It's important that, as a society, we not listen to what kids have to say. That's because kids are stupid. And babies are even dumber.
Recent studies suggest babies know more than you think. In her book, The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, noted child-intelligence expert Alison Gopnik explains that babies are actually smarter and more conscious that adults. Though, in fairness, maybe she meant adult horses.
In actuality, babies don't offer any insight into the meaning of life. A baby's curiosity about life is similar to how a cheetah feels about being filmed for a National Geographic nature special; it's not aware that it's happening. Babies are cute little morons.
Here's how you can tell if a person is smart. If he or she is entertained by jiggling your car keys in front of them, you're not dealing with a genius. So that leaves out babies, cats, and anyone involved, in any way, with VH1.
Just for the sake of argument, let's say that these studies are accurate, and babies are indeed intelligent. So then... what? We should let them fly airplanes? "Evan, my financial advisor, handles all my money. He's a baby!" The "babies are smarter than we think" studies are about as useful as a thesis that proves dinosaurs would have made good pets, or a Maxim magazine article about how to satisfy a woman in bed; it's useless information.
Why do we need babies to be smart? What purpose does this serve? They're already adorable. Isn't that enough? Heck, "adorable but stupid" is James Woods' lifelong dating philosophy.
Yes, of course, there is more to these studies than proving that babies are smart. It's about interpreting human cognition skills in order to solve neurological disorders and to develop more advanced artificial intelligence and blah, blah, blah. Well, they still haven't cured Alzheimer's by studying infants. And long before we truly understand how babies think, refrigerators will be smart enough to vote. (Latest straw poll: Refrigerators love New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And so do straws.)
Luckily, babies can't talk. But children can. Hence, we're expected to listen. And once again, we're empowering children into believing that their opinions are just as valid as adults. And so when a toddler doesn't want to take a nap, or a fourth-grader demands the right to eat cupcakes for dinner, or a sixteen-year-old wants a neck tattoo... well, heck, who is to say they're wrong? (Note: Anyone who refuses a nap is not intelligent. Naps are wonderful. I've already taken two naps since I started this paragraph, and I feel energized and refreshed.)
Young adults don't become self-absorbed overnight. It takes years of pandering. Anyone who exclaims the intellectual power of children is part of the problem. Because those people are- wait, give me a second. Just gonna rest my eyes for a minute.
Ah, I feel better. When you fall asleep on the couch, in the afternoon, isn't it weird how whatever is on TV sort of incorporates itself into your dream? I just drove to the store without any clothes on, with the ladies of The View in the backseat. Wait -- you mean that wasn't a dream?
Kids are stupid. Most children can't even name their state capital. I mean, most adults can't, either. But at least they can name a state capital. (Wait -- let me think about this one. Okay, the capital of Indiana is Indianapolis. Right? And is the capital of Pennsylvania still Pennsylvaniapolis?)
Somehow, all the sudden, today, what children have to say is just as important as what adults have to say. And it's not just as important. Children don't know as much as adults. Adults have wisdom and experience. Maybe not all adults. But the people who do have wisdom and experience are adults. It's tiring to read new studies that "prove" children are smart. It's annoying to hear parents talk about the intellectual prowess of their kids. It's boring to watch Ellen DeGeneres interview the preschoolers on her record label.
Kids aren't smart. They're dumb. And that's okay. Kids are supposed to be dumb. That's part of the joy of childhood. (The other part? Grape-flavored baby aspirin.) The problem is when they're told they're smart, especially when they're told they're just as smart as adults. I've seen Jeopardy Kids Week. The questions are easy... though not as easy as the questions during Jeopardy Matthew McConaughey Week.
When my nephew was two or three or something, he could read a few words. My sister said, "Oh, he's so brilliant." I responded, "I can read a few words. That doesn't make me brilliant." Yes, relative to other children he was smart. But so what? Kids are dumb. If an opossum can count to three, it's the smartest opossum in the world, and the second-smartest Kardashian sister. But that doesn't make it smart. (My nephew, by the way, grew up to be Vice-President Joe Biden. So there. It turns out he is only of average intelligence.)
Remember that show Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?? As a matter of fact, I know I'm smarter than a fifth grader. Because what separates me from all of the children on that show is that I know how to drive.
One of the great myths of society -- along with Bigfoot, that frozen yogurt isn't really just soft ice cream, and that Meryl Streep has a baboon heart -- is that there is such a thing as "child geniuses." In reality, there is no such thing.
Do you know what Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, and Henry Ford all had in common? I mean, besides the anti-Semitism. They all accomplished their great deeds when they were adults. You never hear about eight-year old geniuses curing cancer, or inventing the light bulb or assembly line production or the Scrub Daddy.
There are few things more irritating than when "genius children" skip entire grades of school, so that nine-year-olds are in high school and thirteen-year-olds are in college. (Note: Of course, I'm not counting my frat brother Brian. He was twelve. But he was awesome. And he never complained when we sent him off to get the keg.) What kind of awful parents would send their prepubescent offspring to high school? High school is a war zone. I'm still angry at my parents for making me go when I was seventeen.
The rationalization for skipping grade levels is "They're bored in school because they're so smart." I respond to this reasoning by asking, "What's wrong with being bored?" Sometimes life is boring. Get used to it. Plus, the C students were also bored. Maybe they were geniuses?
Must we continue to pander to the youth demographic? It's bad enough that Selena Gomez keeps stealing Judi Dench's film roles and that Doritos flavors keep getting edgier. But now we're telling our children that they're even too smart for school?
Do you know what happens to brilliant children? Take Ronan Farrow, the genius son of actress Mia Farrow. Ronan started college when he was eleven. And now, at twenty-six, he hosts a political chat show on cable news. So, basically, his youthful genius and early education brought him to a point where he now sits alongside such other intellectual giants as Neil Cavuto and Wolf Blitzer. Was Sean Hannity a child prodigy, too? (That was a joke. I think it's reasonably safe to assume that Sean Hannity spent his high school years bullying the smart kids.)
And Ronan Farrow is, in a nutshell, emblematic of the way society falsely empowers today's self-indulgent youth. We tell the kids they're really, really smart. And then they want to be on TV.
Love your children. Comfort them. Protect them. But it won't kill them if, every once in a while, you remind 'em that they don't know what the hell they're talking about.