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CHYS 1F90 Lecture Notes - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Tobias Hecht, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Child and Youth Studies
Course Code
Rebecca Raby

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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
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
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
-children born into the world good, children had a special
connection to nature
-19th 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?
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What might be some concerns with idealizing childhood innocence?
Hides challenges in childrens 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
Talks about how we use children to market and how marketing is
directed to
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
- Hecht, Tobias. 1998. Home in the street: street children of Northeast
-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
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