CHC: Season 2, Episode 5: Historical Truth and Childhood Trauma

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

[gn_spoiler title=”Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ronald Niezen” open=”1″ style=”2″]

Part 1 of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ronald Niezen

Part 2

Part 3

[gn_spoiler title=”Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan” open=”1″ style=”2″]

Ronald Niezen was trained as an Africanist and his first research took place in Northern Mali. As a young scholar, he found work in health and human services with the James Bay Cree, and this set his career in a new direction. He later lived and worked in Northern Manitoba where he began hearing stories about Canadian residential schools.

The Canadian aboriginal residential school project imitated the American model and built upon the ideas in Canada’s 1857 “Gradual Civilization Act.” At their height in the interwar period, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches operated about 130 schools with funds and according to regulations provided by the Federal government of Canada. An estimated 140,000 students attended these schools. The last one was closed in the mid-1990s.

Resistance to the schools was inspired by global anti-colonial and civil rights movements. Radio and later television coverage on the CBC developed lines of critique over several decades. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the most visible objection was that the schools alienated young people, produced language loss and cultural disintegration. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the accusations had shifted to corporal punishment, emotional trauma, family separation, sexual abuse which caused a cycle of hardship for the families of former students.

The shift toward visible violence, separation, and trauma made the complaints of former students and First Nation’s communities ‘legible’ at law. This resulted in a series of legal victories (and ultimately an enormous class-action suit) against the government of Canada in the new century. By 2007, a general settlement was reached that would pay former students approximately five billion CAD. The agreement also produced the world’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dedicated to state crimes against children.
Truth and Indignation Selected.indd
Truth and Indignation is an institutional ethnography, inspired by two disjunctions that Ron encountered in the developing narrative on the schools. In the 1950’s, the schools had been publicly promoted as an altruistic effort to improve literacy, discipline, piety, and security for native peoples. Within three decades the prevailing opinion had completely reversed; residential schools became viewed as sites of language loss, trauma, moral corruption, and violence. As one of the few writers who has conducted interviews of former operators of the schools (Oblate Brothers), Ron became aware of another divergence – and one that remains largely invisible or untouchable. These men recall schools as places of learning and pastoral care. Their memories could not have been more at odds with the cases brought forward by thousands of former students themselves.

Taking these divergences seriously, Truth and Indignation explores how historical memory is formed. It unpacks structures and operations that were unique to Canada’s TRC. Along the way readers gain insights into the Commission’s template for truth and the significance of key exclusions in the scope of its investigations. The government of Canada called it a TRC, but there was no context transitional justice (no transformation of government in play). Canada made sure the Commission had no judicial powers or processes, and that it carried on without Crown representatives. We might borrow a phrase from David Silverman’s Discourses of Counselling and call Canada’s TRC an “institutionalized incitement to speak.” If so, it was an invitation that excluded major categories of actors. The process excluded (for quite formalistic reasons) those who had been part of about 1,400 similar care-giving and educational institutions. The TRC’s proceedings included no perpetrators, no naming of them. More importantly, they lacked participation from former administrators, teachers, and staff. Reading Truth and Indignation, one has to ask; in what sense was this a process of reconciliation at all?

A book that effectively shows how Canada’s TRC created exclusions, templates, and practices for a specific kind of truth risks being read as an apology for the residential schools. Some may equate a phrase like the ‘production of truth’ with the ‘production of lies,’ precisely because the common term (production) weakens a more comfortable distinction between falsehood and truth. Others may be so motivated by child-saving, so offended by grotesque mistreatment of children at these schools, that they will wish to suspend critical inquiry into memory, trauma, or the making of history. It is an understandable response. The irony will not occur to them that child-saving discourse stood at the foundation of the schools themselves, reappears in the emotions that motivate our reluctance to examine the TRC critically.

It seems to me that we are the beneficiaries of Ron Niezen’s willingness to take risks and examine the TRC in a careful way. I encourage you to read the book.

