"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Endangering Childhood

A clip from a thoughtful piece in Saturday's Guardian:
. . . In a letter to the Daily Telegraph this week, a powerful collection of experts including Philip Pullman, Susan Greenfield and Penelope Leach argued that the fast-moving, hyper-competitive nature of our society is seriously damaging children's mental and emotional wellbeing. They suggested that junk food, computer games and constant testing in schools were directly responsible for the well-documented escalation in childhood depression.

So is childhood genuinely in such crisis? Is the modern world inimical to happy and healthy development? Certainly, children growing up today are subject to increasing containment and surveillance, and the tyranny of consumer and moral choice. The definition of maturity itself is in flux as the traditional adult milestones of courtship, marriage and procreation recede, and our popular culture reaches back to youth in order to sustain itself.

And yet our panic about childhood betrays a deep ambivalence, too. Our children are in danger, fattened on fast food, corrupted by commerce, traumatised by testing. . .

The deterioration in children's mental health is profoundly alarming, and it is right that parents and policy-makers should be encouraged to discuss it. Growing up has always charted dangerous territory, but what is occurring now is less of a crisis in childhood and more of a crisis in how adults view children. And this debate is to be welcomed if it results in a shift in focus on to children's own capacity to cope with the challenges of modern life and the ways in which adults can collaborate with them to make those capacities stronger. . .

1 comment:

  1. I rarely see young children play without supervision.
    How things have changed here (English small town).