2BA Seminar Grp B. The Politics of Childhood

The Flag of UNICEF from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_UNICEF.svg

The essay question for today’s class is: Is there one model of Childhood that can be universally applied?

Put like that, this question begs the obvious retort there is likely ‘never one model of anything that can be universally applied’. A negative answer seems obvious.

However, I guess what the question is really asking is to what are the different models of childhood as explored by Boyden? In fact I think here the word models might be misleading. The actual paper by Boyden is about ideologies of childhood-what is supposed to be the nature of children. Moreover, insofar as there is a core argument, it seems to be that western ideologies of childhood may not be appropriate to non-western societies.

As usual I think its best if we proceed with a few questions, but I might add the argument in this piece is not entirely clear-cut. It may be a case of a type of ‘straw-man’ argument where she is attacking a view which is somewhat exaggerated. For example, was it ever true that children were seen as merely economically valuable but psychologically unimportant?

Moreover, she seems to take issue with the normative assumption that children ought to be happy and free from excessive burdens and responsibilities and sees that as a sentimental western view-but is it? Would that view not be shared in some way across many cultures, albeit with differences?

She speaks of a conformity of parenting…and how Parents are ‘policed’……but where is the evidence of such conformity?

Is the assumption that childhood is always a happy time in fact accurate? Might there be evidence on experiences of childhood?  See for example this link regarding Ireland: http://www.omc.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=957

What does Boyden mean by ‘theories of Pollution’?

How does Boyden contrast the sentimental view of childhood with the negative view of a children as trouble-makers?

What is Boyden’s conclusion about street children-are they really a problem?

Boyden seems critical of the rights agenda for Children-but is she accurate here? In particular what evidence does she advanced to confirm that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are culturally biased towards the west? A link on the convention can be found here: http://www.unicef.org/crc/

It is worth point out here that it is not just southern countries that may face difficulties with the Convention. Ireland has a constitutional problem with the Convention in that it may clash with the special protection accorded to the ‘natural family’ as defined by the 1937 Constitution. The scope for the Irish state to take children into care then appears limited reflecting these 1930s cultural views…..although that legal view is contested. Notice Irish state policies to defend children in non-traditional families (such as lone parents, and maybe even ‘gay’ parents) may also be a little difficult for the same reason. This is one rationale why we are likely to see a referendum on the Rights of the Child.

Has the emphasis on schooling protected children?

Does Boyden’s observation that Childhood is ‘socially constructed’ really constitute a telling criticism of the very idea on universal Children’s rights based on moral values?

In the final pages, Boyden provides concrete examples of where childhood practices are quite different from the industrialized north-what are they? Are they convincing?

What are the implications of Boyden’s critcisms-should we even abandon the idea of universal Children’s rights?




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