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CHC: Season 2, Ep 3: Colonialism, Education, and Emotions

Childhood: history & critique (CHC) is a multi-media series of interviews, essays, and reports on happenings in the historical study of childhood hosted by a team of scholars and edited by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan. The series is published and circulated online by the Society for the History of Children and Youth.

[gn_spoiler title=”Audio of Ning de Coninck-Smith’s Conversation with Karen Vallgårda” open=”1″ style=”2″]


[gn_spoiler title=”Commentary by Ning de Coninck-Smith” open=”1″ style=”2″]

Within the history of childhood, emotions have always been present, but not necessarily explored. A key figure in the relative new field of emotional history is professor Peter Stearns, familiar to many historians of childhood and to readers of his journal: Social History – and books like Anxious Parents. A History of Modern Childrearing in America (2004). His articles and books on the history of jealousy, fear and sibling rivalry etc. were eye-opening for me. They pointed my attention to the richness of “educative manuals”, magazines and letters from the readers, but also to aspects of the lives of children, family and parents, which are more embodied than discursive – difficult to make visible, but not less important.

Karen Vallgårda’s recently published book Imperial Childhoods and Christian Missions took me one step further in demonstrating how emotions could be explored, visualized, and understood. Missionary texts are emotionally rich. They were acts of emotional labour – a means for making and a record of the powerful connections between missionaries, indigenous children, and their parents. They reveal how missionaries managed and used feelings when educating the local children, their own children – and those more distant: children and adults back home in Denmark.

cover art
At first my interest in Vallgårda’s study was captivated by the concept of emotional labour and how it was unfolded and used. Secondly I was attracted – and challenged by Vallgårda’s conclusion that the sentimental and scientific elements of the concept of the innocent child was not only a product of the rise of the middle classes in the West, but born out of transnational encounters. These encounters altered European childhoods when missionaries wrote and globally circulated magazines, pamphlets, exhibitions, Sunday school classes, missionary slide shows, etc. The innocent child replaced an older understanding of children as dangerous and born in sin despite the fact that Christian missionary work itself had long rested on this older link between childhood and the Fall. From the 1890s onwards the tone/discourse, as well as the educative practices, changed completely as the children were increasingly perceived as sweet, innocent and emotionally gratifying.

This new concept of the child was circulated partially through talks held during visits to the many “missionary houses” across the Danish cities and countryside. At the turn of the 20th Century these small and large mission branches could be counted by the hundreds, and by the end of WWI there were about 1400. Young and old came together to pray – but also to listen to talk about various subjects, inclusive reports from “foreign countries and cultures”. Here missionaries held a privileged position as informants. Vallgårda does not hide the fact that the impact of these meetings is open for debate, but her emphasis upon them is persuasive given the role that “third world children” play in advertising and fund raising campaigns today. This revives an eternal question of what makes the concept of childhood change and even more fundamentally what naturalizes it, so that a certain view of children and their life seems self-evident to many people.

The scale of the Danish missionary work was smaller than it was in England, Germany or Holland. But even so, the Danish mission and the sources left behind are very useful to illustrate and document the missionaries’ relationship to the Indian children – and their relationship to their own children and to the children back in Denmark. These stories connect in unexpected ways, as when Vallgårda shows how new Western medical ideas about good motherhood and childbirth became part of the missionaries’ educative strategies towards the parents. Or how the new view of the child as innocent turned into an incentive to save it from the parents’ racial and cultural inferiority.

The missionaries were often parted from their own children. Sometimes their children were left in Denmark to be educated by family and friends. Other children of missionaries struggled to adapt to the new climate or suffered from various diseases; some died during the mission and some returned home before their missionary parents. In these situations, the emotional work of the missionary turned towards themselves and their own children. How might these reflections have been similar to or different from what Indian parents thought and felt when they were separated from their own children by missionary work?

