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Rethinking Childhood

Rethinking Childhood

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Rethinking Childhood
    Book Description:

    InRethinking Childhood, twenty contributors, coming from the disciplines of anthropology, government, law, psychology, education, religion, philosophy, and sociology, provide a multidisciplinary view of childhood by listening and understanding the ways children shape their own futures. Taken together, these essays develop a new paradigm for understanding childhood as children experience these years. This paradigm challenges readers to develop fresh ways of listening to children's voices that enable both children and adults to cross the barriers of age, experience, and stereotyping that make communication difficult.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5832-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: The Imperative and the Process for Rethinking Childhood
    (pp. 1-22)

    Our attempt in this book to rethink childhood is based on assumptions about why such a project is necessary at this point in history and about how such a project can be carried out. Once our purpose and methodology were determined, we could find the common underlying themes of our work, could decide on the kinds of questions that need to be asked, and could reflect on what exactly we are looking at when we study children and childhood.

    The need for rethinking childhood grows out of both our social ambivalence about children and the particular problems children face in...

  6. Part I Children’s Voice and Agency

    • Chapter 1 Understanding Childhood from an Interdisciplinary Perspective: Problems and Potentials
      (pp. 25-37)

      Writing of his life growing up in Russia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the novelist Maxim Gorky ([1913] 1974) describes how, at the age of eleven, dispatched by his grandfather to go out into the world to make his own living, he became an apprentice shop-boy in the shoe trade. Elsewhere, describing everyday life in the French village of Montaillou in the fourteenth century, the historian Roy Ladurie reveals that at twelve years of age a young male peasant would become a “professional keeper of flocks,” the responsibility of looking after flocks being “an age-old feature of...

    • Chapter 2 Children as Philosophers
      (pp. 38-53)

      Steve, three years old, watched his father eating a banana.

      “You don’t like bananas, do you, Steve?” commented the father.

      “No,” agreed Steve; “if you wuz me, you wouldn’t like bananas either.”

      Steve reflected a moment. He began to look puzzled. “Then who would be the daddy?” he asked, simply.

      Steve’s puzzle is profound. It is a puzzle about what philosophers call “counterfactual identicals.” If I were you, who would you be? If George Bush were Al Gore, who would be president now? If Bach were Beethoven, would great romantic symphonies have appeared already in the early eighteenth century, or...

    • Chapter 3 Children as Theologians
      (pp. 54-68)

      Mark had just turned nine years old during the summer of 1973, but his was not the summer of other third graders. Bald and ashen, he lay in bed in Chicago’s celebrated Children’s Memorial Hospital diagnosed with leukemia. He had just returned to the hospital after a furlough day at home where he had celebrated his birthday, the one that would be his last, with his family and a few friends. His excitement almost counteracted his exhaustion and returned some color to his cheeks as he told of the festivities. The high point had been his birthday gift, the dog...

    • Chapter 4 Action, Voice, and Identity in Children’s Lives
      (pp. 69-84)

      Many readers will find the concepts of action (or agency) and voice to be unremarkable. Parents and teachers commonly describe two-year-olds as assertive, four-year-olds as stubborn or unpredictable, middle-school children as passionate for sports or music or literature, and adolescents as having a direction or mission in life. Thus the purpose of this chapter is not to make the case for action and voice, which are widely accepted, but rather to show that there are different kinds of action and voice. When we describe children’s lives, we implicitly draw on four primary metaphors: the metaphors of essence, organism, machine, and...

  7. Part II Voice and Agency in Education

    • Chapter 5 “Do You Know You Have Worms on Your Pearls?” Listening to Children’s Voices in the Classroom
      (pp. 87-103)

      Public education in the United States is immersed in a standards movement. Curriculum and instructional standards and assessment measures are current and recurring themes in the national and local discourse and debate. School systems throughout the country are reforming their curricular and instructional practices to align them more directly with national and state standards in the language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and other disciplines.

      A close reading of the national standards in each of the academic disciplines reveals that all these standards have a similar, overarching goal: to prepare students to be critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers...

    • Chapter 6 Cultural Integrity and Schooling Outcomes of African American Children from Low-Income Backgrounds
      (pp. 104-120)

      How can schools better serve children from diverse backgrounds to enhance educational outcomes so that diversity becomes an asset rather than a liability?¹ In this chapter, we seek answers to this question by focusing on how to create resilient schools. Such schools function well, yield more educational success stories than not, and thrive because they produce academic talent; and they do so even though the children served may be from low-income backgrounds, dwell in inner-city communities, or come from ethnic/minority/cultural groups who historically have not fared well in public schools. The quest for resilient schools is not new. Indeed, calls...

    • Chapter 7 “We Have These Rules Inside”: The Effects of Exercising Voice in a Children’s Online Forum
      (pp. 121-138)

      The discussion of the role of computational technology in children’s development has become increasingly polarized. On the one hand we find a frantic push to provide computers and Internet access in all U.S. schools; this push is based on a belief that computer literacy will increasingly be required for success in the job market (Committee on Information Technology Literacy 1999). On the other hand, we find a frantic push-back to place a “moratorium” on children’s access to computers (Cordes and Miller 2000); this push-back is based in part on a belief that the negative effects of computers on children have...

