I know that if I were running an Education Department that got the most attention it ever received for having one of its senior academics arrested on charges of producing child pornography just a couple of months ago, I'd think twice about holding a symposium with a keynote speaker whose work demonstrates an obsession with a supposed "erotic appeal" of children.
But this is the University of Toronto we're talking about and its major education faculty, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), is a place where just about any preposterous, moronic, self-indulgent diatribe can qualify a person for an advanced degree.
OISE's Centre for Urban Schooling is presenting, along with York University and U of Toronto's Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, a symposium called "BODIES AT PLAY: Sexuality, childhood and classroom life."
Some of it is comparatively benign, if comically idiotic New Age drivel of the sort an author like John Mortimer or Martin Amis might have invented to parody the self-indulgent vapidity of posturing academics. These people, who want to wear ostensible enlightenment on their sleeves, have a hodgepodge of fatuous buzz-words that routinely surface in everything they say or do. See how many you can spot in the biographical description of one of the presenters:
Louise Azzarello, B.A., B.Ed., M.A. is a media educator working from an interdisciplinary and equity framework. Her M.A. thesis, Spectacle & Discipline: Regulating Female Bodies through Dance explored the notions of body regulation in Western Theatrical Dance from a feminist social and political perspective. She has taught in a number of tdsb schools working with marginalized/racilaized youth and designing curriculum that embeds issues of equity and social justice.However, the tone takes a more disturbing turn when looking at the works of the keynote speaker, James R. Kincaid.
As summed up by the author Mark Spilka, Kincaid's work, Child Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture, is a mission to "persuade us that erotic child-loving is after all okay, as long as it involves other people's children and is never consummated."
It could be the reactionary prude in me, but that's really not the attitude I would like to see fostered in people entrusted with the care of innocent young children. Were I to attend the symposium, no doubt I'd learn my concerns are silly overreactions since, according to Professor Kincaid, that whole "childhood innocence" thing is just an artificial construct developed by Victorians.
Indeed, in another of his books, Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting, Kincaid notes ''the subject of the child's sexuality and erotic appeal, along with our evasion of what we have done by bestowing those gifts, now structures our culture.''
Maybe that's true if your culture is centered at places like OISE, but not necessarily for the rest of us.
If all this is upsetting to you, undoubtedly Professor Kincaid could explain that this is all a way of stimulating your own sexual tantalization.
The fear that sex might corrupt them is sexually exciting for us. ''We denounce it all loudly but never have done with it,'' he writes. ''Indignation comes to seem almost like pleasure.''OISE is a faculty whose graduates were instrumental in formulating the extremely controversial curriculum that was widely condemned for exposing highly sexualized content to young children. An attempt to introduce that curriculum by OISE professor and accused child pornographer Ben Levin, when he was Ontario's Deputy Education Minister, was withdrawn by then-Premier Dalton McGuinty following the outcry from outraged parents across the province.
That setback clearly hasn't dissuaded OISE from pursuing its deplorable agenda. They could be counting on the public having a short attention span. They may have calculated that when it comes to the way children are educated, the public really isn't paying that much attention at all.
Sadly, as we can see from their ongoing travesties that continue with impunity, on that final point, they could be right.
UPDATE: The following brief excerpt is from Professor Kincaid's book, Erotic Innocence:
We might try to manage without stark essentialist ideas of sexuality and sexual behavior, see what might be done by positing a range of erotic feelings with and toward children. Rather than assuming that such feelings exist in only two forms - not at all or out of control - perhaps we could learn something of their differences, manner of expression and effects, allowing them a complex and dynamic relativity.(from pgs 24-25)
It's important to be plain about this and not try to counter erotic attraction to children with nothing stronger than nostalgia and talk about how sweet children are. For one thing, nostalgia and sweetness are not antidotes to eroticism but ingredients of it; for another, they are trifles. I believe most adults in our culture feel some measure of erotic attraction to children and the childlike; I do not know how it could be otherwise.