Original Lecture = “Cambria”
Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Added on notes = “Arial Narrow”
Week 2: What is Childhood?
I/ Children as innocent
II/ Complicating innocence
III/ Becoming and being
IV/ Broader implications/questions
• 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.
A) Defining innocence
• The idea of being carefree
• Naïve – not understanding the ways of the world (ignorant to this)
• Naïve around ideas of sex and sexuality
• Related to abstract topics (religion, death, etc.)
• Also been related to keeping children outside of economic systems (work, consumers, etc.)
• Keeping children in the home rather than in the marketplace
• Magical, imaginative, and playful
• When thinking about children, “innocence” should resonate with most of us
• Link to Enlightenment
• Jean Jacques Rousseau:
o “Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the
knowledge of evil.”
o He was a philosopher who had a lot to say about children
o He believed that they are pure and innocent and life/growing up will corrupt them
o He made these ideas really popular
• 19th century expansion to middle and working classes
• Idealizing innocence
o Special time (considered very precious and special)
o Fostering and prolonging innocence
o We want to try and hold onto it for as long as possible
o When they are exposed to difficulties, it is said that they lost their innocence too soon
C) Some consequences or effects
• Protecting children
o Vulnerability = innocence
o Wanting to protect them by keeping them “in the dark” from many things
o If we do not talk to children about these things (racism, discrimination, religion, etc.), they may not be able
to cope with them later on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.
o What might be some concerns with idealizing childhood innocence?
II/ Complicating innocence:
A) Children as consumers
• Using idealized innocence as a marketing tools
• Langer, Beryl. “The Business of Branded Enchantment: Ambivalence and disjuncture in the global
children’s culture” Journal of Consumer Culture, 4(2), 251277.
• Thomas, Susan Gregory. 2007. Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and
Harms Young Minds.
• Children as consumers themselves
• Innocence can lead to a lack of skills and may seem like a great thing but isn’t always so great
• Marketing specifically to children = we have ambivalence with this
• They associate talking Elmos and fuzzy cartoon characters with education in commercials
• Neat and tidy tricks that do not directly market children
• There is ambivalence to innocence (ambivalence – the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about
something or someone)
B) Children as dangerous, troublesome, manipulative
• Historical: Thomas Hobbes
• He is also a philosopher who argued that children are not pure and innocent, but born in need of guidance because
they are inherently troubled
• It is our job to raise them right – The Lord of the Flies
• Selectively applied: eg poor and/or on the street
o Children Underground: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7FQCKJzldI
o Disturbing video about how these children are growing up
o They are disregarded by the adults around them
o They are presented as trouble, unwanted, and difficult
C) Children as adultlike
• Adultlike abilities
• Celebrated, eg in media
• Lamented, eg. By Neil Postman (1982), The Disappearance of Childhood.
o Since the advent of television, children have not been able to be innocent and ignorant
o There really is no difference between children and adulthood in regards to innocence
III/ Becoming and being
A) Children as becoming