Vital Signs

The SLA and the Child Experts

If there ever was a case to be made against the therapeutic approach to childrearing—packaged as “parenting” by three decades of child psychologists—the pathetic image of four aging, 1970’s-era radicals, who gave themselves the silly name “Symbionese Liberation Army,” was it.  I cannot help but wonder how differently the lives of Michael Bortin, William Harris, Kathleen Soliah (a.k.a. Sara Jane Olson), and Emily Montague might have turned out had they been blessed with an earlier, less “understanding” generation of parents—adults not afraid to put their foot down on youthful excess.

Today, of course, the war against authority has come full circle.  The kiddie subculture of popularity as it first appeared in the mid-1950’s has morphed from Gidget to gross-out and gangsterism.  And it extends to ever-younger age groups—with ever-deadlier consequences.  A child’s smallest whim, no matter how fleeting or ludicrous, is deemed worthy of serious debate.  Little Johnny wants to flush his teddy bear down the commode?  Let’s discuss it.  

The SLA bunch came of age in that period between the 50’s and the 70’s, when children were first intoxicated with their own importance.  Bortin, Harris, Soliah, Montague, and James Kilgore, their colleague in mayhem, were nothing more than immature, overgrown teen-agers...

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