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University of Toronto Scarborough
Health Studies
Jason Ramsay

LECTURE 1: The Concept of Childhood May 07, 2012 -childhood as a cultural artifact: -unlike infancy, childhood is a social/cultural artifact -infancy is a biologically driven event with a genetically timed duration -childhood is a different story it can be longer or shorter depending upon several factors -infancy= genetically determined period of time; childhood = culturally determined period of time -the natural history of childhood: -Neil postman: The Disappearance of Childhood -Greeks had no real world for child in the ancient world they did incent schooling, but childrens lives were precarious -Plato speaks of disciplining children trough threats and blows, like a piece of warped wood (Protagoras) -little concept of child as a category separate from adult in the Middle Ages -what constitutes childhood as a concept: -Neil Postman (The Disappearance of Childhood): -the concept of SHAME (defined culturally, not individually) -children are defined as a class of people who must be sheltered from adult secrets, specifically, sexual secrets -this connects to the general concept of children as a group that requires Special Protection from adults -Roman Law: Protection: -Rome A.D. 374 -Law forbidding infanticide (exposure) -until then, the practice was acceptable, if the child was deformed, female, or in some other way undesirable -often used as a form of retroactive birth control (before the advent of orphanages) The Middle Ages -fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarians decline in the concept of childhood -Postman points out 4 points regarding the middle ages and the concept of the child: -literacy disappears -pedagogy (method and practice of teaching) declines -shame disappears (replaced by guilt as a result of a hard Christian society) -childhood disappears -disappearance of literacy: -literacy did not completely disappear -social literacy (i.e. conversation skills) disappeared for ~1000years -craft literacy remained (monks and noblemen scribes) -reading speed even among the literate diminished significantly (re: calligraphic fonts made letters opaque) -implications of illiteracy: -as a result, all business affairs were conducted aurally -all social interactions were face to face -entertainment was aural (minstrels) -knowledge was acquired by ear all was talk and song -implications for childhood: -oral language develops much faster than written literacy -childhood shtrank down to the early years -if you could speak the Kings English you were an adult adult at age 7 -in a literate world, children must become adults through learning to read, as there are mysteries and secrets -implications (illustrated by Brueghel) -no culture of shame separating adults from children -Catholic church deemed age 7 to be when on can tell between right and wrong -the word child expressed kinship instead of age -no primary schools -not much of a concept of pedagogy as the Romans or Greeks had -paints children as miniature adults -what do the Breughel paintings show? -Postman argues that they show: -unwillingness to hide anything from children -absence of general civility (notwithstanding that they were pious and religious) -did not have the same concept of private space as we do -not repelled by human behaviour and odours -not ashamed of bodily functions -no evidence of toilet training for children -medieval childhood sexuality: -no evidence that children were considered off limits -girls were married off and pregnant at very young ages by todays standards -no sense of sexual interference being wrong or immoral -parenting in the middle ages: -high rate of infant mortality -parents did not/could not have the same level of emotional commitment as us -children not mentioned in wills until the 14 century The Renaissance th -roughly the 14-16 centuries -advent of the printing press -literate revolution across the world -diminishing of feudal system, rise of middle class and mercantile industries, rise of machinery -suddenly, one has to spend some time learning, whilst one matures, in order to take part fully in human commerce -but children were still viewed as mini-adults -one-third of children died in Renaissance but it was the norm when Shakespeare s son died from the plague, Shakespeare spoke out about his grief and incorporated his grief into his play King John gild the lily Technology and Childhood -how did technology change childhood?: -Harold Innis (precursor to Marshall McLuhan -Innis argued that there are two kinds of media: -time binding media: written, made to last -space binding media: oral, now, radio, etc. -three effects of media and technology-technologies alter the structure of interests -alter the structure of symbols -alter the nature of community -McLuhan, Olson and others have argued that the advent of print literacy changed the structure of our thought -McLuhan: Modern man traded an ear for an eye -Marshall McLuhan The Gutenberg Galaxy: -...[I]f a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent -David Olson The World on Paper: -to put simply, writing has an impact on cognition through culture, a culture of writing -literacy is a technology that fundamentally changes how people think -what did we get?: -business no longer only oral and face to face -entertainment could be private -the advent of pornographers, ribald diarists,, satirists (Rabelais sold more copies of Gargantua and Pantagruel in 10 years than the bible had ever sold, to that point) -what developed to give rise to childhood: -the advent of private life and entertainment -the advent of keeping a diary -a sense that the individual transcended the group -a division between those who
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