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Normalizing the Ideal

Normalizing the Ideal: Psychology, Schooling, and the Family in Postwar Canada

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Normalizing the Ideal
    Book Description:

    Postwar insecurity about the stability of family life became a platfrorm to elevate the role of psychologists in society, Their ideal of ?normal? as the healthy goal for society, marginalizing and silencing those who did not fit the model.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7776-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    On 6 March 1946 Mrs M.W. Riley of the Deep River Women’s Club contacted the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) for some assistance. The number of young children in Deep River, Ontario, she wrote, was ‘staggering’ and the club wished to provide interested mothers with a ‘lengthy list of books and publications on child psychology.’ She asked Dr Carl (Roger) Myers, then secretary of the CPA, to send a comprehensive list of suitable titles the club might purchase for the community. Mr G.C. Black of Ponoka, Alberta, contacted the CPA offices in 1947 for a slightly different reason. His son ‘was...

  4. 1 Prelude to the Postwar Agenda: Psychology in Early Twentieth-Century Canada
    (pp. 19-36)

    Psychology’s dual aspirations, for heightened professional status and enhanced practical relevance, evolved during the decades preceding the Second World War. In terms of professionalization, it was during this period that psychology’s claims to acceptability and respectability within the social scientific establishment were initially made. On a practical level, venues for psychology’s direct interaction with children and parents also developed in those years, as did the development and growth of psychology’s technologies of normalcy. In particular, four major pre-war developments or relationships shaped psychology’s future professional goals and priorities and helped to institute its penchant for comparison, differentiation, hierarchy, homogenization, and...

  5. 2 William Blatz and Samuel Laycock: ‘Men of Good Counsel’
    (pp. 37-51)

    Dynamic individuals who had received support from the Canadian National Committee on Mental Hygiene (CNCMH) early in their careers, such as William Blatz and Samuel Laycock, became leading figures in mental hygiene promotion by the postwar period. Blatz founded the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto and introduced Canadian parents to the psychological tenets of childrearing in the late 1920s. He served as one of the general public’s main interpreters of child psychology for the next forty years.¹ Samuel Laycock, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, was a leader in the practical application...

  6. 3 Gendering the Normal Parent and Child
    (pp. 52-79)

    In specific ways, advice offered by psychologists such as William Blatz and Samuel Laycock contributed to a postwar chorus of voices characterizing the family as thoroughly gendered. Such advice offered a conduit for acceptable ideas about normal relationships between women and men and was shaped by and, in turn, reflected the contemporary mindset regarding what properly constituted a ‘woman’ and a ‘man.’ Psychological discourse shored up traditional attitudes towards the sexes that threatened to shift significantly following the Second World War.

    In this chapter the gendered nature of psychologists’ advice and pronouncements regarding normal mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are...

  7. 4 Safeguarding the Family: Psychology and the Construction of Normalcy
    (pp. 80-96)

    The Canadian family was the target of much concern and debate for social leaders and commentators after the Second World War. Just as the enforcement of traditional gender roles reflected the anxieties and desires of those safeguarding them, attempts to entrench particular attitudes towards the family reflected the priorities and prejudices of those most affected by its swaying fortunes. The war itself provided the rhetorical springboard for many of these debates. In the writings of commentators, psychologists included, the war had a disrupting effect on a number of things, ranging from the state of the family to the relationship between...

  8. 5 Internalizing the Ideal: The Goals of Good Parenting
    (pp. 97-118)

    Writing to parents in 1950, Canadian psychologist Karl Bernhardt observed: ‘it seems strange to tell parents they need to know their child better, but it is advice which is frequently needed.’¹ Bernhardt touched upon a recurring theme in popular psychological discourse: parents should learn and appreciate the psychological needs of children on a deep, intimate level. Building normal personalities, observing the psychological needs of children, and carrying out the two main functions of parenting – disciplining and loving – represented the core of the psychologists’ program for reinterpreting the interaction between parents and children. In order to ensure that these goals were...

  9. 6 Constructing Normal Citizens? Psychology in Postwar Schools
    (pp. 119-139)

    The state of public school education in the years after the war concerned many Canadians. School systems were under a great deal of strain as they struggled to accommodate growing numbers of children in what were outdated facilities. Although increased economic prosperity held out the promise of improvement and expansion in public education, it alone could not resolve persistent and troubling questions unleashed by the Second World War. How were civilized people capable of allowing the rise of Nazism and the horror of the Holocaust? What would come of the rumblings of Soviet communism? Did the atomic bomb foreshadow the...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 140-144)

    Postwar Canadian psychologists’ advice to mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons reveals how social values determined definitions of normalcy. Psychological discourse was firmly rooted in, and reflected, the time and place in which it was created and circulated; it did not stand apart from it. Like other social commentators, psychologists fashioned the family in complex and contradictory terms: it was precarious yet indispensable, the site of both potential harm and potential good. Unlike other social commentators, they made specific demands on the family by virtue of their ‘psychologization’ of it. This discourse, therefore, offers valuable and unique insight into more than...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-174)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-196)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)