During our talk, I asked Karen to draw an outline of her book and its main arguments. I furthermore asked her about her research questions and her methodologies – and her sources. In my reading, I was especially struck by the high level of reflectivity and the constant dialogue with other scholars of mission history. This dialogue widens the significance of the book beyond the Danish Missionary Society and its Indian outpost dating back to 1864 to include European missionary work, transnational cultural exchange, and the history of emotions. I was curious to know, how she had managed this dialogue and what its contributions could be.
Karen Vallgårda belongs to a new generation of emotional historians, related to the two international centers for emotional history: the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and at Melbourne University. From these circles also comes the volume Emotions and Christian Missions. Historical Perspectives, edited by Claire McLisky, Daniel Midena and Karen Vallgårda in 2015 as part of Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions. This collection covers emotional practices, micro-historical perspectives, and rhetorical strategies of a variety of religious movements and nationalities (English, Danish, German, Spanish and Swedish).

In their introduction McLisky and Vallgårda point to the importance of the socio-cultural context for the understanding of particular emotions and emotional cultures – and they also draw attention to the fact that even though missionary sources are rich in emotions, some voices and emotions are silent. Most of the sources have been written by missionary men, even though their wives from early on took part in the work of conversion. We find few words from prospective converts among children and parents. To be sure most of them were illiterate, but the missionaries seem to have no interest in their perspectives on missionary work. This will not come as a surprise to a historian of childhood, but it is a reminder of the work which needs to be done to completely understand the concept of emotional labor from more than the side of the missionaries themselves. The editors also stress the conflictual nature of these emotional communities and the distance between formal ideas and everyday practices. We have compelling evidence that frustration and anger were as common as the feeling of joy and happiness when conversion happened. Some missionary stations were burnt down, some children ran away from the boarding schools, some parents fiercely resisted the removal of their children, and some Indian mothers protested against the child-birth practices advanced by missionary women.

Transnational and emotional history are two major themes within the current field of scientific history, judging from the program at the World History Conference in Jinan in August 2015. In Karen Vallgårda’s analysis of the Danish missionaries and their relations to Indian children and their parents the two are combined and connected in a fruitful and thought-provoking way. Her work is appealing and easily read. It raises methodological as well as existential questions which invite careful consideration. At a moment when the history of childhood has been institutionalized with conferences, centers, dictionaries, online bibliographies and journals, it is time to start thinking anew about our concepts, understandings and complexities. In my mind, Karen Vallgårda’s work will help us do this.

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CHC Episode 15: Violence & Power, part 2

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

[gn_spoiler title=”Audio of Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ben Parsons” open=”1″ style=”2″]
audio-file-16Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ben Parsons, part 1 (.mp3)
audio-file-16Patrick J. Ryan’s Conversation with Ben Parsons, part 2 (.mp3)


[gn_spoiler title=”Conversation Transcript” open=”0″ style=”2″]
Transcript coming soon!

[gn_spoiler title=”Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan” open=”1″ style=”2″]
Click to download a PDF of CHC Episode 15
This installment of CHC offers the second part of an inquiry into violence and generational relations. CHC Ep14 – part 1 introduced a Foucauldian perspective on power and the notion of “wicked” problems to make sense of troubling stories about the treatment of a prisoner in Maine and the use of cage-fighting in a Dallas public high school. It included an interview with Peter Kelly of RMIT University in Australia and a leader in critical youth studies. I argued that these and other incidents and programs suggest that measured physical violence and the disciplinary arrangement of space, time, and bodies operate together, dialectically to frame generational relations of power.

In Part 2, we will begin with a review of institutionalized corporal punishment of children in American and Canadian law, policy, and practice. This includes a brief commentary on how historians have contributed to our understanding of these structures and concludes with a reading of the 1669 “Children’s Petition” – an anonymous appeal for the English Parliament to regulate corporal punishment in schools. I discussed the long-term continuities and changes in corporal punishment with Ben Parsons, Lecturer at the University of Leicester, who is engaged in a project on ideas about violence, discipline, and learning in late-medieval and early modern pedagogical discourse.

