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QUESTION:

In Ender's Game you portray children as innocent humans that are taken advantage by adults. Do you think this statement would be correct and if so, to what extent does your portrayal compare to traditional views of children?

-- Submitted Anonymously

OSC REPLIES: - August 2, 2000

I'm not sure I show children as "innocent." In fact, I show children as being every bit as ambitious, conniving, controlling, fearful, ignorant, angry, hungry, and loving as adults. Which, of course, they are.

The innocence of children comes from the fact that they do not have enough knowledge or understanding to grasp what the full consequences of their actions will be. Their causal vision is very near-sighted. They try for an immediate consequence, without considering what else might result from their action. Also, children are often deficient in empathy, which must be learned -- again, through experience. A very few rare children are preternaturally gifted in these areas, just as there are children extraordinarily talented in music or math.

We consider children innocent, therefore, because when they do rotten things, we know that they did not realize that these rotten things would result. Adulthood is when you are expected to anticipate the reasonable results of your choices.

So ... what do I believe about children? That they are powerfully affected by their genetic makeup. And powerfully affected by the world that is created around them by the people who give shape to their lives. And that at their core, children are already possessed of -- indeed, they are -- an uncreated self that shows, in its reactions to these influences, what the true character of that individual really is. Children learn to control their body and to respond to their environment, and in the process come to discover and to show others who they truly are.

So children are not tabula rasa -- a blank slate on which the culture writes. Nor are children robots, acting out the script given them by their genes. They are persons-in-the-process-of-discovery, learning things at different rates, making whatever discoveries they are ready to make.

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