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Thinking 7heJoumai of Philosophy for Children, Volume 14, Number J Page 29

David Kennedy is Associate Professor of

Educational Foundations at Montclair State
University, and the author 01 numerous articles
on the philosophy 01 childhood.


Reconstructing Childhood

David Kennedy

Is Childhood Disappearing? the term, and the same is true if we lence, responsibility, or intelligence.

e "disappearance" of childhood were all born and remained "adults." Neil Postman, for example, interprets
has been an ongoing theme of $0 it would seem that if childhood is the characteristics of what we now call
cultural speculation in the U.S. going to disappear, then adulthood is "childhood" as one effect the printing
for at least the last 20 years. The going to disappear too. Any change in press had when it replaced the oral,
notion that the child is "disappearing" one necessarily seems to imply a child-accessible information environ-
is both a description of a perceived cul- change in the other. Their cultural and ment of the medieval world with one
tural change and an implicit cultural historically mediated appearances are based on the printed word, thereby
reaction to it. It as~umes, first of all, inseparably linked. leading to the imposition on children
that there is a normative phenomenon There is something we can know of a long apprenticeship in a difficult
called "childhood" which has certain about childhood apart from its histori- skill, and hence a new class status as
identifiable characteristics which are at cal and cultural appearance. "Child" is cultural outsider. I
least potentially evident in all children. also a hard biological category, deter- Postman's argument makes basic
It also assumes that such a phenome- mined by height, weight, organ size historical sense, but in fact the replace,-
non is a cultural-historical one, since it and function, hormonal configuration ment of an oral by a literate informa-
is capable of either no longer being and neurological state, as well as, tion environment is only one among a
there, or else of changing its form--it is although in a weaker sense than the host of factors which have led to the
not clear which. If the former, a further latter, cogllitive, linguistic, affective. relative marginalization of children in
assumption seems to be that if and and motoric distinctives. The biologi- the modern world. It must also be kept
when the "child" "disappears," what is cal child will never "disappear," in that in mind that, given the inseparability
left is an "adult." she seems to be a permanent aspect of of the concepts "child" and "adult," all
What makes this assumption prob- how the species reproduces itself. What of these changes reflect an alteration in
lematic is that "child" and "adult" are a can disappear is usually described in what it means to be an adult. I want to
contrastive pair: as there is no notion terms like "innocence," meaning typi- argue that, from a dialectical historical
of "old" without a corresponding no- cally ignorance of things that adults perspective, the condition of the child-
tion of "young," so "child" is unthink- prefer to keep secret even from each adult relation at the end of the second
able apart from "adull." If everyone other, like sex, death, madness, and millenium offers the possibility of a
were born and remained as "children," addiction. What also can appear and shifting of the boundaries within this
we would no longer have any use for disappear are attributions of compe- contrastive pair, and therefore a
Page 30 David KtIllledy, RecOIu/mcting Childhood