Elaborate statistical analyses and case-by-case reviews of children’s corporal punishment are widely available. Here it is sufficient to begin with the obvious. Today most adults in the world appear to assent to using moderately painful and humiliating punishments to raise and educate children and youth.[1]

This majority support for corporal punishment seems stitched together as a patch-work of varying ideas and practices; certainly regional variations are suggestive of diversity. For example, the geography of American corporal punishment policies in schools closely replicates the distribution of blue states (Democratic) and red states (Republican) in U.S. Presidential elections. Each year the schools of the American South formally paddle hundreds of thousands of students, while just north of the Mason-Dixon line the practice has been (largely) prohibited in public schools. In light of the tensions between punishment and interrogation examined in CHC Ep14, it is almost too rich to report that purportedly anti-government American Republicans overwhelmingly favour encouraging public school teachers and administrators to corporally punish disobedient students and allowing government agents to secretly water-board suspected terrorists.

Without discounting diversity, there is an impressive global pattern of support for the corporal punishment of children by parents and other custodians.[2] The U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, and Australia are only five among well-over one-hundred countries not joining forty-four mostly European nations (led by Sweden in 1979) who have enacted general prohibitions of children’s corporal punishment.[3] A 1980 study of Scotland found that supermajorities (up to 95%) of boys were tawsed at least once in school. A 1995 survey of American parents reported that 94% had used it to control toddlers.[4] In 2007, a school board in Quebec hired a psychologist to teach parents how to spank correctly. More recently, significant majorities of English parents reported they support it and/or use it. In our correspondence, Ben Parsons pointed-out to me that popular coverage of the 2011 urban riots in the U.K., which included headlines such as “Feral Children Run Wild,” ignited calls for a renewed emphasis on corporal punishment.

The ongoing global prevalence of corporal punishment makes it difficult to dismiss the practice as a relic of a pre-modern past; nor do I think it is fair to explain it as a product of mass media sensationalism playing to the lowest common denominator. In fact, Canadian and American scholars have identified the foundational sources of corporal punishment’s legitimacy in Anglo-American law. These include: (1) child custody and family privacy doctrines, (2) current practice and community standards, and – above all – (3) the argument that when the practice is controlled, moderate pain and shame may alter a child’s view of themselves, others, and the rules when subtler methods have failed. This third argument has been especially important, because it defends corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique – in the Foucauldian sense.[5]

Consider what courts in North America have typically demanded while upholding the right to corporally punish children. They stipulate how severe the damage can be, which bodily zones are available, what instruments might be used, the numbers of blows that can be delivered, the ages of the children who can be struck, the emotional-states of the participants, and who should execute, witness, and document the punishment, and sometimes what should be said. Several scholars have argued that this elaborate architecture makes it more difficult to police violence against children, and that the complexity of the rules themselves insures that more children will be seriously harmed. These arguments are compelling (even conclusive), but for the purposes of this inquiry, the formal stipulations are themselves significant because they locate an interdependency between disciplinary interrogation and bodily pain within generational power relations.[6]

Let’s outline the common institutional rules. Blows meted out to children are supposed to be delivered by or with the approval of a custodial parent in combination with techniques that encourage the children to reflect upon themselves. School codes of conduct sometimes state that corporal punishment will be used “if and after other forms of correction have failed,” or “administered to any student who indicates open defiance for authority…”[7] The punishment is supposed to “sting” without overwhelming the subject.[8] It is common to find policies instructing officials that students “shall be advised why they are being paddled and be provided with the opportunity to present their side of the story prior to the administration of corporal punishment.”[9] Even more telling is the stipulation that students “will be questioned as to reasons why corporal punishment should not be administered.”[10] Interrogation and the threat of bodily pain are partnered. These regulations seem to follow the logic captured in the famous line, delivered with a strap, in the movie Cool Hand Luke: “what we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” if we “can’t reach” you, pain awaits as a “last resort” to get your mind right.[11]

In sum, court rulings and school policies often outline precisely how children’s self-examination and communication should be integrated into practices moderate bodily pain delivered by adults who know them well. Each time the exchange between punishment and interrogation is written, practiced, threatened, remembered, narrated, mandated, disputed, opposed, defended (etc.), it pushes a little deeper into the framework of modern generational power relations.

How long has the punishment-interrogation dialectic been operating on the landscape of childhood and how has it changed over time?

