CAE Reading and Use of English Part 6
You are going to read extracts from four reviews of a book about the way children are brought up. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The reviews may be chosen more than once.
Kith: the riddle of the childscape by Jay Griffiths
Four reviewers comment on Jay Griffiths’ new book.
In this new book, Jay Griffiths draws the familiar but erroneous conclusion that traditional societies and tribes treat nature and children better than modern ones. She is no anthropologist, writing more like a romantic poet about nature and people’s identification with the place they grow up in. To justify her admiration for tribal practice, she cites a 2007 UNICEF report that ranked the UK lowest among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. No analysis of this finding is provided, however. Instead, a single idea of lost childhood freedom is dressed up in excessively poetic, at times, absurd language, and applied to various cultures. According to Griffiths, what children in Britain and similar countries lack is access to nature and the freedom to express their true selves in it. The idea of ‘kith’, an attachment to your ‘home territory’ is an interesting one, but the claims she makes about children’s development are too often illogical and unsupportable.
In a 2007 UNICEF report, the UK came last among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. Jay Griffiths’ question is: why do they feel so unhappy? Her main answer, passionately and eloquently expressed, is that they are ‘imprisoned’ indoors in front of their TV or computer screens and have lost contact with their kith – the woods, mountains, rivers, streams and wilds of their home territory. There’s definitely something in this idea, but the trouble is that Griffiths pursues it in ways that simply don’t hold up. Part of the problem is that she regards children as originally innocent and good, and that these characteristics are suppressed by the restrictions imposed on them. As parents have known for millennia, however, children are far more complex than that. She is also guilty of selective deployment of evidence. That same UNICEF report found that children in the UK are healthier and safer than ever before, for example.
Jay Griffiths is a self-confessed romantic, believing in the innate purity of children and a need for them to be close to nature, mystery and risk and be gloriously free. She warns us, however, that children in the West today are caged indoors and deprived of their ‘kith’, a natural domain of woodland, play, solitude, animals, adventure and time to daydream, it’s a fascinating proposition, fluently and vividly delivered. But this book is also deeply frustrating. Griffiths ignores all the science that shows that children are, in fact, far from being the simple innocents of romantic tradition. She also fails to provide convincing evidence for her assertion that children in Euro-American cultures are less happy than other children. She refers to a UNESCO report on children’s well-being in the UK, Spain and Sweden to support her argument about the importance of the outdoors. That report, however, finds that well-being depends on many factors like time with family, good relationships with friends, involvement in creative and sporting activities, as well as being outdoors.
In Euro-American culture, argues Griffiths, infants often lack closeness with their parents and wider families, which leaves psychological scars. Simultaneously, older children are controlled, denied access to natural spaces and pushed through a school system designed to produce employees but not psychologically rounded citizens. Parents refuse to let children play outdoors for fear of over-hyped risks, and in so doing, deny children access to the outer worlds of private, unwatched play so vital to their psychological development. The natural playgrounds of childhood, the fields and woods, have been lost to most children. The result, as the UNICEF surveys of well-being that Griffiths’ quotes reveal, is a generation of children who are unhappy and unfulfilled. Her warning message is made particularly compelling by the rare vitality and admirable energy in Griffiths’ writing.
Which scientist …
37 has a different opinion from the others about Griffiths’ style of writing?
38 shares reviewer A’s view of the way Griffiths develops her ideas about the treatment of children?
39 expresses a different view from the others about the use Griffiths makes of data gathered internationally about children?
40 has a similar opinion to reviewer В about Griffiths’ depiction of children’s basic nature?