moment for historical action on the abuse cases. and, arguably, abortion. distinguishes him from the animals
and comes closes I to reOccting the
pan of those concerned, not only with In the case of abuse. the child is often
divine.... So what are we 10 expect of
children and childhood, but with the released back into the custody of the man? He will mosl certainly turn out
reconstruction of adulthood as well. offending parel1ls when it is clearly not to be an unproduclive brute unless at
The role of education in that historical in her best interests, sometimes result- once and without delay he is subjected
action is a critical one, particularly ing in her death. To the extent that to a process of intensive instruction. S
what Freire' calls "problem-posing children are property, they are like The tenor of this passage might be
education," or "dialogue," for here the slaves, and. until fairly recently in the interpreted as merely a rhetorical
locus of real mutuality between adult West, like women. exaggeration, did we not find associat-
and child is possible. But before ed with the rise of the modernism of
exploring the strucrure of that mutual- Child as economically which Erasmus is one cultural founder,
ity, it is necessary to take aCCOUI1l of the disenfranchised evidence of the emergence of a disci-
child's actual position in the social raditionally, children have no plinary technology applied to the
world. rights to property and meaningful riminal, the insane and to the child in
work, except at the discretion of their the form of confinement in institu-
Child as Marginalized Subject parents or guardians. Children have tions, harsh and systematic punish-
From what we can find of children no economic means in our society ment, constant surveillance, and "treat-
in the historical record. they appear apart from episodic menial tasks for ment" in the form of rigid. objectifying
from earliest times to have been sub- extremely low pay. In historical epochs psychologies and pedagogies. The
jected to the same marginalization and in which children were a part of the child of the early modem period is
cultural outsider status that we find so labor force, they seem either to have understood to be in need of being
often as well when we explore the sta- played a relatively important part in forged, as Michel Foucault puts it, into
tus of woman, slaves, ethnic or racial pastoral or agrarian economies; or, in a "docile body that may be subjected,
minorities, the insane, or the econom- industrialized settings, become ex- used, transformed, and improved."6
ically oppressed. Children are, to be ploited wages slaves. The child as ontological other can
sure. a special case of this marginalized also be positively constTued--for exam-
other, closest to women, in that their Child as ontological other ple in the high Romantic notion of
subjugation by patriarchal power cen- Aristotle identifies children with childhood as a natural state of
ters is held in place by elements which animals, slaves, and women. The child, "genius," like the "primitive," apart
are found, then reinscribed in and on he tells us, lacks the capacity of choice. from the corrupt and vain conscious-
the body. The difficulty in studying the "moral agency," or will, i.e. the ability ness of society; or the "divine child" of
history of childhood is that children, to deliberately engage in an action myth and religion, whether represent-
like women, are in so many cases sim- toward a final end, or "some kind of ed in the childhood of the god or hero
ply absent from the record, and so one activity of the soul in conformity with of the Bronze Age, the hermaphroditic
must draw conclusions from indirect virtue." For this reason he cannot be eroti of Hellenistic Greece. or the infant
evidence. This difficulty in itself, in called "happy"; and if we do call him Jesus of High Renaissance art. Here
combination with the references we do happy, "we do so by reason of the the child acts as screen for projections,
lind to children, offers us a strong clue hopes we have for his future."· not of the sub but of the superhuman, of
that children have always occupied the Aristotle seems to be engaging in sub- an undivided state of consciousness
following position or status vis a vis the speciation, or the attribution of onto- which, for the adult, is projected both
majority of adults. logical difference to members of out- into the past and into the future. C.G.
groups, or cultural outsiders. It might Jung has gone so far as to identify the
Children as property even be called a sort of proto-teratol- "divine child" as a fundamental arche-
In the ancient Greek and Roman ogy, in the sense that anything not fully type of the human unconscious, i.e. a
household, the father held the power human in the adult, male, free-born transcultural image that manifests in
of life or death over his children. sense of the word is a kind of monsler, dreams. myth, an, and psychotherapy.'
When Lloyd deMause characterizes i.e. a being that has not attained or is The physical, linguistic and behavioral
the earliest parent-child relation as incapable of attaining to the human otherness of the child draws adult pro-
"infanticidal,'" he seems to be refering "substance." In the case of the child it is jection, whether positive or negative,
to this fundamental attitude of unmiti- the former: what makes the child dan- of their own felt difference.
gated possession, such that the child is gerous is not so much that she is a
not perceived to have any humanity monster as that she has every chance of Child as epistemically incomplete
apart from the projected humanity turning into a monster without shap- Whether we understand the child's
which the adult accords it. TIle extent ing by adults. So Erasmus, 1800 years epistemic "deficit" as structural and
to which children are still construed as after Aristotle, tells us: ontogenetic, which we find in
the material property of their parel1ls To be a true father, you must take Piagetian formulations,~ or as social in
is indicated today by the ambiguity absolute control of your son's entire the sense of not yet having acquired
surrounding child custody, parental being; and your primary concern must the epistemological and ontological
be for that part of his charaCler which
infanticide or homicide cases, child convictions of her culture, the result is
Thinking: The Journal oj Philosophy J!>T Children, J,Vlum, Page 31

rience" by which it "conquers" the

"experienced environment"· repre-
sents a form of Western objectivist bias,
a hypenrophy of the Cartesian subject-
object split, emblematic of the alienat-
ed subjectivity of modernism.

Cbild as cultural outsider

It is characteristic of that form of
childhood which is said to be disap-
pearing that children are assiduously
kept from adult knowledge, chiefly of
sex and death, but also of harsh social
and economic realities, and the darker
aspects of the human psyche. Parents
and educationalists frequentJy voice
fears that for children to know "too
much" about, for example, the realities
of political and economic exploitation
and oppression, classism, racism and
ethnocentrism, genocide, interperson-
al violence and sexual predation, wide-
spread abuse of political authority, etc.
is too great a burden for them to bear.
and can lead to cynicism, hopelessness
or depression. Many adults are even
skeptical of introducing "critical think-
ing" into education, in expectation of
an erosion of right authority relations
between child and adult which, they
think, could follow from encouraging
children to "think for themselves."
Thus, the child is an "outsider" to adult
culture, a status which in the modern
world is reproduced institutionally, in
that children are segregated in schools
(as well as age-segregated within
schools), excluded from the adult
workplace, and forced into engineered
recreational areas to play and socialize.
In addjtion, they are objectified by the
scientific establishment as units of
study. subjected to a barrage of norma-
tive classifications, and assigned vari- •.
ous semi-medical statuses when they
depart from the norm ("learning dis-
abled," "hyperactive," etc.).

