The Fallacy of Banning Children From Museums and Theatres

2 Apr
Government shutdown image courtesy of Reddit

Government shutdown image courtesy of Reddit

It’s as we’ve feared; Other People’s Children are just terrible. Look at them, misbehaving in museums and being disruptive in theatres instead of silently appreciating the best of the UK’s culture like us uptight adults. We are in danger of being wiped out by a cuddly wave of prepubescent anarchy, there’s agony in the aisles, there’s cursing in the cinema and there’s panic in the stalls! Clearly, the only solution is to send them to theatre etiquette lessons! Let’s put age restrictions on all the museums and galleries! Then we’ll send them to bed without any dinner! That’ll teach the little uncultured sods.

Before the powers that be actually do decide to BAN ALL CHILDREN FROM EVERYTHING we need to lead by example and start by dealing with the adults that continually disrupt performances, screenings, exhibitions and annoy fellow patrons with shoddy, selfish behaviour, because the arts should be for all; not for just for a select and privileged few.

If children are merely small people with no sense of decorum, then surely adults are merely overstretched toddlers that can’t plead ignorance for their actions. They not only should know better, they do know better, yet, some of them continue to flout the rules. So then, if the problem also applies to adults, then why aren’t we calling for them to be given etiquette lessons, or muting rules that would see them banned from all cultural institutions? Because they have something that children don’t: money.

More cash means more spending, which means more investment and more profit, so museums, theatres, cinemas and other cultural attractions can stay open and accessible to all.

The thing about kids is that they are in actual fact, the world’s best critics. They’re brutally honest, easily bored and they’re not afraid of telling you so. We’ve all sat near an excitable child in a theatre or a cinema who excitedly chattered along to what they were watching, acting as an unofficial narrator to the piece, usually to their parents’ utter embarrassment and whispered pleas of “Will you be quiet?!”

This is what children do. They test boundaries so they want to know what they can get away with. If they discover that they can get away with doing something, then they’ll continue doing it until someone puts them right. Children don’t know that it’s not proper to climb a piece of modern art worth millions. They see something that looks like it can be climbed, and unless someone stops them they will attempt to climb it. The parent or guardian’s role is to teach their child about boundaries and how to behave properly in public, because funnily enough, kids aren’t born with any idea of boundaries or ‘proper behaviour’. This isn’t an easy task, but that’s because parenthood is hard.

No matter what happens, children will always be awful to someone, somewhere in some way. But banning children outright from all theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries and the like goes against every reason they were created. These cultural institutions should be accessible and open to all, not just to the elite.

The arts are the legacy that we can leave the next generation of enquiring minds and passionate creators. That includes the youngest people in our society and also the overstretched toddlers that act like them.

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2 Responses to “The Fallacy of Banning Children From Museums and Theatres”

  1. Karen April 2, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I agree, Amy. Many adults who are passionate about theatre, museums, classical music, ballet, or whatever can trace their passion back to a memorable childhood visit.

    The only thing I would add to what you wrote is: parents, you probably know your child’s interests better than anyone else does. Please choose wisely, and take them to see something they do at least have a reasonable chance of being interested in, as opposed to something you’d LIKE them to be interested in. For instance, if you’re taking them to see a musical or a concert, then get hold of a recording, play it at home first, and see whether it appeals to your child. It might also be an opportunity to practise sitting still and being quiet for the duration.

    I once sat through a performance of Iolanthe with a young child behind me kicking my seat the whole time and whining “I’m boooooored.” It wouldn’t surprise me if Mum enticed her along with “It’s about fairies, darling!” – and if that was the case, no wonder she was disappointed and bored.

    • trashtaylor April 3, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      You’re absolutely right, Karen. I think some parents are guilty of thinking, “Oh, because I like this thing, therefore, my child will too!” But children have their own opinions, interests etc, so it’s really important to listen to them.

      Of course saying that, I’ve been guilty of this, as being a lifelong fan of Labyrinth, I decided to show it to my eldest niece when she was younger. She was not a fan. More Bowie for me, I suppose!

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