  8. Part III Voice and Agency within Families

    • Chapter 8 Advertising and Marketing to Children in the United States
      (pp. 141-153)

      Radio, television, websites, video games, toys, music videos, computer games, clothing, magazines, billboards, ads on neighborhood streets, at bus stops, in buses, in classrooms, in community centers, in malls, in doctors’ offices, at supermarket checkouts, in elevators, in movie theaters, in airports, at ATM machines, and more. At home, at school, at play, and at work, children today march through their lives to a steady drumbeat of advertising and marketing.

      From the moment they wake up in the morning until the minute they lay their heads on their pillows at night, most children in the United States are exposed, through...

    • Chapter 9 Children’s Lives in and out of Poverty
      (pp. 154-169)

      In 1997, almost 20 percent of children in the United States lived below the poverty level; 10 percent of children in two-parent families and 49 percent of children in female-headed families were poor. Proportionally, more of these children were of color (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics 2001), and children of female-headed families were more likely to have longer periods of being poor (Kennedy, Jung, and Orland 1986).

      Most of the research on childhood poverty is quantitative, and of the few qualitative studies almost none examine poverty from the perspective of the children themselves. Even when children are...

    • Chapter 10 Children of Divorce
      (pp. 170-188)

      Children’s voices, as they talk about families and what they mean, are being increasingly heard as it is realized that they have something both important and unique to say. Several factors have contributed to an increasing sensitivity to their voices. One is a radical change in views of childhood, most recently articulated by sociologists of childhood (see for example Archard 1993; James and Richards 1999). Allied with this change is a focus on the history of childhood by historians and historiographers who have illuminated the radically different and changing ways in which children and childhood have been constructed (Cunningham 1995;...

  9. Part IV Voice and Agency in Neighborhoods and Sports

    • Chapter 11 Negotiating the Dance: Social Capital from the Perspective of Neighborhood Children and Adults
      (pp. 191-206)

      This episode, recorded in ethnographic field notes during a study of the impact of neighborhood conditions on child well-being, is the cautionary tale with which we begin. A child is in need of help. Numerous adults stop to offer such help. Thus, one expects the picture-perfect scenario of a child in need assisted by vigilant adult neighbors. However, instead of gratefully accepting help, the child refuses. Why? Was she in violation of parental rules regarding her play in the neighborhood? Did she fear that acceptance of assistance would lead to parental awareness of the “transgression”? Was she simply embarrassed by...

    • Chapter 12 Are We Having Fun Yet?
      (pp. 207-226)

      When I asked fourth- through eighth-grade recreational players why they played basketball, not a single player said, “I started playing because I wanted to be socialized” or “because I wanted to learn the value of healthy competition and teamwork.” These are adult reasons, the kind we give at coaches’ meetings, in our talk with other adults, in our articles and pamphlets about the value of sport, and in our well-intended speeches to players. If you ask kids why they play, they are most likely to talk about how much fun it is.¹ And even those kids who don’t play to...

  10. Part V Voice and Agency as Legal Rights

    • Chapter 13 Re-Visioning Rights for Children
      (pp. 229-243)

      The termchildren’srights presents a paradox. In the U.S. system, rights usually belong to an autonomous party capable of exercising an informed and independent choice. But children are not fully autonomous. The infant’s dependence is a fact of nature. Adding to children’s essential dependence, Americans have created a layer of cultural dependence that masks children’s actual abilities. We have constructed the life stage called childhood as a special time during which the young must be protected from their own immaturity and sheltered from adult experiences and adult responsibilities. Legal concepts like minority status and the age of majority reflect...

    • Chapter 14 Recognizing the Roots: Children’s Identity Rights
      (pp. 244-262)

      As “identity” has emerged as a significant category of meaning in modern life, the idea has also emerged that it should be protected by a variety of legally articulated “identity rights.” Both groups and individuals have mobilized to assert rights to recognition of and protection for identity. Indeed, a significant number of international human rights documents now specifically endorse a variety of as yet undefined identity rights, urging signatory states to take steps to protect different facets of personal, national, and cultural or communal identity. This drive to establish identity rights as a distinct legal and political category has emerged...

    • Resources for Further Research: A Road Map for Surfing the Internet
      (pp. 263-274)

      This listing of Internet sites is intended to provide readers with a convenient and organized means of accessing Internet resources useful for further study of the ideas, issues, themes, and perspectives in this book. The relative ease with which the vast quantity of material available on the web can be obtained is a powerful invitation. The Internet supplements library research and is a valuable resource for those without access to a research library. At the least, Internet sites conveniently provide immediate information about recent developments and texts of studies, reports, and reviews. One caveat should be kept in mind: the...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 275-278)
  12. Index
    (pp. 279-292)