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Rethinking Childhood

Edited by Peter B. Pufall and Richard P. Unsworth

Publication Year: 2003

Being a child in American society can be problematic. Twenty percent of American children live in poverty, parents are divorcing at high rates, and educational institutions are not always fulfilling their goals. Against this backdrop, children are often patronized or idealized by adults. Rarely do we look for the strengths within children that can serve as the foundation for growth and development. In Rethinking Childhood, twenty contributors, coming from the disciplines of anthropology, government, law, psychology, education, religion, philosophy, and sociology, provide a multidisciplinary view of childhood by listening and understanding the ways children shape their own futures. Topics include education, poverty, family life, divorce, neighborhood life, sports, the internet, and legal status. In all these areas, children have both voice and agency. They construct their own social networks and social reality, sort out their own values, and assess and cope with the perplexing world around them. The contributors present ideas that lead not only to new analyses but also to innovative policy applications. 

Taken together, these essays develop a new paradigm for understanding childhood as children experience these years. This paradigm challenges readers to develop fresh ways of listening to children’s voices that enable both children and adults to cross the barriers of age, experience, and stereotyping that make communication difficult.

A volume in the Rutgers Series in Childhood Studies, edited by Myra Bluebond-Langner.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Table of Contents

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pp. i-viii

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pp. ix-xi

This book has had an interesting history. The seed for the undertaking was planted by school psychologist Joy Unsworth, who named the issue for us, pointing to the rapidly growing triad of abuse, neglect, and poverty afflicting children in our society. That concern was reinforced in conversations with Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. At Smith College, the concern ...

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pp. xiii

The editors are indebted to the many participants in and contributors to this project. Some have been mentioned already in the Preface, but others deserve special note. Among those who labored consistently to generate the work of the Coalition for Children were Professor Raymond Ducharme and the two principal student leaders in the Coalition, Jane Palmer and Susan Bentsi-Enchill. ...

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Introduction: The Imperative and the Process for Rethinking Childhood

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pp. 1-21

OUR ATTEMPT IN this book to rethink childhood is based on assumptions about why such a project is necessary at this point in history and about how such a project can be carried out. Once our purpose and methodology were determined, we could find the common underlying themes of our work, could decide on the ...

Part I: Children's Voice and Agency

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Chapter 1: Understanding Childhood from an Interdisciplinary Perspective: Problems and Potentials

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pp. 25-37

WRITING OF HIS LIFE growing up in Russia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the novelist Maxim Gorky ([1913] 1974) describes how, at the age of eleven, dispatched by his grandfather to go out into the world to make his own living, he became an apprentice shop-boy in the shoe trade. Elsewhere, describing everyday life in the French village ...

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Chapter 2: Children as Philosophers

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pp. 38-53

... In the last several decades philosophers have made significant progress in understanding counterfactual conditionals by appealing to the idea of possible worlds. Consider the counterfactual conditional ‘If Steve had been fed bananas as an infant, he would like bananas now.’ According to one suggested line of analysis, that conditional is true if, and only if, Steve likes bananas in the possible ...

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Chapter 3: Children as Theologians

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pp. 54-68

MARK HAD JUST TURNED nine years old during the summer of 1973, but his was not the summer of other third graders. Bald and ashen, he lay in bed in Chicago’s celebrated Children’s Memorial Hospital diagnosed with leukemia. He had just returned to the hospital after a furlough day at home where he had celebrated his birthday, the one that would be his last, with his family and a few friends. ...

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Chapter 4: Action, Voice, and Identity in Children’s Lives

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pp. 69-84

MANY READERS WILL FIND the concepts of action (or agency) and voice to be unremarkable. Parents and teachers commonly describe two-year-olds as assertive, four-year-olds as stubborn or unpredictable, middle-school children as passionate for sports or music or literature, and adolescents as having a direction or mission in life. Thus the purpose of this chapter is not to make the case for ...

Part II: Voice and Agency in Education

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Chapter 5: “Do You Know You Have Worms on Your Pearls?”: Listening to Children’s Voices in the Classroom

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pp. 87-103

PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE United States is immersed in a standards movement. Curriculum and instructional standards and assessment measures are current and recurring themes in the national and local discourse and debate. School systems throughout the country are reforming their curricular and instructional practices to align them more directly with national and state standards in the language ...