In Flogging Others: Corporal Punishment and Cultural Identity from Antiquity to the Present (Amsterdam UP, 2014), Guy Geltner makes a case that corporal punishment is ubiquitous; it has not declined with modernity and it is not declining today. Corporal punishment has been resilient in the face of reform, he says, because it helps us close-off liminal possibilities (it sets group boundaries), and because it allows us to place others on the “periphery of humanity.” One possible implication of Geltner’s argument for childhood and youth is obvious. Corporal punishment of children remains strongest against critique, because young people are exemplars of liminal possibilities and this is enhanced by the fact that they are positioned as ‘not yet’ fully human (or as human becomings).[12]

Geltner’s call for us to think in terms of dynamic continuities (rather than by narratives of modern transformation) may be difficult for some childhood historians entertain. A diverse line of scholarship has identified over-arching stages moving European cultures from the sovereignty of patriarchal fathers and masters toward what Elizabeth Pleck called, more “psychological methods of discipline.” Think of the contributions of Bernard Wishy, Lloyd de Mause, Edward Shorter, Lawrence Stone, Philip Greven, Peter Stearns, Mary Ann Mason, Joseph Illick, Jacqueline Reinier, and others.[13] Studies concerned with matters as different as household devices (Karin Calvert) and legal thought/practice (Holly Brewer, CHC Ep 10) have delivered persuasive evidence of a profound early-modern reorientation in generational relations.[14] Collectively, these historians have outlined a long-term movement away from sovereign punishment toward disciplinary techniques since the early sixteenth century.

The story of modern transformation has been told in numerous ways, but rarely without a sense of irony. For Philippe Ariès, the rise of the well-regulated school and the domesticated parlour from the 16th to the 18th centuries constituted a loss of liberty.[15] The closer historians looked at 19th- and 20th-century attempts to institute enlightened childhood ideals, the more ambiguous the project seemed. Perhaps Joe Hawes put the best face on it when he summarized the children’s rights movement as a series of cycles between periods of progressive energy followed by ones of apathy.[16] Studies by Anthony Platt, Jacques Donzelot, Viviana Zelizer, Linda Gordon and many others since have suggested something more problematic – modern child protection and family investigation often served as ideological tools for maintaining class, gender, and racial hierarchies.[17] Whatever these scholars intended and whatever influence their works exerted, the picture of misused police power has helped maintain the right of care-giving adults to corporally punish children and youths. The operative slogan is “don’t criminalize spanking.”[18]

Which is to say that historical studies likely produced varying sensibilities and applications. For some, these books offered grounds for reading the history of children’s corporal punishment as a halting movement toward enlightenment, even if that progress was waylaid by ideological manipulation. In Michael Donnelly’s view historical research supports calls for continued efforts to finally liberate children and youth from corporal punishment.[19] Old generational ideologies are about to fall, as a ‘new’ paradigm of childhood emerges.[20] For other readers, this literature carved a janus-faced figure of modern childhood – a picture more amendable to my questions. In Nikolas Rose’s words, today’s young inhabit “the most intensely governed sector of personal existence.”[21] From his perspective, echoed variously on CHC by Karen Smith and Ansgar Allen, modern childhood itself was made through the govermentalization of the state and the rise of an unprecedented regulatory framework.[22]

Bruce Curtis‘ work in the history of education (Ruling by Schooling Quebec and Building the Educational State) sharply captures this double-sense of the dynamics of punishment and discipline. In a wide-ranging, well-argued 1997 chapter on corporal punishment he concluded:

“Lancaster’s [early-19th-century disciplinary innovations in classroom design] are remarkable in that corporal punishment no longer appears as a means of moral discipline. From a necessary good in the 16th-century, to a necessary evil in the 18th, the beating of students had, in theory, disappeared by the 19th…”

Curtis completed his point with two key admissions: (1) the shift was never fully manifest because practices of inflicting pain continued; (2) the movement from punishment to discipline played with “tactics in a social politics of domination and subordination [more] than an unambiguous indications of ethical advance.”[23] It seems to me that both of these acknowledgments become logically consistent with the narrative of the rise of modern disciplinary institutions – (rather than caveats necessary to sustain the narrative) – if we accept that discipline always-already relies upon physical punishment. In other words, what Curtis and many others have found makes more sense if we more completely abandon the assumption that we are headed for a disciplined world without punishment, and consider the possibility that bodily violence exists in generative tension with disciplined self-examination.

