighborhood. It felt very autonomous, but in reality there were always eyes on us.

    “Which approach will produce a more creative, productive generation: more attention or more autonomy?”

    And which approach will produce a more submissive, obedient, respect for ah-thor-ah-tie, generation.

  25. Thanks for the tips, Stevo, but we have a 15 year old Yorkie. I don’t mind them seeing me as nutty, but harmless and nutty? I don’t think so.

  26. “Americans often talk about them as a twinned pair”

    I don’t think so.

    Really? That’s all I hear. Like they’re a matched set. “India-and-China, those damn countries are taking all our aid and stealing all our jobs.”

  27. No, really, unless you’re talking “big countries in Asia”, who lumps India and China together?

    Are you kidding? When talking of consumption, the reason for high oil prices, high price of copper, emissions, nuclear asia, trading partners, outsourcing…

    Maybe you’ve never used them together, but the media does on a daily basis.

  28. highnumber,

    You’re at the top of a four-billion year evolutionary ladder, and don’t you let that dog forget it. Make it clear in no uncertain terms that you, as a member of Homo sapiens could, if you so chose, launch it into space, safely land it on the Moon, then nuke the landing site.

    Fear will keep the other animals in line. Fear of our ability. . .and of our insanity.

  29. “Fear will keep the other animals in line. Fear of our ability. . .and of our insanity.”

    ProGLib – your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not yielded the Chicken’s secret plans for crossing the road. Nor has it given you clairvoyance into why it crosses.

    This ladder is the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.

  30. [Strangles VM remotely]

    Here’s a disturbing thought: What if we are the most advanced sentient species in the entire universe? In other words, conditions are just now right for the rise of intelligence, and we just happened to be first (or the fastest to advance). That means no Overlords and no outside help, barring the metaphysical kind. That can’t be good. I was rather relying on enlightened superbeings to get us out of trouble.

  31. God, it will take all day to get Whitney Houston out of my head. Thanks.

  32. ProLib,
    That doesn’t disturb me at all. Perhaps because I believe it to be the case (I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. You have to look at the big picture. We ARE the most advanced creatures in all the universe. Look at all we’ve accomplished in but a few short millennium. Sure there’s been setbacks, and most of the actual people you encounter are an embarrassment to the species. But it’s the outstanding individuals that really define who we are.

    It’s like I always say: I love the human race, I just can’t stand the god damned people.

  33. Some publications do link India and China, but you’d have to parse the articles more closely to see if they’re truly _lumped_ together.

    Anon

  34. In terms of economic interest, eg investment and/or market expansion, many, many people talk about China and India as a pair. Mostly due to their rapidly expanding economies.

    For instance, if you’re interested in investing in an overseas fund, many people see China as being a riskier investment, but the returns are higher, whereas India is seen as being more politically stable and therefore a safer, but still profitable, bet.

  35. Warren, I’d like an example or two of success stories to give me some hope that we’ll make it to godlike status. I figure we’re going to have a heck of a time over the next millennium or so.

  36. I was rather relying on enlightened superbeings to get us out of trouble.

    ProLib just wants his Mother Thing.

  37. then nuke the landing site.

    It’s the only way to be sure.

  38. Somtimes the media refers to them as Chindia, a name that is offensive to both countries. Also the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China.

  39. [Strangles VM remotely]

    “Stranglin’ the moose” – Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

  40. I’ve said this before, but the pinnacle of child discipline was in Austria, before the Second World War. A family with almost military-like order. . .sheer perfection, until that whorish nun came along and ruined it all.

    Between this and the SW refs, PL wins the thread.

  41. Really? That’s all I hear. Like they’re a matched set. “India-and-China, those damn countries are taking all our aid and stealing all our jobs.”

    And that Masala Wok place is lumping their cuisine together, too.

  42. It’s the only way to be sure.

    Indeed! While dogs may be Man’s Best Friend, they need to understand their place. Nothing says “We’re in charge” like a couple of well-placed nukes.

    cgee,

    You laugh, but my wife nodded knowingly when I made a similar statement (with a tear in my eye) while we were watching The Sound of Music. We have 3.98 kids you see (we’re a week from the due date on child number four).

    I need a whistle.

  43. WTF India is Fallows talking about ? Doesn’t sound like any India I know. If you look carefully at the pictures you’ll see that it’s a fricking gated community (in india they would call it a Colony – no really) ie its a place where everyone knows everyone & where someone from your family or some other busybody is watching you from the third story of the highrise (Ah … How I love American suburbia).
    If that’s not the case and Fallows saw kids running wild on the street then its a good bet that they are homeless or near that.

  44. Really? That’s all I hear. Like they’re a matched set. “India-and-China, those damn countries are taking all our aid and stealing all our jobs.”

    They’re also burnin’ up all our gas.

    Dang furriners. They should know that stuff is, like, ours.

  45. Warren, I’d like an example or two of success stories to give me some hope that we’ll make it to godlike status.

    What’s wrong with you ProLib? We’ve got cold beer, internet porn, and IPods. How much more godlike could we get?

  46. And that Masala Wok place is lumping their cuisine together, too.

    My favorite Indian buffet has a General Tso’s cauliflower. It is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
    I asked my friend Subu why there was Chinese food at an Indian buffet and he said “Indian people like Chinese food”. I guess there is such a thing as a stupid question after all.

  47. It felt very autonomous, but in reality there were always eyes on us.

    With all the surveillance cameras around, we don’t really need adult supervsion anymore.

  48. Warren,

    No beaming. No flying cars. No seriously cool cybernetic parts. No levitation. No eidetic memory. No casual space travel. No transmutation on an industrial scale. No Dyson Sphere Disney. No omniscience or omnipotence.

    I also have a list of things that we do have that make us need superbeing assistance as well.

  49. ProLib,
    Some of that stuff will be here in a few years. Most of it will be unnecessary once we have ‘the jack’ and we all tap in to the collective consciousness. Resistance is futile.

  50. Warren,

    Hey, I’m a technology optimist myself. It’s great if we can do great things in the near future, but I’d like some insurance. Say the Organians.

  51. I might add, judging from the pictures, Fallows seems to be in a more affluent than not neigbhourhood. So the poor kids are likely enjoying their one hour of play between homework, tennis lessons, music lessons, GATE/GMAT lessons, SAT preparation, TOEFL preparation etc.

  52. But in this one afternoon in Mumbai we came across many scenes of what can only be called roving bands of kids. They were playing cricket in dirt lots. They were throwing stones. They were playing tag. They were running around without watchful adults immediately in sight.

    Is it me, or does that sound like America during the early years of the baby boom?

    Yeah, when’s the last time you saw American kids enjoying a nice came of cricket in a dirt lot. Those days are gone forever!

  53. “Which approach will produce a more creative, productive generation: more attention or more autonomy?”

    Who says a more creative generation is synonymous with a more productive one? What reason is there to expect that one society will not become more productive while the other becomes more creative?

  54. FWIW, there is a long tradition of Chinese restaurants in Indian cities.

  55. Clockwork Gai-pan?

  56. India and China are often lumped together when it comes to addressing global warming/climate change/whatever.

    Not that climate has much relevance in the story.

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