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Lecture 2

Week 2: What is Childhood?.doc

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Child and Youth Studies
Rebecca Raby

Original Lecture = “Cambria” Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Added on notes = “Arial Narrow” Week 2: What is Childhood? Outline I/  Children as innocent  II/  Complicating innocence III/ Becoming and being IV/  Broader implications/questions V/  Discourse 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. I/  Innocence: 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 B) History • 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 Ignorance o Vulnerability = innocence  o Victimhood 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:    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  • Developing: 
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