To explore this possibility further, I called Ben Parsons to help me read the oldest English document (of which I know) calling for statutory regulation of corporal punishment in schools. Early English Books holds a “Children’s Petition,” author unknown – dated 1669, which offers a plea to Parliament for statutory limits upon the school-masters’ rights to strike their students (boys of gentry and noble status).[24] The petition did not result in legislative action, but there is no reason to discount its serious intent.[25]

Childrens Petition_1669

Ben observed that the title sounded a lot like religious dissenter Simon Fish’s (d. 1531) “Supplication for the Beggars” – a early 16th-century satirical attack on clerical intercession and the doctrine of purgatory – and “The Song of the Husbandmen,” a 14th-century poem lamenting the toll of taxes on small farmers.   He explained that all three traveled the literary vane of “representing a larger mass, despite the fact that what is being vocalized is the opinion of a privileged few.” If this is so, perhaps the universal term “children” could become more visible as a group through the rise of grammar schools – even though the attending students were limited to a select class of boys.

Ben thought the novelty of the “Children’s Petition,” lay constructing corporal punishment as a legal problem. He knew of at least three cases where teachers had been prosecuted for excessive beatings of students (Thomas Fosse at Bristol, John Roberdson at London, John Depupp at Nottingham); yet in these it was less than clear what law had been violated. The limited legal discourse upon schooling in the late-medieval/early-modern eras seemed more concerned with the pursuit of heresy (or the defence of capital T – Truth), rather than the establishment of discipline.

It seems to me that the document might be read as an off-shoot of a larger humanist critique of corporal punishment. Enlightened opinion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reiterated, but also troubled the Latin aphorism – Inititum sapienteae timor domini – the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the master. Ben affirmed this reading and added in correspondence,

“…indeed a lot of sixteenth-century material in the wake of Erasmus’ De pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis: Montaigne’s ‘De l’Institution des Enfants’, Mulcaster’s Positions, and Ascham’s Schoolmaster all have extensive remarks on the practice [of corporal punishment]. Being humanists, they tend to associate flogging with ‘bad’ established practice, although many of them (especially Mulcaster) still see it as fundamentally beneficial if implemented correctly. Certainly their efforts did nothing to sever the link between physical discipline and formal education: thus Swift writes in a letter of 1708 of his time at Kilkenny: ‘I formerly used to envy my own happiness when I was a schoolboy…I never considered the confinement ten hours a day to nouns and verbs, the terror of the rod, the bloddy [sic] noses and broken shins’. Pope’s portrait of Dr Richard Busby in The Dunciad (4.139-64) is even less forgiving. Both were at school when the Petition appeared.”

Perhaps humanist educational ideas unsettled the corporal punishment of students – and the relationship between bodily pain and learning – and helped open a more intense arena of debate. Ben Jonson was not complementing a rival when he called him a “pedantic schoolmaster, sweeping his living from the posteriors of little children.”[26] The image underlying Jonson’s insult served as the starting point of “The Children’s Petition.” School masters lacked civic virtue and economic independence in a society that had seized monastic property a century earlier. As a result, their authority was “derived” and “subordinate,” unlike that of natural fathers or agents of the King, and therefore it became subject to regulation by Parliament. During our conversation, Ben offered some interesting notes about the tensions between parents and teachers as the grammar school regime became established in the late-16th and 17th centuries.[27]