the same: the child is the irrational enment, it is a window into another The child as speciaJ case
other, the magical thinker, rJle "native." form of knowledge, which is capable, of the marginalized other
Again, there is both a positive and a like the forms of knowing of mystics, It is much easier to make the case
negative side to this projection: from shamans, women. the mad, etc., of for the existence of these forms of mar-
the point of view of educating the yielding significant information about ginalization and objeetifiction for out-
young child into the convictions of the the world. For the epistemological sider adults--whether persons of color,
age, it is an absence to be filled, an counterculture. Piaget's notion of the the mentally ill. "primitives," "the
ignorance, or primitivism to be over- adult "decentered" epistemic subject. poor," or criminals. The claim that the
come. From the point of view of the which "has found in logicomathemati- child may be grouped among them is
Romantic protest against the rational- cal strucLUres an instrument of integra- complicated by the fact that she seems
ized epistemic universe of the Enlight- tion increasingly indcpendem of expe- to be a special case of outsider. There
--0- ,.,. ... Davtd &nnedy. Reconstrucbng Ch,lJihood

is. after all, a life-cycle of organisms, dramatic exploitation and maltreat- The century-old discipline of deve-
human or othernrise. The human life ment by those who controlled their lopmental psychology, which in a pre-
cycle does have certain distincti~e pat- labor. ponderance of cases, still construes the
terns, apparent stages, with limitations Granting the special developmen- child as "organism," and isolates and
and possibilities appropriate to each tal status of chiLdren, they can stiLI be denies her subjectivity in stage theories
one. There is a developmental trajec- defined as marginalized subjects to the and objectifying taxonomies.
tory which can be empirically and bio- extent to which the precautions taken The fact that these forms of colo-
LogicaUy described, a process of "for- by adults to protect children from the nization are also imposed on adults--
mation" or "orthogenesis," which most potentially harmful results of this sta- in the marginalization of workers by
typically can be understood as a move- tus in many cases either do not so pro- corporate capitalism, of persons of
ment from "irrunature" to "mature," or tect them, or "overprotect" them, with color by racist and ethnocentric poli-
in Werner's classic formulation, from "a equally disempowering results. I see no ties, and of women by patriarchal and
state of relative globality and lack of other explanation-except the extent masculinist attitudes, policies and
differentiation to a state of increasing to which all persons in Western soci- practices-does not mitigate or excuse
differentiation, articulation, and hier- eties are, to a greater or less degree, the situation of children. It could be
archic integration." lo The child is marginaLized-of the following con- argued that, in a world of widespread
chronologically based at the lower end temporary situations in the lives of human objectification and "normaliza-
of this continuum. children: tion" by state·run apparatuses, that the
Given these biologically deter- • The ongoing and increasing "ghet- strategic locus for reclaiming what
mined constraints, we notice at least toization" of children in instirn- Freire refers to as our "ontological
the following regularities, some of tions--schools and child care cen- vocation to be more fully human"l!
which may be thought either to justify ters--and the complete exclusion from the "technologies of discipline"
at least in principle the forms of mar- of the child from the adult work- perpetuated by the governmental. cor-
ginalization cited above, or at least to place. porate, scientific, and educational
expLain why they occur with such regu- • The ever-increasing disappear- establishment, is in the area of child-
larity: ance of public space for children's rearing, whether expressed in family
The child needs protection be- sociability and play, except those and local community, or in schooling.
cause of his--relative to adults and created specifically for that pur- This is because the adult-child relation
older children-smaller size, lower pose, i.e. play "reservations." is the interpersonal location where the
weight, and relatively weaker muscula- • The ongoing construal of the child most fundamental formation of self-
ture, which make him potential prey to by the slate and powerful educa- understanding takes place: where the
those larger and stronger than himself, tional institutions as "raw material" balance between conscious and uncon-
and less able than adults to perform for its economic, military, and scious, instinct and repression, social-
many kinds of labor necessary for sur- political uses, or as Ashis Nandy ized and unsocialized. freedom and
vival. puts it, "an inferior, weak but self-constraint, are shaped and played
The child needs protection be- usable version of of the fully pro- out. The character of this balance
cause of his relative lack of experience, ductive, fully performing. human determines the capacity of humans in
which prevents him from having an being who owns the modern any given culture or epoch to follow
inductive base of concrete instances world."" their "vocation of persons who are
through which to solve problems, or to When the rhetoric of "human authentic only when engaged in
make judgments. resources" is combined with increasing inquiry and creative transformation,"·!
Many children experience intense underfunding by public institutions of which would appear to be a necessary
periods of emotional lability which, children's education, its very lack of condition for resisting colonization.
combined with a comparative lack an coherence identifies it as rationaliza-
internal locus of control. make them tion. The rise of the modern form
more liable to behavioral "excess," A normative form of "banking" of child colonization:
whether in the form of "acting out," or education that, abundant disconfirm- A psychohistorical explanation
emotional upset. Thus, the child could ing evidence to the contrary, continues A psychohistorical look at the
be dangerous to himelf or others. to ignore children's developmental aduLt-ehild relation suggests that there
Many children lack the disposition potential, and to make them the object is by nature a complex projective rela-
or the judgmental apparatus for sus- of a pseudo-scientific and dehumaniz- tion between adults and children,
tained labor in the interests of survival. ing educational technology. which revolves around the economy of
Children can and do work, and in pas- Society's relative insensitivity to instinct and repression, or, as the cul-
toral or agricultural economies, are child abuse in all its forms, analagous tural historian Norbert Elias has char-
quite capable of fulfilling necessary to its insensitivity to spouse abuse. This acterized it, a changing "interplay"
economic functions. But in industrial is evidenced in court decisions, as well between the conscious and uncon-
societies, those periods we are aware of as everyday reactions of adults who wit- scious Levels of personality." It seems
in which children have been treated as ness children being neglected and/or characteristic of the life cycle in gener-
adults capable of work have witnessed abused in public places. al that "child" represents the uncon-
Pagl34 David Kennedy, Reconstruding Childhood

threshold of delicacy. and--sincc they children. The adult, when "face to face the text in the reader's understanding,
are not yet adapted.-rney infringe the with a child who needs something," which he characterizes as "understand-
taboos ofsociety, cross the adult shame
frontier, and penetrate emotional dan·
either approaches the child as a screen ing at and through distance."2g Applied
ger zones which the adult himself can for the projection of his own uncon- to the adult-child relation, the her-
onJy control with difficulty.... Anxicty scious material (projective reaction); as meneutic process is what deMause
is aroused in adults when the stNcCUre a substitute for an adult in his past with refers to as withdrawal of projection
of their own insUnClllaJ life as defmed whom his relationship is as yet unre- through psychological distance, fol-
by the social order is threatened. My
other behavior means danger. This
solved (reversal reaction); or is able to lowed by identification, or the ability to
leads to the emotional undertone empathize with the child's instinctual "regress to the level of the child's need
associated with moraJ demands and needs, and do something in order to and correctly identify it without an
the aggressive and Ihreatening severi- satisfy them (empathic reaction)!' admixture of the adult's own projec-
ty of upholding them, because the deMause's theory tends to confirm tions." It is at this poim that the adult
breach of prohibitions places in an
unstable balance of repression all both Elias' and Foucault's analysis of awakens to the voice of the child.
11 those for whom the standard of society the early modern adult-child relation.
has become "second nature...•• What is particularly interesting about Children's epistemic privilege
This explains the severity of early his formulation is an assumption which Awakening to the voice of the child
modern child rearing modes, at home appears to be paradoxical: the central means that the latter is understood as
but especially in schools, when we dynamic of the evolution of the adult- the beaTer of new information for adult
understand that the project is actually child relation involves both a closer self-understanding. As distanced other,
to correct human nature in the service approach to children, i.e. the ability to the child's status is analogous to what
of what presents itself as a higher, identif)' with the child's instinctual feminist standpoint theorists describe
evolved idea] of human nature. Uoyd needs, and a separation, as represented as "valuable 'strangers' to the social or-
deMause refers to the two child rearing in the notion of withdrawal of projec- der," or "outsiders within.")(1 Like wo-
modes which predominated in the tion. The empathic reaction is made men, persons of color, or others mar-
early modem period as "ambivalen t" possible because the adult is able to ginalized by Eurocentric and
and "intrusive." For the former, the separate herself from the anxiety pro- patriarchal personal, interpersonal
child is still "a container for dangerous duced by the "emotional danger zone" and social constructs. the child's loca-
projections" of one's own instinctual which children trigger through their tion in the social and natural world
life, leading parents to feel the need to relative lack of instinctual repression. affords her an "epistemic privilege."
forcefully "mold," most typically That is, she can, in deMause's words, Since she lives before, or at the mar-
through beating, children "into shape." "regress to the level of the child's need gins of the adult instinctual economy,
With the onset of the intrusive mode, and correctly identifY it without an her relationship to that economy is
parents have withdrawn their projec- admixture of [her] own projections," inherently transgressive. Given that
tion further: the child is less threaten- then "maintain enough distance from she is not, as Sandra Harding describes
ing, but parents still need to "to con- the need in order to be able to satisfY it, a "native,"S' she sees things which
quer its mind, in order to control its i l."!8 natives don't.
I, insides, its anger, its needs, its mastur- This would seem to indicate a What this does for the adult who
bation, its very wiU.'02' dialectical movement. The possibility listens for the voice of the child is that.
deMause's formulation of the child of closer approaches to children on the through his relationship with the child,
rearing modes, of which he theorizes
six,2~ rests on what he describes as the
part of adults is only created as a result he rediscovers his own childhood by
of an initial separation. which is repre- becoming conscious of the boundaries
"psychogenic theory of history," which sented by the rise of the "shame fron- of instinct and repression which were a
posits an evolutionary advance2~ of tier" traced by Elias, i.e., the new bal- result of his own childhood formation.
parents' capacity (Q nurture and affirm ance of instinct and repression in the Through becoming aware of his own
their children. This advance, accord- modern adult. It is through this new "child," he recovers himself on a high-
ing to deMause, turns on the capacity balance that the modern adult er level-through incorporating un-
of adults "to regress to the psychic age becomes a hermeneutic being-he is conscious contents into consciousness.
of their children and work through the now a "reader" of life and the other, he process of making the uncon-
III I anxieties of that age in a better man· and the reader is by definition an scious concious is, as we have learned
,,! I ner the second time they encounter
them than they did during their own
interpreter. The interpreter must from bOth Freud and Jung, the inher-
interpret because he is removed from ent goal of psychic development,
childhood. The process is similar to the situation, or "text"-it has become whether formulated as "where id was,
psychoanalysis, which also involves foreign through the transformation of there ego shall be" (Freud) or as the
regression and a second chance to face lime. But it is only this situation of increasing openness of conscious to
childhood anxieties."2G removal, or relative disentanglement, unconscious contents Oung). From a
I which makes dialogue possible; and Ricoeurian perspeClive, the outcome
II I ,
The success of this "regression in
the service of the child" revolves, in dialogue results in a "fusion of hori- of the hermeneutic process is a "meta-
II turn, around the adult's awareness of
his own projective relationship with
ons," followed by, in Ricouer's words, morphosis of the ego," whereby,
"appropriation." or reconstitution of through "a moment of distanciation in

