What Are Children For?
Spring 2015 quarter
Childhood is not just a biological fact of life. Philippe Aries famously argued that children and childhood did not exist before the modern era. How do ideas about children, the conditions of child rearing and of childhood, and conventions of education change over time? And if the meanings of "children" and "childhood" change throughout history and across cultures, how can people ever know if they are making the "best" decisions on behalf of the children whom they raise, educate, care for, advocate for, employ or support?
In this program, students will learn how children’s experience and adult interpretations of childhood have changed in the Western world over the last 400 years. Until about 150 years ago, most children were necessary: they contributed labor to the maintenance of the family home and were expected to reproduce the circumstances of their birth. The social revolutions of the 18th century disrupted all social hierarchies, including those within families. We will examine how these disruptions transformed childhood and moved children from the periphery to the center of adult intellectual, moral and medical interest.
Students will learn how children in North America lived and were viewed by adults from the 16th century forward, and examine how the meaning of childhood was transformed during the flowering of the Enlightenment. We will study the changing meanings of innocence and sin, labor and leisure, value and sacredness, and how those meanings figured in the way children were seen and treated. Guest speakers from the community who have a professional or political interest in children will share their experiences with the program.
The class befits students who work with or care about children. It will also enlighten anyone who has grown up, is still trying to grow up, or wonders if she or he has, or should ever, grow up.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day
|March 28th, 2014||Chuck Pailthorp joins Nancy teaching this program.|