The subordination of clerical class opened the way for the petition’s primary attack: such little men whipped the exposed buttocks of boys as a form of sexual debauchery. We find illusions to the traditions of Jesuit education which may have closed a circle from whipping to buggery to schooling for the petition’s presumed readers.[28] If punishment is “self-pleasing” by the punisher, its origins would rest in the desires of the master and “not in the punished to help it.” Students would be fashioned in a “hell,” where “they arise from an unquenchable fire, in the appetite of the Master.”[29] A reissue of the petition in 1698 concluded by referring to the biblical story of the wickedness of Sodomites in Genesis 19.[30] For these reformers, the fundamental problem with corporal punishment of students was not what it allowed anger and fear to do, but what it allowed pleasure to do. It is a “procurer of vice,” with a “root more deep perhaps in the flesh then is seen.”[31]

It seems to me the petitioners are profoundly undermining the key Christian justification of corporal punishment as a practice of pastoral care. In the 10th-century, Anglo-Saxon translators of Pauline texts helped insure for centuries that the Benedictine monastic reforms would include beatings and forced fasts as requirements of spiritual transformation. The cornerstone of this transformation (via St. Paul) rested on the clerical renunciation of the body, sex, and family life (thus the priority given to monastic life).[32]

Of course, the monastic order would fall in the 16th-century and clear the way for the rise of the grammar schools. Here we have 17th-century grammar school petitioners reversing the relationships between violence upon the body and the purification of the soul. Corporal punishment must be regulated in order to redirect the human propensity to seek pleasure and avoid pain. For the disciplined student, “…[it] is not the necessaries of his Meat & Drink, no not his Balls and Boundingstones, his Top and his Bandy, [that] would be delicious to him, as the time he was thus suffered to be with his Master…” Before Locke would make this argument famous in Some Thoughts on Education, the petitioners are assuming that children’s concern for how they are viewed by others (that is their capacity to take themselves as objects of vision) could be used as a means of control without arousing the corrupting passions of bodily pleasure. This idea stands as a pillar of governmental rationality. If discipline is established within, we will find students “chearfully striving with themselves and fellows in understanding, who shall excel, and wear the Wreath of their Masters commendation.” Schools should be something like a “Boys Olymicks, or so many Games of the Muses…”   Promising students should “not only be admitted to higher degrees of exercise, but to some more intimate conversation of their Master in reading of History, or other delightful studies.”[33]

In Foucauldian terms, the petition asked for a regime of government rather than a sovereign doctrine. The ability of a master to manage students, “keep a company of Youth in obedience, without violence and stripes,” is more important than his skill at Latin or Greek.[34] Students who are unsuitable for school should be expelled, not beaten. Children are not “mad,” a school is not “bedlam.” [35] Whipping should never be visited upon a boy for academic failure.[36] Corporal punishment should be rare and regulated. It should never be delivered to a boy’s buttocks with drawers dropped.[37] The 1698 version added that pubescent youths (boys over 13 and “the Female sooner”) should be exempt completely.[38]

To further prevent the procedure from being mixed with “the Masters heat of passion,” two procedures are recommended. Time between the offending incident and its punishment should pass (an hour or a day). In the interim, the school should convene a “solemn kind of Judicature” (a review by masters and fellows). Here justifications, extenuations will be heard. Candour will be encouraged. The offender must speak, confide, confess. Fellow students will hold the right to condemn.[39]

The significance of the “The Children’s Petition” lies in the structure of thought it reveals. I read it as an attempt to widen the pathway for disciplinary techniques within a compromised seat of pastoral power – the school-master’s relationships with students. This pathway became clearer over time, not by abolishing children’s corporal punishment, but utilizing it to construct ever more subtle connections between physical pain and interrogating discipline. As this happened, to conclude with Foucault’s words, the sovereign found “himself responsible for, entrusted with, and assigned new tasks of conducting [men]…. this is why there is a problem that assumed an even greater intensity than others in this [early-modern] periodThe pedagogical problem of how to conduct children… The education of children was the fundamental utopia, crystal and prism through which problems [of governmentality were perceived].[40]

In seems to me that the task of conducting the conduct of children has not – over the intervening three centuries – untangled itself from the sovereign bond of bodily punishments.

