Juliet Kinchin points to the unburdened optimism of the child as a beacon of modernist thought:
Children, with their perception uncluttered by the baggage of social and cultural conventions, have long symbolized the visionary modernist focus of the future. In this respect they belong at the heart of utopian thought, and they inspire us to demand a different, better, brighter future.
We can also see the class basis of the emerging concept of childhood in the system ofchild education that came in along with it. If childhood was only an abstract concept,then the modern school was the institution that built it into reality. (New concepts aboutthe life cycle in our society are organized around institutions, e.g., adolescence, aconstruction of the nineteenth century, was built to facilitate conscription for militaryservice.)
‘Discipline’ was the keynote to modern schooling, much more importantfinally than the imparting of learning or information. For to them discipline was aninstrument of moral and spiritual improvement, adapted less for its efficiency in directinglarge groups to work in common than for its intrinsic moral and ascetic value. That is,repression itself was adopted as a spiritual value.Thus, the function of the school became ‘child-rearing’, complete with disciplinary ‘childpsychology’. Ariès quotes the Regulations for Boarders at Port-Royal, a forerunner of ourteacher training manuals:A close watch must be kept on the children, and they must never be leftalone anywhere, whether they are ill or in good health … this constantsupervision should be exercised gently and with a certain trustfulnesscalculated to make them think one loves them, and that it is only to enjoytheir company that one is with them. This will make them love theirsupervision rather than fear it. (Italics mine) Shulamith Firestone The Dialectic of Sex | 1970This passage, written in 1612, already exhibits the mincing tone characteristic of modernchild psychology, and the peculiar distance – at that time rehearsed, but by now quiteunconscious – between adults and childrenThe precocity so common in the Middle Ages and for some time after has dwindledalmost to zero in our own time. Today, for example, Mozart’s feats as a child composerare hardly credible; in his own time he was not so unusual. Many children played andwrote music seriously then and also engaged in a good many other ‘adult’ activities. Ourpiano lessons of today are in no way comparable. They are, in fact, only indications ofchild oppression – in the same way that the traditional’ women’s accomplishments’ suchas embroidery are superficial activity telling us only about the subjugation of the child toadult whims. And it is significant that these ‘talents’ are more often cultivated in girls thanin boys; when boys study piano it is most often because they are exceptionally gifted orbecause their parents are musical.What seems most clear to me from this description is this: that before the advent of thenuclear family and modern schooling, childhood was as little as possible distinct fromadult life. The child learned directly from the adults around him, emerging as soon as hewas able into adult society.In summary, with the onset of the child-centred nuclear family, an institution becamenecessary to structure a ‘childhood’ that would keep children under the jurisdiction ofparents as long as possible. Schools multiplied, replacing scholarship and a practicalapprenticeship with a theoretical education, the function of which was to ‘discipline’children rather than to impart learning for its own sake. Thus it is no surprise that modernschooling retards development rather than escalating it. By sequestering children away from the adult world – adults are, after all, simply larger children with worldly experience – and by artificially subjecting them to an adult/child ratio of one to twenty-plus, how could the final effect be other than a levelling of the group to a median (mediocre) intelligence?Asif this weren’t enough, after the eighteenth century a rigid separation and distinction ofages took place (‘grades’). Children were no longer able to learn even from older andwiser children. They were restricted in most of their waking hours to a chronologicalfinely-drawn11 peer group, and then spoon-fed a ‘curriculum’. Such a rigid gradationincreased the levels necessary for the initiation into adulthood and made it hard for achild to direct his own pace. His learning motivation became outer-directed andapproval-conscious, a sure killer of originality. Children, once seen simply as youngerpeople – the way we now see a half-grown puppy in terms of its future maturity – werenow a clear-cut class with its own internal rankings, encouraging competition: the’ biggestguy on the block’, the ‘brainiest guy in school’, etc. Children were forced to think inhierarchical terms, all measured by the supreme ‘When I grow up …’ In this the growth ofthe school reflected the outside world which was becoming increasingly segregatedaccording to age and class.Women and children were now in the same lousy boat. Theiroppressions began to reinforce one another. To the mystique of the glories of childbirth,the grandeur of ‘natural’ female creativity, was now added a new mystique about theglories of childhood itself and the ‘creativity’ of child-rearing. (‘Why, my dear, what couldbe more creative than raising a child ?’) By now people have forgotten what history hasproven: that ‘raising’ a child is tantamount to retarding his development. The best way toraise a child is to LAY OFF.Like, why were their parents beingexploited in the first place: what is anybody doing down in that coal mine? What we oughtto be protesting, rather than that children are being exploited just like adults, is that adultscan be so exploited. We need to start talking not about sparing children for a few yearsfrom the horrors of adult life, but about eliminating those horrors.In a society free ofexploitation, children could be like adults (with no exploitation implied) and adults couldbe like children (with no exploitation implied). The privileged slavery (patronage) thatwomen and children undergo is not freedom. For self-regulation is the basis of freedom,and dependence the origin of inequality.The child is forced to go to them: the test is that he would never go of his own accord.And though enlightened educators have devised whole systems of inherently interesting disciplined activities to lure and bribe the child into an acceptance of school, these can never fully succeed, for a school that existed solely to serve the curiosity of children on their ownterms and by their own direction would be a contradiction in terms – as we have seen,the modern school in its structural definition exists to implement repression.The child spends most of his waking hours in this coercive structure or doing homeworkfor it. The little time that is left is often taken up with family chores and duties. He isforced to sit through endless family arguments, or, in some ‘liberal’ families, ‘familycouncils’. There are relatives at whom he must smile, and often church services that hemust attend. In the little time left, at least in our modern middle class, he is ‘supervised’,blocking the development of initiative and creativity: his choice of play materials isdetermined for him (toys and games), his play area is defined (gyms, parks, playgrounds,camp-sites); often he is limited in his choice of playmates to children of the same economicclass as himself, and in the suburbs, to his schoolmates, or children of his parents’ friends;he is organized into more groups than he knows what to do with (Boy Scouts, CubScouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, camps, after-school clubs and sports)….
