The sociology of childhood and children’s rights
In 1967 secondary school students (aged 11 to 18) in England were asked (via an invitation set out in a national newspaper) what kind of school they would like. The resulting book (Blishen 1969), is studded with students’ contributions, and records an indictment of school as they experienced it. Students argued that school entailed being treated as passive recipients by teachers who assumed they knew best and also imposed pointless, trivial rules; but school should offer opportunities for children to take part in decisions about what to learn, to discover, to delight in, in the context of more democratic relations with teachers. Blishen comments that the children felt imprisoned; for adults imprisoned children’s courage and curiosity. In 2001 a similar project was carried out, this time including school-age children aged from 5 to18 (Burke and Grosvenor 2003).Children were invited, as individuals or as groups, to present their ideas in any form (written, pictorial, via videos) and thousands responded, from across the country and from a variety of schools. It is worth quoting a summary of the main findings from the 2001 project, which echoes Blishen’s findings.