Monday, May 28, 2012

In Defense of Childhood


Why I read it:

In Defense of Childhood came to my attention because it is published by Beacon Press, and the author Mercogliano is co-director of the Albany Free School.  It was the book I took with me to the beach to read, which proved a harmonious choice.

What it's about:

Mercogliano describes the "domestication" of childhood, including modern parenting, institutional schooling, electronic media, and advertising.  The emphasis is on conformity, safety, and compliance, which leaves kids no room for the authentic and unpredictable self-directed activity that the author calls "wildness".

It's an interesting argument, and the author points to a wide variety of practices he feels are antithetical to protecting childrens' wildness.  Attachment parenting, "helicopter" parenting, and homework are all discussed, but the author doesn't dismiss the value of all out of hand.  He gives a nod to the value of AP, but also has a skepticism for many aspects of it.

 What I thought of it:

I found the book and its thesis interesting, and a good reminder that kids need space, time, and autonomy if they are to develop their own unique selves.

However, the book itself got boring and the arguments seemed repetitive.  The same good points could have been said with far less ink.

The Take-Away:

Let the kids be themselves.  Give them the space, time, and autonomy they need to develop that self.

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