Education and Constructions of Childhood

November 8, 2012

Author: David Blundell

Edition: First

Publisher: Bloomsbury/Continuum

Pages: 224

Price: £70.00 and £22.99

ISBN: 9781441178848 and 1847060259

As politicians are fond of saying, "children are our future"; but as an educational sociologist I sometimes wonder if society has forgotten what children are there for. Indeed, I often seethe at examples of hard-sell marketing to children, especially if it involves something pink, plastic and promoting the early sexualisation of girls. I often turn to the philosophers and authors of the past who have debated the question of childhood at length, and it is for this reason that discussions about historical understandings of childhood feature prominently in my lectures.

Until now, I have mainly had to develop my own materials for students but this book will change all that, as it is a clever round-up of conceptualisations of childhood from the Renaissance onwards. Everything is there: philosophers such as Philippe Aries, Rene Descartes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant; policy and the various English Education Acts; the role of schooling in society; and the influence of famous educationalists including Maria Montessori, Johann Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel. However, rather than being exclusively chronologically sequenced, the book has six lines of enquiry running through it, namely: moral contexts; influence of theology and religion; influence of progressive ideals; contemporary connections between education, health and social care; the role of mass schooling; and childhood as "futurity".

This will enable students to gain a thorough understanding of the interconnectedness of different aspects of the literature. Chapter 6, entitled "State schooling and the construction of 'public childhoods'", is particularly well written in this regard. It provides a historical perspective on publicly funded education in England, including dame schools, compulsory schooling after the 1870 Education Act, the discovery of the "ineducable child" and connections with public health policy and empire. Copious examples from primary sources bring the past to life, and are drawn together through the synthesis of different theoretical positions. In the text, we see children moving from being active agents in their lives (such as in the writings of Rousseau) to being recipients of national policies on what constitutes the norm for children of particular ages and backgrounds.

Later in the book, the prospects for children to become enabled, active citizens in the 21st century are not painted much more brightly, and the book concludes by arguing that children's poverty, lack of social power and political subordination cannot be addressed simply through theorising. However, the book urges us on to embrace the challenge during tough times. In that sense it presents both a synopsis of the historical position of childhood, and a manifesto for the future.

Who is it for? Undergraduate and postgraduate education and social science students, and teacher trainees interested in the history of childhood.

Presentation: Accessible, comprehensive and scholarly.

Would you recommend it? Yes, perfect for a reading list.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy