“So who are you and what is this?”

For those wondering “Who are you?” OR “What is this blog for anyway?”

This is who is writing.

My name is Jennifer. I am an undergraduate student at Trent University in Oshawa. This blog is my final assignment for ENGL 2810-Children’s Literature. The best way to explain the purpose of this blog is to explain what happened one day because of an assignment- Yeah, that’s right, one little journal entry, 1000 words, one question I asked, left me confused, and desperately searching for an answer; of which none was given.

One exercise: What words do you think of when you think of the word child?

Answers given: Discipline, Innocent, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I really can’t remember right now.

My question which was unanswered: How are we supposed to view children? Is it really that different from the Puritan views of “beating the bad out of kids” (Oh how I hate that term!) and the Victorian Cult of the Child and “worshipping children” if we still think in terms of kids either being all bad (needing discipline), or all good, (innocent) today? My little brother- I’d want to know if my view of him is warped- and it could very well be! We’re not taught how to view children, and so we all pull from other things, our own experiences growing up, how we were treated, how the media thinks children should be treated, how the educational systems say they should be treated, or the judicial system. Well: What if they were all wrong? If a child needs protecting- are we dehumanizing them? If we are “being good parents or siblings” or whatever the case may be- are we assuming they can’t do anything on their own? We are not taught this, it is a huge problem.

If our view of children is wrong, it’s like a cycle-we’re doomed to repeat it unless someone recognizes it as wrong. It’s a “trickle effect”. We get a concept of childhood from what our parents told us or how they treated us, or how other adults in our lives treated us, and we pass that off to other generations, whether it’s wrong or right.

There are several types of binary thinking, parent/child, teacher/student; innocence/experience, good/bad: and it’s harmful.

Anybody ever try to talk to their parents, like really talk? My parents are shocked when I try to, they mumble one word answers. The only way I ever learn anything about my parents as people and not parents is if I listen to them talk as I “watch T.V.” I am not encouraged to join in. If I do, I hear the words, “It’s adult talk- go back to watching T.V” It’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

This blog is going to challenge the idea that a child won’t understand things; that they have “different lives” separate from adults, and that there is nothing wrong with this model of thinking. I call it the “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” syndrome. Well, it is broken. It just isn’t recognized as such because it always has been.

I will be looking at the concept of childhood; if it has changed over time, and whether there really is any difference between a “child” and an “adult”, or if they are just an attempt to categorize. I will be using a variety of different texts: two different grade 5 reading lists: my mother’s, (as a child of the 1980’s), and mine (2003), a few of Mum’s old books, as well as books used in class (Alice in Wonderland , Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, James and the Giant Peach, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) to gain an insight into childhood at the turn of and throughout the 20th century.

The separation in the educational setting is not only pronounced but encouraged. I would like to know how and why teachers and students are separated, and who benefits from it. Is it good for the learning environment to think in terms of student/teacher? Would there be chaos if they didn’t? Is there a better way to teach? Why does there have to be an authority figure?

Children and adults are capable of having the same feelings, thoughts, and questions. This is not recognized because adults find it easier to categorize children instead of interacting with them, and vice versa.

The relationship that adults have with children is different from the relationship that adults have with each other. Why is that so? Children have to validate their feelings to adults to be taken seriously; while adults do not have to validate their feelings at all. According to an adult, it is not okay for a child to be upset, scared, or anything but “happy”. That right is only earned once “adult” status is reached.

This world we live in is one where the separation of childhood and adulthood does not exist, but is “created” through the use of education, books, and the media.

How do the books that have been read for decades by children, or taught in schools, reinforce that there is a “child world” and “adult world.”? What has been done to force children into their own group, and how is it enforced? Is it really necessary or is it just that adults wish to exert control over children? The days of the Puritan ideas of child rearing and the Victorian Cult of the Child, causing children to be seen as “little adults” or “innocent” is a thing of the past- or is it? Is it slowly changing for the better as we want to believe- or has it just been considered normal, for so long, that people accept it? If it is normal is it right? How are children supposed to be viewed? These are questions which I hope to find an answer to.

I’m hoping that with my research, I will help to change three things.

  1. We won’t be reduced to asking for things just to have a conversation with our parents.
  2. By the end of the term, the drive home from school will no longer be synonymous with me eating from a large container of McDonald’s fries as a result of my father’s stunned reaction to my “sudden interest” in the “adult world.”
  3. Above all, I’m hoping that, by the end of this blog, I will be able to confidently say:

“Just stop with the awkward chit-chat and treating kids like they’re from another world and don’t understand “adult stuff” because like it or not they do, and it’s all ‘kid’s stuff.’ “

Oh, and another thing. Just wanted to say that I love comments. I’ll post all of them as long as they aren’t from those spam websites. Feel free to comment, be prepared to be questioned, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind! I may question your interpretation, but I won’t shut anything down unless it’s attacking someone. (hate speech, racist comments, etc.)

10 thoughts on ““So who are you and what is this?””

  1. doctorsara said:

    This is a powerful introduction. Thanks.

  2. Hello Jennifer! Very nice meeting you here. You write beautifully, and thank you for introducing yourself.
    By the way, my name is Irina. I write, too… as you have already noticed 🙂
    I hope to keep in touch with you.
    Wish you all the best in your wonderful writing journey! 🙂

    • I didn’t reply to this earlier, but thank you very much! I like having comments and knowing that people read what I write. I write mostly for myself, but knowing that others want to hear what I have to say gives me a voice-It’s a nice feeling,

  3. Wouldn’t it be nice that when people understood anything, they would have a unitary conclusion to draw?
    Even when we understand, we understand differently–age is just a very small part of the equation!

    • Yup. Everybody has different points of view, and I believe that everybody deserves to be given a voice to express those views. It doesn’t matter if they’re 2 years old or 200, everyone should be given an equal opportunity to speak their mind. (Except in the case of hate speech. But that’s a whole other topic)

  4. I think it’s all a continuum — not just from childhood to adulthood, but from birth till death. In some ways, childhood is distinct from adulthood, but there are many other ways in which the transition flows and is gradual. Intellectual functioning, opinions, worldviews; all of these things develop long before we reach the age of legal adulthood. To extend further, my attitudes toward all sorts of things (politics, race, religion, relationships, my parents, my independence, music, the media) are different at the age of 27 than they were at the age of 20, and I suspect many of my viewpoints will change again as I get older and experience more events which cause me to question what I believe…or question the rigidity of those beliefs. And of course, I think we start having adult thoughts at a younger age than the age at which we start expressing those thoughts to older people.

    Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what you find as your project progresses!

    • Oh wow- I never thought of it that way before! You make an interesting point. Maybe that’s why it feels like we don’t age even though we do- like when you have your birthday you don’t feel any different than you did the day before, but in five years time you do…

  5. GirlonCloudNine said:

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