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Chapter 6: Cultural Integrity and Schooling Outcomes of African American Children from Low-Income Backgrounds

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pp. 104-120

HOW CAN SCHOOLS better serve children from diverse backgrounds to enhance educational outcomes so that diversity becomes an asset rather than a liability?1 In this chapter, we seek answers to this question by focusing on how to create resilient schools. Such schools function well, yield more educational success stories than not, and thrive because they produce academic talent; and they ...

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Chapter 7: “We Have These Rules Inside”: The Effects of Exercising Voice in a Children’s Online Forum

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pp. 121-137

THE DISCUSSION OF THE role of computational technology in children’s development has become increasingly polarized. On the one hand we find a frantic push to provide computers and Internet access in all U.S. schools; this push is based on a belief that computer literacy will increasingly be required for success in the job market (Committee on Information Technology Literacy 1999). On the other ...

Part III: Voice and Agency within Families

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Chapter 8: Advertising and Marketing to Children in the United States

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pp. 141-153

RADIO, TELEVISION, WEBSITES, video games, toys, music videos, computer games, clothing, magazines, billboards, ads on neighborhood streets, at bus stops, in buses, in classrooms, in community centers, in malls, in doctors’ offices, at supermarket checkouts, in elevators, in movie theaters, in airports, at ATM machines, and more. At home, at school, at play, and at work, children today march ...

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Chapter 9: Children’s Lives in and out of Poverty

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pp. 154-169

IN 1997, ALMOST 20 percent of children in the United States lived below the poverty level; 10 percent of children in two-parent families and 49 percent of children in female-headed families were poor. Proportionally, more of these children were of color (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics 2001), and children of female-headed families were more likely to have longer ...

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Chapter 10: Children of Divorce

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pp. 170-188

CHILDREN’S VOICES, AS THEY talk about families and what they mean, are being increasingly heard as it is realized that they have something both important and unique to say. Several factors have contributed to an increasing sensitivity to their voices. One is a radical change in views of childhood, most recently articulated by sociologists of childhood (see for example Archard 1993; James and ...

Part IV: Voice and Agency in Neighborhoods and Sports

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Chapter 11: Negotiating the Dance: Social Capital from the Perspective of Neighborhood Children and Adults

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pp. 191-206

As we were visiting households in one of the study neighborhoods in order to recruit participants, we heard the crash of a bicycle on pavement. Two young girls (9–10 years of age) were bicycling, and one of them had fallen over in the street. The girl sat next to her bicycle and cried. We started to walk towards her and as we neared the site, we were ...

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Chapter 12: Are We Having Fun Yet?

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pp. 207-225

WHEN I ASKED FOURTH- through eighth-grade recreational players why they played basketball, not a single player said, “I started playing because I wanted to be socialized” or “because I wanted to learn the value of healthy competition and teamwork.” These are adult reasons, the kind we give at coaches’ meetings, in our talk with other adults, in our articles and pamphlets about the value of ...

Part V: Voice and Agency as Legal Rights

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Chapter 13: Re-Visioning Rights for Children

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pp. 229-243

THE TERM CHILDREN’S RIGHTS presents a paradox. In the U.S. system, rights usually belong to an autonomous party capable of exercising an informed and independent choice. But children are not fully autonomous. The infant’s dependence is a fact of nature. Adding to children’s essential dependence, Americans have created a layer of cultural dependence that masks children’s actual abilities. ...

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Chapter 14: Recognizing the Roots: Children's Identity Rights

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pp. 244-261

AS “IDENTITY” HAS EMERGED as a significant category of meaning in modern life, the idea has also emerged that it should be protected by a variety of legally articulated “identity rights.” Both groups and individuals have mobilized to assert rights to recognition of and protection for identity. Indeed, a significant number of international human rights documents now specifically endorse a variety ...

Resources for Further Research: A Road Map for Surfing the Internet

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pp. 263-274


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pp. 275-278


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pp. 279-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780813558325
E-ISBN-10: 0813558328

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2003