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Friday February 24, 2012

Much ado about the birds and bees

A young boy writes a book called We Can Do. And Malaysia bans a book on how ‘it’ is done. Are our children really that naive, or are we just too protective?

THE intelligence of our children never fails to amaze me.

Take Vishalini Kumarasamy. She is 11. And she is a genius – a super-genius.

Vishalini is said to be one of the most brilliant persons on Earth. Her IQ stands at 225 – higher than that of the previous Guinness world record holder, Kim Ung-Yong, whose IQ is approximately 210.

Her accomplishments include the Microsoft Certified Professional and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

At nine, she became the youngest MCP holder. And recently, she scored 90% in CCNA, something adults can hardly do, breaking the record of a Pakistani girl Arfa Karim Randhawa.

Arfa died on Jan 14. And she was only 16.

They cannot even put Vishalini’s name in the Guinness Book of World Records because you are not allowed in until you are at least 14.

And this young girl, who had a speech impediment and could not speak until she was about seven, now gives lectures to engineering students about technical fundamentals and computer intricacies. On top of all that, she wants to be a doctor.

Then, there is Moshe Kai Cavalin. He is 14.

He enrolled in college at age eight and by the time he was 11, he had an Associate of Arts degree, with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Now, he’s poised to graduate from UCLA and has just published an English edition of his first book, We Can Do. It was originally written a few years ago in Chinese, his mother’s native tongue.

His idols are Albert Einstein and Bruce Lee, and he scuba dives and loves soccer and martial arts.

In his book, he explains how other people can accomplish what he did through such simple acts as keeping themselves focused and approaching everything with total commitment.

So, a 14-year-old writes a book that tells adults how to succeed. And adults ban a book that teaches children about adulthood.

Where Did I Come From, a book on the birds and the bees supposedly for children was taken off the shelves a few days ago. It’s now been banned.

I confess. I had never heard of this book until the ban.

Colleagues say they read it as children and, no, they did not grow up into immoral, sex-crazy fiends.

Having finally read it, I found it quite tame, too. It certainly is no Kamasutra.

There are a few drawings of a nude man and woman but these are hardly titillating – far from it.

You know those pictures on boxes of condoms? Now, those are a whole lot more titillating and are on full view for any child at a convenience store.

In the book, orgasm is described as something like a sneeze. It lists synonyms for a bosom and yes, it mentions making love but not the passionate, full-blooded stuff you find in many a romance book.

It also names the other body parts, explains how the fertilisation pro-cess works and how the child comes to his first birth day – the day he is born.

The book is said to be for children aged between eight and 10 but given the standard of the English language in the country, I would say not many children below 12 would even begin to understand what’s being said.

And don’t we teach them reproductive science around the age of 12?

I remember they did when I was in school. And I remember a pretty, young teacher who went beetroot red as cheeky kids dug in with some loaded questions.

Those classmates of mine sure did know more than they let on. And we were just 13.

Also, I don’t suppose any eight-year-old is going into the bookstore to buy the book. If anything, it would be the parents who would buy it for the children.

That’s a matter of choice for the parent, just like changing the channels on Astro if you didn’t like the programme.

So, all these hoo-ha about the book being bad for our children is probably an over-reaction. Like the one about how morality would take a plunge if some one built a cinema in quaint old Bangi.

After all, the book has been around for decades and no one has gone berserk after reading it – not yet, anyway.

A couple of years ago, a 14-year-old was married in Malaysia. If she was old enough to marry, she should be old enough to know about the birds and the bees.

Me, I would prefer the young to know what goes where and what happens after that – and stay clear of trouble.

The alternative is children experimenting with their feelings and their bodies, leading to far greater trouble.

Edit the book, by all means – or censor it. Even add some advice at the end of it. Or move it away from the children’s book shelves. But ban it?

> The writer was never going to rush out and buy the book. It is certainly not his cup of tea. But the knee-jerk reaction of banning anything we don’t like needs a serious rethink.