chapter  3
26 Pages

Children—who do we think they are?

We have argued so far that, in the words of Carlina Rinaldi quoted earlier, ‘childhood does not exist, we create it as a society, as a public subject’. Our construction of childhood and our images of the child represent ethical and political choices, made within larger frameworks of ideas, values and rationalities. In this chapter we want to explore what we believe to be a dominant discursive regime about children, a discourse which creates particular linked understandings of childhood in British society, and images of the child to match. Rinaldi, again, puts the matter succinctly: ‘Many images take something away from children, children are seen as weak, poor, needy.’ That, it seems to us, sums up the most powerful images of the child in Britain today. In some other parts of the world, other images are as powerful, or more so; while in yet other places, perhaps particularly in the English-language world, this image of the ‘weak, poor and needy’ child will resonate.