What a day! Where's my pipe?

Oh, the children! Won’t somebody think of the children? Social networking, sugary drinks…I’m coming to the conclusion that maybe it’s time we get rid of children entirely.

I don’t mean we should do away with anyone. I just mean change some definitions. Go to your local museum and look at portraits of people with their children from past centuries. The children look and dress and wear expressions just like their elders. They’re miniature adults.

And they were. It’s only in modern times, for example, that we started to disapprove of child labor. On the time scale of human civilization, we only recently invented childhood.

Adolescence is an even more recent creation. There wasn’t even any such word in the old days. Being a “youth” just meant being a man (today we’d say “or woman”) who happens to be young in years. Yes, we expected younger people to be more foolish than we were. But we didn’t give them a lot of special privileges on that account.

Today, these young people, these children and adolescents, are nothing more than a burden on society. It’s true in small ways and large. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with the support of Michelle Obama, wants to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces because more and more children are becoming diabetic and overweight. The result of the sudden discovery that children can’t resist sweets will be that everyone is denied treats which, while unhealthy, should be available to grownups. In the name of protecting children, “nanny state” excesses are infantilizing adults.

In a similar vein, Disney will be removing junk food ads from its children’s programs. Here we have a big corporation forced to turn down boatloads of revenue for its shareholders because one “special” class of people, the so-called “children,” are assumed to merit their own special TV programs.

Ridiculous. Back when I measured my age in single digits, all I wanted to do was watch the adult programs. To sit with the adults in the adults’ dining room. To be with, and be one of, the grownups. I couldn’t wait. What’s all this “children’s programming” kids supposedly need now? Any parent will tell you it’s just a tranquilizer drug to keep the little ones occupied, and heck, wouldn’t a job – cleaning bathrooms, say – do the same thing?

On the federal front, the government is now in a dither over how much time kids are wasting on their electronic devices. Seems that in narrowing the “digital divide” and increasing less-affluent children’s access to computers and smart phones, we’ve produced a generation of time-wasters. What a shock! Kids get new toys and spend time using them to play instead of learn. Worrying about this is the true waste of time.

Then there’s bullying. We hear about it constantly, but you can’t stop young people from harassing each other any more than you can stop adults from committing cruelties, crimes, and wars. So let’s stop wasting precious time and national resources attempting to mitigate this far-from-new “problem” and start treating kids like the little grownups they are. If they assault each other, throw ’em in a jail (making sure it’s one where the bars are extra close together). But if they’re just being mean, too bad. I survived being “bullied” in this way as a small child. So did hordes of smart, un-athletic, or “different” kids. And so can today’s young people.

Finally, look at the situation childhood has put us all in economically. By treating children as special and keeping them in school year after year after year, we’ve created huge waves of people graduating college with five or even six figures’ worth of debt they can’t pay off unless they’re lucky enough to get a great-paying job (and how many of those are there in this 1%-vs-99% economy?). A generation of half-employed, underachieving debtors – just what we need.

I could go on; instances abound. But I think I’ve made my case that we ought to do away with childhood and go back to the more practical state of past times, when youngsters had to live in the real world, defend themselves when necessary, and above all, make themselves useful members of society. Even Broadway is celebrating the hardworking newsboys of yore! So get to work, kids.