Prepped for Pervs

Why we welcome the Sanduskys of the world into our children's lives

It was just another ripple in the wave of stories about pedophiles that’s been washing over us: a local man, Kenneth Schneider, 46, founder of a nonprofit called the Apogee Foundation, sentenced to 15 years in prison for having sex with a minor. The Apogee Foundation—you can still visit its website—ostensibly nourished talented young artists. Schneider’s victim was a student at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. When the boy was 12, his parents, who could no longer afford to pay his tuition, let him move into an apartment with Schneider, who provided financial assistance and proceeded to engage in a sexual relationship with him for the next year.

How could they? you think—and then you think, How couldn’t they? It must have seemed like the chance of a lifetime to those parents. We’re all so anxious for our children to succeed, for the wider world to recognize the talents, the abilities, the specialness we see in them. When someone does, we’re so grateful that our innate guardedness dissolves: He sees it! He sees what we see in our boy! That validation feeds our vanity. How could it not? Our children are extensions of ourselves. Their genes are ours; that specialness is ours as well.

The extent to which we’ve come to … well, worship our children—to which we’ve lined the walls of our homes, which once bore tribute to ancestors past, with monuments to them—is a little astonishing. It’s not the kids’ fault. It has something to do, perhaps, with having smaller families, and therefore investing more into the few offspring we have. It has to do, too, with our sense that the world is an increasingly dark and dangerous place, filled with Nittany Lions and tigers and bears. We’d serve our kids better, though, by ratcheting up our vigilance whenever any other adult takes an interest in them. After all, no matter how wonderful our children are, they’re only children. They need us to remember that.