The only children who have the slightest chance of escape from this supervised nightmare– but less and less so – are children of the ghettos and the working class where themedieval conception of open community – living on the street – still lingers. That is,historically, as we have seen, many of these processes of childhood came late to the lowerclass, and have never really stuck. Lower-class children tend to come from largeimmediate families composed of people of many different ages. But even when they don’t,often there are half-brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, or aunts, in aconstantly changing milieu of relatives. Individual children are barely noticed, let alonesupervised: children are often allowed to roam far from home or play out on the streetsuntil all hours.
@brainpickerEvery time I read this letter by Ted Hughes (b. 8/17/1930) about nurturing the inner child in each of us, I weep brainpickings.org/2012/09/12/ted…Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self,
the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’. But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It’s an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child.
[..]And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, .. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation[..]that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears. And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources — not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.
The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated.And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
CityLab (@CityLab) tweeted at 6:44 AM – 10 Feb 2018 :
How to design cities for children https://t.co/3of8FbxcnNhttps://t.co/GxNk4U0aNG (http://twitter.com/CityLab/status/962321386764144642?s=17)Not only will better design help these children thrive and become healthier, more successful adults, but planning for children, with their more limited range and unhurried pace, means simultaneously planning for other vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and the elderly. And the well-being of children can have a way of uniting policymakers who disagree on most everything else.Everyday freedoms refer to children’s ability to travel safely on foot or bike and without an adult in their neighborhood—to school, to a rec center, to a park. The “popsicle test,” in which a child can walk from their home to a store, buy a popsicle, and return home before it melts, is one way to measure this ability. Children’s infrastructure means the network of spaces and streets that can make a city child-friendly and encourage these everyday freedoms.
Strategies for how to ensure such child-friendly design focus on walkability and decreasing the dominance of the automobile. The authors recommend interventions like wider sidewalks and protected cycle lanes and footbridges, and point to examples such as Barcelona’s “superblocks”—square sections of the city where cars are only permitted on perimeter roads, leaving large chunks of space free for pedestrians and cyclists.Splashy downtown megaprojects are typically less meaningful amenities for urban families. “When we create big parks and the big museum in the middle of a city, only certain kids use it,” said Michael Feigelson, executive director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which develops and shares knowledge about early childhood development. “But if we build smaller and more locally, all neighborhoods benefit.”
AlternativesToSchool (@AltToSchool) tweeted at 5:41 AM – 8 Jul 2018 :
The (in)famous anarchist Emma Goldman wrote an essay called The Child and Its Enemies in 1906. It’s a good read even 112 years later. https://t.co/SAzYYGGH7A(http://twitter.com/AltToSchool/status/1015923825316450305?s=17)
every institution of our day, the family, the state, our moral codes, sees in every strong, beautiful, uncompromising personality a deadly enemy; therefore every effort is being made to cramp human emotion and originality of thought in the individual into a straight jacket from its earliest infancy.. or to shape every human being according to one pattern; not into a well rounded individuality, but into a patient work slave, professional automaton, tax paying citizen or righteous moralist..if one, nevertheless, meets w real spontaneity (which, by the way, is a rare treat), it is not due to our method of rearing or educating the child.. such a discovery should be celebrated.. it must be considered a miracle if it retains its strength and beauty and survives the various attempts at crippling that which is most essential to it
since every effort in our ed life seems to be directed toward making of the child a being foreign to itself, it must of necessity produce individuals foreign to one another, and in everlasting antagonism w each other..
facts and data.. only a great handicap to a true understanding of the human soul and its place i the world..searching for human beings who do not measure ideas and emotions w the yardstick of expediency..radical parents, though emancipated from the belief of ownership in the human soul, still cling tenaciously to the notion that they own the child.. and that they have the right to exercise their authority over it…
if ed should really mean anything at all, it must insist upon the free growth and development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. in this way alone can we hope for the free individual and eventually also for free community, which shall make interference and coercion of human growth impossible..