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By Theodore Dalrymple

Spoilt Rotten the 1st biting research of our obsession with sentimentality and why it is going to wreck us. complete description

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Sample text

The loosening of the bonds between the parents of children, however they were forged, has had disastrous consequences both for individuals and society. So, obviously, one would need to be a trained intellectual to be able to deny them. In the area in which I worked, in a city in which, incidentally, most social indicators such as income and unemployment were more or less average for the country as a whole, it was almost unknown for a child to be living in a household with both of its biological parents.

In summary, then, the sentimental view of childhood and relations between the sexes has the following consequences. It leaves many children unable to read properly and perform simple calculations. This in turn results in enclosing such children in the social conditions in which they find themselves at birth, for an inability to read, and a poor basic education, are almost (though perhaps not quite) impossible to rectify later in life. Not only does this mean that talent may be wasted and intelligent children and adults left deeply frustrated, but it lowers the general level of culture of society.

Let us now return to the question of childhood in Britain. Are there any intelligible reasons why children and their parents who, by the standards of all previous generations, some of them not so very long ago,2 enjoy excellent conditions of physical health and access to undreamed of sources of knowledge and entertainment, should be anxiety-ridden, aggressive and violent? There are, and many of them have their origin in sentimentality, the cult of feeling. The Romantics emphasised the innocence and inherent goodness of children, compared with the moral degradation of adults.

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