Thinking: The Journal oj PhiUJs~hyJOT Children. Volume 14. Number 1 Page 35

recovers itself in a new balance. Alice to be consigned to a linear, "progres- children. It is a questioning in which
sive" historical movement, and appears the community of adult and child,
Miller has put it in more concrete
their belonging together, is brought
form: to be characterized in everyday lives by forth. This onJy comes abom in rec-
Once children are allowed to be more assymetry, spiraling, regression, path- ognizing that as an adult, one is not
than bearers of parental projections,
ology. failure. accident, good or bad beyond the movement back to the
they can become an inexhaustible child. and from there fOIWard to the
source for their parents ofundistorted
"fortune," & etc.,~6 as well as being
influenced by countless unique but rel- point where one began the movemenL
knowledge about human nature.
Having been a chi Id is still a possibili-
Sensuality, pleasure in one's own body, atively predictable local, regional, and ty one lives, something one has to
pleasure in the affection shown by epochal variables. It can be avowed at return to in order to establish oneself
another person, the need to express least that the project of "withdrawal of as an adulL. One generates in reflec-
oneself, to be heard, seen. understood. tion a community of adults and chil-
and respeCled. nOl to have to suppress projection" leading to the "empathic
relation." appears to be a key element dren in which principles and rules are
anger and rage and to be allowed to
at issue on both sides. in which being
voice other feelings as well, such as in the capacity of humans to live with bound to convention as an adult may
grief, fear, envy, and jealousy ... 33 difference, and so is connected to the be questioned by making reference to
As entering into dialogue with the overcoming of sexism, racism, ethno- children as more principled than
voice of the child results in greater psy- centrism, classism, homophobia, reli- adulL.~. For children, at times. may
chological integration on the part of gious intolerance, and aggressive appear to be less convenlion-bound
the adult, this is then reflected in a nationalism. It would seem to follow than adults, thereby appearing more
adult-like than adults.... An interest
form of child-rearing which recognizes from the arguments presented above in children is not independent from
the importance of meeting the "narcis- that the adult-child relation is the an interest in establishing for our-
sistic needs" of children "such as interpersonal hotbed in which any selves who we are. as adults. and what
respecl, mirroring, being understood given individual's instinctual economy we must orient to in order to live our
and taken seriously."" This. in tum. is produced; and that it is the character adulthood."
leads to the development of adults who of that economy which configures the Such a changed perspective has
experience a healthier. more creative human capacity to tolerate difference. obvious implications for education. in
relationship between conscious and value the narcissistic needs of others, that it lays the groundwork for a peda-
unconscious elements of the self, and and to develop psychologically and in gogy based on adult-ehild dialogue. It
are therefore more capable of "inquiry the quality called "reasonableness," also has implications for child psychol-
and creative transformation." ogy. in that the direction of develop-
which, as our century has shown. does
ment on which all adultist stage theo-
not depend on rationality alone.
Breaking Out: Elements of an ries is based--the idea of "fixed
What would a culture which has
Emergent Child-Adult Reconstruction endpoint" of a Cartesian rational self-
internalized the empathic ideal look
The possibility of a positive shift- like? There are indications that this possession. or Piaget's decentered epis-
ing of the boundaries between "child" change has already begun to at least ternic subject--becomes problematic.
and "adult" appears to be especiaUy suggest itself in the postmodern West. $0 it points to the possibility of a dia-
dependent on the material conditions The preoccupation with the "inner logical, rather than objectifying meth-
of civilization. deMause insists that child" in contemporary psychotherapy odology in the human sciences.
what he calls the "generational pres- seems to be one of them. TIle latter is Recognizing unity also involves
sure for psychic change" which drives an index of the withdrawal of projec- recognizing difference. Decentering
(and is driven by) the evolution of the tion. in the sense that the adult who from adultism implies the understand-
child rearing modes "occurs indepen- recognizes her "inner child" recognizes ing that the child occupies a perspec-
dent of social and technological her ontological unity with the child, tive through her placement viz a viz
change"~~; but findings from the study
others which is not completely accessi-
and is aware that the adult-child con-
of the history of childhood continue to tinuum is present in each epoch of the ble to adults--a perspective informed,
confirm the importance to improved life cycle. This is related to the ten- not only by organismic difference, but
adult-chld relations of economic and dency in recent psychoanalytic theory, by positioning in the social world and
political growth and stability. relatively implicit in Freud but stated clearly in its relations of power. and in the natur-
sophisticated medical and epidemio- post-Freudian ego psychology, to con- al world. Extending episternic privi-
logical knowledge, practice, and acces- strue the developmental process as lege to the child involves bracketing
sibiity. and the formation and mainte- life-long. To that extent. the adult is adult epistemological norms, and posi-
nance of an information environment always stiU a child. Dieter Misgeld has tioning oneself to notice what children
which produces "readers" (or "herme- put this eloquently: can know, not only because of their
nems") in the broad sense. . .. rather than locating children and position as "outsiders within:' but also
In addition, any argument for his- adults as being at differing stages in a because of their undersocialization of a
torical change modeled on Hegelian developmental sequence. with a fixed received stock of knowledge. i.e., the
end point as an immutable standard absence of a crystallized world picture,
dialectics is slightly suspect. The shift- available for the appraisal of the
ing interplay between conscious and or received ontology and epistemolo-
sequence, a properly self-reflective
unconscious levels in the modal per- orientation calls into question the def·
gy.3K An example might be the child's
sonality of any culture is too complex initely locatable enlilie.~ of adults and openness to other species and other
Page 36 David Kmnedy, RWmJlnuling Childhood

