By David Archard
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Extra info for Children: Rights and Childhood
Modern’ and cognate terms are elliptical; they generally mean ‘modern Western’ (and indeed Northern). And where this use has commendatory connotations there is a clear danger of ethnocentrism. However, I will often try to contrast our present understanding of children and childhood with those of non-Western cultures. It is thus to be hoped that my discussion runs no risk of an implicit partisanship. A NOTE ON SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Clearly indebted to the work of Ariès but also showing sympathies with broader theoretical views, some have argued that childhood is a ‘social construction’.
JOHN LOCKE’S CHILDREN very least it is ingenuous to trust, as Locke does, to such natural affection as the sole guarantee of a child’s welfare. Locke does not think that parents own their children and are free to dispose of them as they would of any of their property. He seems to think that parental title is or is not held according to whether the duties of the ofﬁce are properly discharged. However, to think that parents have no special claim over their own children – that is, one stronger than any other adults who would be equally good guardians – is counterintuitive.
Now that philosophical discussion of childhood and children’s rights is more common that it was some years ago, it is worth returning to Locke, as to other ﬁgures in the history of philosophy, for the fresh, and sometimes very bright, light they can shed on this discussion. To that discussion itself the rest of the book is devoted. 15 Part I CHILDHOOD Childhood is unknown. Starting from the false idea one has of it, the farther one goes, the more one loses one’s way. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Preface, Émile or On Education (1762) 2 THE CONCEPT OF CHILDHOOD THE ARIÈS THESIS The end of the seventeenth century, when John Locke wrote, occupies a pivotal point, according to an extremely inﬂuential work on the history of childhood.
Children: Rights and Childhood by David Archard