– the 20th century was declared the century of the child & was a reaction to a previous & very strict & authoritarian form of rearing children where children were expected to be obedient (they note that there have been cycles of every 20 years or so where there is complete love/freedom given to children followed by a reaction)
– in the Western world, the position, the possibilities, the meaning & the story of childhood have been changed significantly
– children should be free & allowed to discover & think for themselves in an adventurous way
– we are also encouraged to listen to children* because they are “interesting”
– children join the workforce much later
– they are usually born into smaller, more affluent families
– they tend to spend their parents’ money rather than contribute to the family coffers
– they are handed over to school for what used to be called the best years of their lives
– St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
– but is this division so simple?
– childhood is often a thing we feel we missed or which we cherish & long to return to
– the Bill of Rights in the USA & the Declaration of the Rights of Man in France influenced how children were treated. Some argue that with the French Revolution of 1789 & the beheading of the king has also meant the emasculation of the man/father & his authority in every family – now children have rights of their own
– the program discusses how parental power has been further undermined as children have moved into institutions such as schools (teachers), the health system (doctors, psychologists, social workers) & this has increased further in the 20th century & religion (your children belong to God – the spiritual father)
– middle class development/mid-19th century – mother assumed more parenting responsibility such as moral development
– another originality of our time is that we are trying to treat children (boys & girls) equally
– they discuss how people/parents try to change children “for their own good” while calling it “care”
– they discuss how education has been extended – to give the child “more opportunity” & yet note that this often comes at the cost of parental influence (because of the amount of time at school/travelling to & from plus parents working) & the transformation of the family into a “leisure society” for the child (a compensation for the pain inflicted on the child)
– work/school should be more fulfilling for all – that curiosity is being met – information, love & guidance is needed to be provided by parents
– they note how most children are “silent” during school hours – this is an enormous weakness they argue because of the primacy of relationships
– they note that children seem to mature early & that segregation by experts should cease
* note: there are now such things as “world parliaments of children” where the children often demand the same kinds of changes which adults do

Source: BBC Radio 4 | In Our Time | Podcast date: undated


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