forms of life; or what Dewey refers to as . The final test of our skill to live a tice of questioning knowledge--both
a "marvelous power to enlist the coop- bicultural or multicullural existence one's own and others'-it promises to
may still be our ability to live with our
erative attention of others" through a children in muruality."
be the epistemic and curricular wedge
"flexible and sensitive ability . . . to ND matter how isolated and mar- which opens the experience of child-
vibrate sympathetically with the atti- ginalized it might become, the prima- hood tD reflection, both on the part of
tudes and doings of those about ry arena fDr the intersection and con- children and Df adults.
them.",g And Coleridge identified the frontation to which Nandy refers will It seems more than just coinciden-
young child with what he called "intu- always be the immediate family. The tal that the negative evaluation of the
itive reason," which he described as potential rDle of the school, however, child's powers of judgment, reasoning,
"that intuition Df things which which in that "sharing of space ... on the and reflection have legitimized the
arises when we possess ourselves as on<: basis of mutual respect" cannot be un- marginalization Df children, from Aris-
with the whole," in contrast to "that derestimated. That potential can only totle to Piaget. What this means from
which presents itself when ... we think be realized through a reorientation on the child's pDint of view is that the
of ourselves as separated beings, and the part of the educational establish- adult cannot "hear" her fDrm of reason,
I place nature in antithesis to the mind, ment, which at present is-like the either in its similarities to or differ-
,I as object to subject, thing to thought, majDrity Df the parent population it ences from her own, which makes of
death to life."~ serves-oriented, if only by default, to childhDod a culture Df silence. The
The recognition that there are child's becomes a voice from the mar-
I' many things the child doesn't know
a child-as-raw-material, deficit model.
gins. assDciated with "essential" nature,
To understand the school as a
which the adult does, but that there are locus of mutual socialization, where, to animality, madness, criminality, the
also things which children know that quote Nandy, "our most liberating divine 4'-i.e., with the speechless. The
adults don't, turns the "deficit theory" bDnds can be with Dur undersocialized kind of reflection which philosophy-
Df childhood Dn its head. It also intro- children,"" would appear to mean and especially philosDphy done in
duces another fissure into the main- changes SD prDfound as to be almost communal dialogue, or community of
stream, objectivist Western epistemo- unimaginable in our present situation. inquiry-evokes, Dffers an ideal loca-
logical edifice, to add to those It would mean at least a dismantling Df tion fDr adults tD make gODd on the
introduced by feminist and multicul- the adult hierarchical power structure child's epistemic privilege, to recog-
tural epistemologies. It would seem to of schools, which acts to hold the pro- nize a speech other than their Dwn, tD
indicate that what the marginalized ductiDn mDdel of educatiDn in place; a face a culture which "represents our
subject knows, she knows because she complete refDrmulation of the objecti- Dther selves," to live the other side.
does not know sDmething else, i.e. the fying system of assessment and evalua-
tacit knowledge of the dominant. or tiDn which drives the curricular and The Manner of Change
"native" structure. If this principle is pedagogical "banking" system which Whatever the formal Dr efficient
true, it operates in the other direction serves it; and a recDnscrual of the child cause which brings it about, it is prob-
as well, and problematizes the notion as subject-as active, competent pro- ably safe (and perhaps cDmforting) tD
of a unified knowledge, at least apart tagonist in her own learning and say that the positive transfDrmation of
from infmite dialogue as a fundamen- developmental process. In an even the adult-child relation is not really
tal epistemic principle. Nandy brings broader sense, it would imply reinte- under Dur control. The vicissitudes of
this home to the problem of the with- grating the lived wDrlds of children the historical dialectic which [ have
drawal of projection in making the and adults, and Dvercoming the ghet- sketched in this paper are no doubt
connection between the culture of tDization of the former in schDols and oversimplified, and, as retrospective
childhood and the culture of child care centers, both through knowledge. have nD necessary predic-
oppressed peDples, and their respec- restructuring the workplace and tive value. In fact our age is haunted by
tive relations to white patriarchal colo- through reclaiming public space for the spectre of what Postman calls the
nialism. He says: children's play and socialization. "adult-child," i.e., a modal pe;sonality,
The culture of the adult world inter-
sects, and sometimes confronts, the The importance of critical think- produced and maintained by televi-
world of the child. Ideally, this shar- ing, Dr philosophy, in redefining the sion, with the "mental age of thirteen"
child as knowing subject is particularly whether she be eight or thirty years
~I ing of space should Lake place on lbe
basis of murual respecl. That il does crucial to the transformation of both Did, whD smirks at the same sexual
II not is a measure of our fear of losing
the adult-child relationship and of the jokes on sitcoms and thrills to the same
I! our own selfhood through our close
contacls with cultures which dare to school, because its characteristic activi- viDlence (whether real or represented
represent our other selves, as well as a ty is at the heart of dialogical, prob- it is no longer always clear), who wears
I measure of our fear of the liminality lem-posing education. Philosophy is the same clothes and attends the same
I berween the adult and the child which the discipline which emerges most sporling events. From the point of view
many of us carry within ourselves.
This is the liminality Freud worked
directly from the fundamental human Df the rebalancing of instinctual econo-
through in his interpreUltion of psy- sense Df wonder, and which turns on my, this appears tD be analogous to
chopathology. This is also the Liminal- questioning both reality and our what students Df bilingual cultures call
ity Gandhi had to face openly while knowledge of thal reality. As the prac- "semi-lingualism," erDsion of compe-
bauling the ideology of colonialism... tence in the languages one speaks.
Thinking: Tlu JcruT1Ul1 oj Philosaphy for Children, Volume 14. Number I Page 37

