Children in Berlin are now officially allowed to run around shrieking, breaking things and generally acting like the little monsters they are, and there is nothing the law can do about it. Gone are the halcyon days when cheering at a TV show or rolling the dice for a board game could result in a child being arrested or turned over to the nightmarish renegade tailors who traditionally discipline Germany’s youngsters. That’s right – the day has come when we cannot trust even the Germans to pass laws requiring the muzzling of this next terrible generation. Today, all is truly lost.

Advertisements

I have always taken pride in the fact that I will make a great crotchety old man one day, but I didn’t think that day would come so fast. And yet, here we are – Kids these days! Bunch of troublemakers and no-goodniks, they are, with their Lady Gaga and their cyber-bullying. But perhaps the most troubling reason that children today are awful and wrong about everything is the terrible choice they are collectively making when they get high.

According to a recent survey, inhalants have supplanted marijuana as the drug of choice for America’s young drug addicts. That’s right – huffing, the eminently safe and classy practice of putting gasoline, glue, or similarly dangerous substances in a paper bag and then hyperventilating into it like a mad man is a more popular method of getting high among twelve year olds today than good old marijuana. Inhalants have become so popular, in fact, that their trumps pot, cocaine and hallucinogens combined among American middle schoolers, demonstrating just how deficient modern twelve-year-olds are in not only common sense , but also good taste and imagination.

And while yours truly is anything but anti-drug, I am a rank sentimentalist. I cling strongly to the belief that twelve should be a care-free and magical age, marked by smoking dry grass out of crushed pop cans and drinking malt liquor bought for you by homeless guys. Huffing, meanwhile, should really wait until all your young dreams have been shattered beneath the crushing weight of reality and the sick, giddy thrill of murdering your brain cells out of spite is all you have left – call it freshman year or so. If anyone out there knows a twelve year old, please have this talk with them right now. It is your duty as a patriot.

During my misspent youth, it was something of a running joke between my hooligan friends and I that, should any of us be unfortunate enough to be saddled with the burdens of fatherhood, that the resulting child’s life would be best turned over to social experimentation in their early years.

So ill-prepared would we be for the perils of child rearing, we knew, the only responsible choice to make would be to devote the developmental stages of our offspring to the rigors of science. In this way, our hypothetical children could make some small contribution to the world, one no doubt greater than the dissipated life of crime, substance abuse, grift and general no-goodery for which any young minds turned over to our incapable hands for parenting would doubtless be bound.

As often as we heckled one another about the strange fates of our descendants, no one really believed it. And even though we demonstrated time after time that we were, in point of fact, terrible, terrible human beings, none of us really considered that, in the regrettable event that any of us ended up breeding, we would make guinea pigs of our babies.

We didn’t know anybody, in short, like MIT researcher Deb Roy. This is a guy who sticks to his motherfucking guns. The director of MIT’s Cognitive Machines group, Roy’s research has focused on language interaction in a variety of  physical and social contexts, as well as language acquisition in children. It’s this second line of thinking that led Roy to record his child’s entire life for the past three years.

The research, known as the Human Speechome Project, saw Roy install 11 cameras and 14 microphones in his home, represents the pinnacle of embarrassing home video technology, capturing every waking moment of  his son’s young life. After three years, Roy is done recording via the legion of hidden cameras throughout his home and he and his team have moved on to the work of analyzing the resulting quarter million hours of audio and video, working with advanced software  to find the points where the babbling of infants turns into genuine human language.