Cycle 1: The Culture of Childhood

The common theme I found most apparent across these three, various texts was the notion of an ongoing power struggle between adolescents and adults. Whether these relationships took place in the form of parents and children, or teachers and students, there appeared to be a hierarchy when discussing these interpersonal relationships across contexts: parental involvement, discipline in schools and exterior identification.

Rosin’s, Hey Parents Leave Those Kids Alone, addressed the ever-popular topic of parental involvement, specifically within the United States. I find that it is basic American culture to be fearful for our children, as if we are giving out parenting awards for the amount of hours one lies awake pondering the dangers of the world for their off-spring, but why must this be? Surely there must be more to this child-rearing thing than consistently being paralyzed by fear. In comparing this idea with a more global perspective, I feel as though, through my own personal interactions and experiences, being a helicopter parent is a luxury in and of itself. Fathers, mothers, and guardians that have the time and leisure to obsess over ever bump, scrape and bruise are more likely than not, ones of higher class via the United States. Of course this is not a one-size fits all, however I feel some parents do not have the privilege of being over-bearing, that their parenting tactics are “hands-off” by necessity. When Rosin ponders, “failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent”, what demographic is she speaking of and more importantly, to? The issue of power comes in to place when there is an assumption that parent presence is essential for a child’s survival via the playground. It is to assume that without this authoritative figure overseeing the child’s every move, the will be unable to engage in playtime without serious injury. By making adult supervision essential you are taking away the power the child has to assert his or her own independence and sense making. Now I’m not saying we should let toddlers push their own stroller to the playground each day, but there’s got to be some moderation here…

Discipline will always be a hot topic when balancing relationship powers between children and adults. On the one hand, adults need to step in when safety is concerned, but on the other, children need to develop their own reasoning skills during challenging situations. I loved the bit where Tobin touches on the maturity aspect of the children’s behaviors during the course of the observation, “In these physical tussles the girls are not so much out of control as they are acting like four-year-old children, children who are not so much misbehaving as behaving pro-socially, but in an immature, kudono-rasbi way” (pg. 108). The topic raised is one typically forgotten, they are kids, not little adults, immaturity is part of the process. In reading this I immediate thought about Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on, How to escape education’s death valley, as he discusses, in his compelling humorous way, why students are acting out in immature ways, “Children are not, for the most part, suffering from a psychological condition. They’re suffering from childhood”. Which is exactly it! The writing topic centered around preschool-aged children, which I find interesting because this group of students is assimilating into two different cultures. Firstly, they are discovering what it means to be a student in the academic world and the responsibilities it carries, discipline and “acting appropriately” being a main factor in this. Secondly, they are assimilating to what it means to be a human being and the interaction it takes to do so. It is animalistic nature to want to hit someone/thing that took something from you, even if it is a teddy bear, we are wired to protect what is hard. Given that and the fact that these children are still learning these social norms, of course the issue of maturity and discipline are going to arise.

And finally Aries’, Century of Childhood, really made me dig deeper into a curiosity I have been battling against since my teaching abroad, how are we identifying students and what do these distinctions mean for their development academically and socially? Both teaching experiences, in non-American cultures, rely very heavily on dress to assert authority over the students. I found this specifically in the sense of student uniforms and lavish teaching get-ups. The ideology that students appear more respectful, and “polite”, a term I have grown to detest, is as important, if not more, than the students’ actual actions in being polite. Aries makes a great point as the distinction actually widens the gap between the two age groups, “these customs distinguishing between children and adults clothing reveal a new desire to put children on one side, to separate them by a sort of uniform” (pg. 55). In making a visual distinction I feel as though students are seen as a sea of similar types without distinction, while adults have the power or freedom to dress individually, hence, asserting their authority once more.
My biggest concern when discussing these issues is the message it is sending our children. By enforcing harsh norms in their daily lives I feel as though any type of curiosity against the norm is seen as defiance, but what is education if not manic curiosity?


Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on How to escape education’s death valley


2 thoughts on “Cycle 1: The Culture of Childhood

  1. James Bowes says:

    Dear Tessa,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post on the Cycle One articles because you brought up some good insight and reflections! In the World that we live in today, it is easy to get carried away with stress and anxiety because of all the bad and dangerous things going on. As a result of the 24 hour news cycle today, parents continue to hear about all the dangers their children will face out in the world, which then leads parents to becoming overprotective and restrictive of their children’s freedom. I liked how you brought up the point about when children sometimes are immature, and that the reason for this is that they are kids and this is healthy and normal. We are quick today it seems to diagnose and give medication to students, where in generations past didn’t get medication and turned out just fine. Kids will be kids, I agree with your point. I think we need to find a proper balance when it comes to keeping children safe, and allowing them to develop the necessary skills and confidence in life through their own trials and errors. Being a helicopter/authoritarian parent and being a permissive parent won’t work either, which means more of an “authoritative”/middle ground approach would work best.

    In regards to the Tobin reflection, I really liked your beginning sentences when you said, “Discipline will always be a hot topic when balancing relationship powers between children and adults. On the one hand, adults need to step in when safety is concerned, but on the other, children need to develop their own reasoning skills during challenging situations.” I couldn’t agree more with you, and I thought this was well said. Yes, over their entire schooling years, children obviously go through numerous developmental and cognitive transitions, which obviously creates challenges, growth opportunities, and cross-roads moments. Teachers should do a better job with recognizing what transitions that particular grade and age group of children are going through and be able to discipline and assist the students through this particular age. If a teacher knows that a particular action is common with that age group, they should not freak-out, but instead re-direct the child’s behavior in an appropriate way and come up with an acceptable consequence if it is warranted.

    The issue and debate about dress codes for students is an interesting one. Dress codes are good because it puts all children on the same level of clothes status, which could eliminate bullying and being picked on for not having the newest or best style and coordination of outfits. Also, dress codes help schools to determine who is a student at that particular school and who an outsider might be, which is a safety issue. Also, this allows the school to hold students to a uniform standard and applying the rules would be equal across the board. The bad things about school uniforms would be a loss of personal individuality, the cost for some of the more elaborate ones, and what you discussed about the lower status issue in comparison to adults. I am not sure I totally agree with you because I actually think the age gap thing is ok. The teacher can still show empathy, care, and concern for students and still show they love them with a teacher wearing whatever they want and a student in a uniform. Clothes do not define the relationship that I have with my students and doesn’t negatively impact their relationship with me. I think it is important for students to know that I am the adult and they are the student, and from that first day going forward, my classroom always runs smoothly and I have great lasting relationships. I personally think school uniforms are good and bad, it is a good debate. Good job with your post!

  2. Hi Tessa,

    Thanks for your post! I enjoyed your writing and was especially impressed the way you could weave the three readings together into a coherent post!!

    Implicitly, you really hit the point that western culture has done a really good job of isolating and treating something called “childhood.” No matter how we spin it, that puts children on the defensive–as defective adults. I like the Aries article because it reminds us of a time when that boundary was still blurred–where adults and kids enjoyed the same stories and games, and also participated in putting bread on the table together. It’s important for kids to act like adults, but more importantly, it’s important for adults to continue to be kids.

    I have also taught abroad in several contexts. I had to get used to the kids standing when I entered the room and the hyper formality of the teacher-student relationship in some national contexts. I had to get used to what my French professor called “vous etes null” teaching (you are nothing). That is, teaching assumes that kids are nothing until they are shaped by adults. I really don’t think that is true.

    This is corny, but I assume each moment has to be seen as a gift and a fulfillment, as the best moment that has ever been. If we always see childhood as something to be grown out of, we miss that point.

    Thanks so much for your post!


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