tence in the languages one speaks. Tyranny and UtopitJJ: EJsays in the PrJlitia oJ inslinct:ual malerial, lowards modes in which
Historical change of the kind dis- Awarenes.l (Delhi: Oxford University Press. there is increasing separation between the
1987), p. 61. The mosl flagrant-and promi- two. See his "The Childrearing Modes in
cussed here appears to happen in a nem-recem expression of Lhis set of Flux: An Historian's Reflenions," The
piecemeal fashion, and is character- assumptions is perhaps the report of lhe JoumaloJPsychohistory 17(1), 1989: 1-41.
ized by periods, possibly very long, of Nalional Commission on Excellence in 26. "The Evolution of Childhood," p. 3.
plateau, retreat, suppression, reaction, Education. A Nation al Risk: The Imperalive Jor
Educalional ReJonll (Washinglon D.C.: U.S.
27. Ibid, p. 6.
and sudden, unpredictable leaps. The
Governmem Prinling Office, 1983), which 28. Ibid, pp. 6-7.
only real control we have over it is
begins: "Our nalion is at risk. Our once 29. See Hans-Georg Gadmer, Truth and Method
probably in the realm of education; but unchallenged preeminence in commerce. (New York: Crossroad, 1975); and Paul
the colonizing character of state-pro- industry, science and technological innova- Ricoeur. "The Henneneutical Funclion of
vided education appears to be as yet tion is being overLaken by competitors Dislallcialion," in Hermeneulia and lhe
deeply entrenched in the mainstream. throughout the world." Human Scitllces. J.B. Thompson, trans.
Meanwhile, efforts at school decentral- 12. Pedagogy of the OppreJStd, p. 61. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
ization, dominated as they are by eco- 1987),p,143.
13. Ibid, p. 71.
nomic, class, and religious self-inter- 30. Sandra Harding. Who.le Science? Whose
14. Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: State
ests, tend to reproduce the hegemonic Knou,[edge? Thinking fTom Women:S Lives
FOTtTUJhon and Civilization, Edmund J ephcolt,
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991),
model. Be that as it may, the emer- trans. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994 [I939)}, p.
pp. 124, 131
gence over the last two centuries of 475.
3 I. Ibid, p. 307.
child-centered, dialogical educational 15. Centuries or Childhood: A Social Hislary of
Family liJe, R. Baldick lrans. (New York: 32. Ricoeur. "The Hermeneulical Function of
theory and practice appears to offer
Knopf, 1962). Dislancialion," p. 144.
the most concrete hope for the possi-
16. Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The 33. Thou Shall Nol Be Aware: Society's Betrayal or
bility of social reconstruction through /he Child, Hildegarde & Hunter Hannum.
History or Mannus, Edmund Jephcolt. trans.
the dialectical reconstruction of the (Oxford: Blackwell. 1994 (1939)), pp. 134- lrans. (New York: Meridian, 1986), p. 154.
adult-child relation. 178. And see ShulamiLh Shahar, Childhood in 34. Ibid, p. 144.
the MidJile Ages (London: Rour..lcdge, 1990).
35. "The Evolution of Childhood." p. 3.
17. L. Martin, H. Gutman, & P.H. Hutton, eds.,
36. See Kenneth Keniston, "Psycholigical
ENDNOTES Technologies oJ the Self A Seminar with Michael
Development and Historical Change," in
I. The Disappearance or Childhood (New York: Foucault (Arnhersl: University of Massachu-
T.K. Rabb & R.I. Rolberg. The Family in
Delacone, 1984). selts Press, 1988).
History: Interdisciplinary Essays (New York:
2. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of IJu Oppressed (New 18. Elias, The History oJManners, p. 204. And see Farrar, Straus & Girous. 1976). He charac-
York: Seabury, 1968). pp. 205-215. terizes psychological developmem as "a very
