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Lecture 2

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Child and Youth Studies
Rebecca Raby

1 Week 2: Constructing Childhood January 17, 2013 Main points • There are diverse and sometimes conflicting beliefs about childhood. • There are implications to various beliefs about childhood. • Discourse is a concept used to understand childhood as a social construct. What do we believe about childhood? • learning, innocence, developing, happiness, rowdy, impressionable, play, honest, naïve, trusting, curious, vulnerable, dependent, adventurous Innocence A) Defining innocence -linked to fantasy, playfulness, magic, etc -sometimes adults long to be kids -academics linked to innocence B) History -Link to Enlightenment -popularization of the topic of child innocence -Jean Jacques Rousseau: “Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil.” -children born into the world good, children had a special connection to nature -19 century expansion to middle and working classes - Idealizing innocence -people foster and pro-long the innocence that children posses -E.g. special time -E.g. fostering and prolonging C) Some consequences or effects • Protecting children -protect children from sex education to remain innocent -Ex. Ignorance -Ex. Vulnerability -may not allow children to play alone outside because they are young and seen as vulnerable -Ex. Victimhood -working at a young age -Can protection increase children’s vulnerability? 2 What might be some concerns with idealizing childhood innocence? • Hides challenges in children’s lives • unable to communicate with others when so young and seen as inferior to parents/adults • Protection can increase vulnerability • not always provide children with opportunities to master the world (ex. Not letting children cross the street by themselves. How will children safely learn how to cross the street if they can’t do it by themselves?) • Problematic eroticization of innocence • representation of young women as little girls (ex. school uniform) Complicating innocence A) Consumption • Using innocence as a marketing tool, using children in marketing, etc • Thomas, Susan Gregory. 2007. Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. • Talks about how we use children to market and how marketing is directed to children • Consumption done through early video • Branding makes children vulnerable (bothers people because people want children to appear innocent) B) Dangerous, troublesome, manipulative, evil • Historical: Thomas Hobbes • Believes children are inheritably evil, children are born evil, require strict discipline of parents to get out of bad, “beat the devil out of them” • Selectively applied: ex. street kids are seen as more dangerous and vulnerable compared to other children - Children Underground -about children in Romania -indifference from adults, adults see children as annoying and difficult -Do you support them living on the streets or do you tell them to leave? - Hecht, Tobias. 1998. Home in the street: street children of Northeast Brazil. -street children are not seen through the lens of innocence -haven’t lost innocence -innocence comes along with class C) Children as adult-like • Adult-like abilities 3 • Ex. Harry Potter knew what was going on meanwhile adults did not • Ex. Home Alone movie- the boy is competent of being home alone without adults • Celebrated, children seen as adult-like can be seen as a great thing, ex. in media • Lamented, ex. By Neil Postman (1982) The Disappearance of Childhood • His argument is that children are now adult-like and he is sad about the loss of child innocence
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