I Believe That Roving Gangs of Children Are Our Future


"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.