3. Uoyd de Mause, "The Evolulion of Child- 19. See Waller Ong, Oralily and Wnacy: The rough road. pitled with obstructions, inter-
hood," in Uoyd deMause, ed., The History of Technologizing or lhe Word (New York: spersed with blind alleys, and dOlted wiLh
Childhood (New York: Harper, 1974). Melhuen. 1982). seduclive Slopping places." (p. 149).
4. Aristotle, PhyJia Jl vi 197b; Nicomnchean 20. Elias, The History of Manners, p. 115. 37. Dieler Misgeld. "Self-Reflection and Adull
Ethics I ix Ila. Maturity: Adull and Child in Hermeneutical
2 I. Michel Foucault, The History or Sexuality,
and Critical Reflenion." Phenomenology +
5. "On Education for Children," from The Eras- Volume I, excerpted in Paul Rabinow, ed.,
mtLf Reatkr, Erika Rummel, ed. (Toronto: Pedagogy 3, 3 (1985) : 199.
The Foucaull Reader (New York: PanLheon,
Univer. ofToronlo Press, 1990), pp. 67, 69. 198-4), p. 267. 38. For an aCCOUnl of the young child as an
involuntary prophel against Lhe ontological
6. Michel Foucaull, Discipline and Punish (New 22. Elias, The History oJManners, p. 137.
reduction of nature implicit in philosophical
York: VLDlage. 1979), p. 198. 23. deMause, "The Evolution of Childhood," p. materialism, see David Kennedy, "fools,
7. C.G. Jung & Karl Kerenyi, Essays on a Science 153. Young Children, Animism and the Scientific
or Mythology: The Myth oj the Divim Child and 24. In "The Evolution of Childhood," p. 53, World Pict:ure," Philosophy Today 33.4 (I 989) :
lhe Mysleries or Eleu.sis (Princeton: Princelon deMause idemifies lhe following modes. 374-381.
University Press, 1963). which he claims follow an evolulionary pro- 39. John Dewey, Democracy alld Educalion (New ,.
8. This particular deficil imerprelalion is more gress through hisLOry: Infanticidal (Antiquity York: Macmillan. 1916), p. 43.
characterislic of interpretations of Piagel by lo 4t.b Century A.D.). Abandonment (4lh lO
40. Quoted in David Kennedy, "The
child psychologists and educationalisls 13th Cenrury), Ambivalent (14th lo 17lh
Hermeneutics of Childhood." Philosophy
through lhe 1980's, lhan of Piagel's work CenNries), Inttusive (l8th Century), Social-
Today 36, I (Spring 1992) : 4-4-58.
itself, which presents a more nuanced pic- ization (l9th to mid-20lh Century), and
t:ure. Helping (begins mid-20Lh Century). 41. "Reconslrucling Childhood," pp. 73, 75.
9. Jean Piagel, "Biology and Cognition," in 25. deMause's lheory need not be read as evolu- 42. Ibid, p. 75.
Barbara Inhelder & H.H. Chipman, cds., lionary in order to work. In fact, Peter 43. So Jacques Derrida says, "Man calls himself
PWget and His School (New York: Springer Peschauer has suggested thal all six modes man only by drawing IimiLS excluding his
Verlag, 1976), p. 52. are present in any given human society, olher from the play of supplementarity: the
10. Heinz Werner, "The concepl of Develop- expressed in praclices thal may vary across purity of narure. of animality, primilivism.
ment from a Comparative and Organism ic history and culture. He saves the cultural childhood, madness, divinity. The approach
Point of View," in Dale B. Harris, ed., The evolulionary appearances by suggesling lhal lO rnese limits is at once feared as a threat of
Concept of Delielop~nt (Minneapolis: one particular mode is predominant in each death, and desired as access to a life without
University of Minnesota Press, 1957), p. 126. period, and Lhatlhe direClion or progression difference." OJ Gram1lUJlology, G,C. Spivak,
of the modes is from those in which the child Irans. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,
II. "ReconslrUCling Childhood: A Crilique of
is a complete projection of lhe adult's own 1976). p. 245.
Lhe Ideology of Adullhood," in Tradil;onJ.