Recent Publications by Ben Parsons:
“Beaten for a Book: Domestic and Pedagogic Violence in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 37 (2015).
“The Way of the Rod: the Functions of Beating in Late Medieval Pedagogy,” Modern Philology 113 (2015).
“Bloody Students: Youth, Corruption and Discipline in the Medieval Classroom” in Blood Matters ed. by Bonnie Landers Johnson and Eleanor Decamp (Penn State UP, 2015).
Comic Drama in the Low Countries, 1400-1560, with Bas Jongenelen (Boydell and Brewer, 2012).
‘”In Which Land Were You Born?”: Cultural Transmission in the Historie van Jan van Beverley’, with Bas Jongenelen, Medieval English Theatre 36 (2014): 30-76.
“Scarring Roles: Trauma and Temporality on the Medieval Stage”, Romard 51 (2013): 43-50.
“The English Fabliau in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries”, Literature Compass 10 (2013): 544-58.
“Sympathy for the Devil: Gilles de Rais and his Modern Apologists”, Fifteenth-Century Studies 37 (2012): 113-38.
“To Sir, With Loathing: Student Revenge Fantasies and the Middle English Lyric”, PEER English (Special Issue) 7 (2012): 24-45.
‘”Verray Goddes Apes”: Troilus, Saint Idiot and Festive Culture’, Chaucer Review 45 (2011): 275-98.
“No Laughing Matter: Fraud, the Fabliau and Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale”, Neophilologus 95 (2011): 1-16.
‘”A Riotous Spray of Words”: Rethinking the Medieval Theory of Satire’, Exemplaria 21 (2009): 105-28.
‘”For my synne an for my yong delite”: Chaucer, the Tale of Beryn, and the Problem of Adolescentia’, Modern Language Review 103 (2008): 940-51.

[1] To obtain global information on corporal punishment from around the globe see This essay focuses on English-speaking cultures; for the global prevalence and institutionalization of corporal punishment of children and youth in Spain, Ghana, South Africa, Romania, Israel, China, Japan, India (respectively), and in world-South see: Enrique Gracia and Juan Herrero, “Beliefs in the Necessity of Corporal Punishment of Children and Public Perceptions of Child Physical Abuse as a Social Problem,” Child Abuse and Neglect v. 32 (2008): 1058-1062; Frances Hunt, “Policy in Practice: Teacher-Student Conflict in South African Schools,” in Education, Conflict and Reconciliation: International Perspectives edited by F. Leach and M. Dunne (Peter Lang, 2007); Vusi Mncube and Tshilidzi Netshitangani, “Can Violence Reduce Violence in Schools? The Case of Corporal Punishment,” Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology vol. 5, no. 1 (2014): 1-9; Afua Twum-Danso Imoh, “Children’s Perceptions of Physical Punishment in Ghana and the implications for Children’s Rights,” Childhood: a journal of global research v. 20, n. 4 (2013): 472-486; Adrian V. Rus et al, “Severe Punishment of Children by Staff in Romanian Placement Centers for School-Aged Children: Effects of Children and Institutional Characteristics,” Child Abuse & Neglect v. 37 (2013): 1152-1162; Zeev Winstok, “Israeli Mothers’ Willingness to Use Corporal Punishment to Correct the Misbehavior of Their Elementary School Children,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence v. 29, no. 1 (Jan 2014): 44-65; Meifang Wang and Li Lui, “Parental Harsh Discipline in Mainland China: Prevalence, Frequency, and Coexistence,” Child Abuse & Neglect vol. 38, no. 6 (June 2014) 1128–1137; Aaron L. Miller, Discourses of Discipline: An Anthropology in Japan’s Schools and Sports (Institute of East Asian Studies, 2013); N.S. Mumthas, Jouhar Munavvir, and K. Abdul Gaffor, “Student and Teacher Perceptions of Disciplinary Practices: Types, Reasons, Consequences and Alternatives,” Guru Journal of Behavioral and Social Sciences vol. 2 iss. 4 (Oct – Dec, 2014); Jennifer E. Lansford et al, “Attitudes Justifying Domestic Violence Predict Endorsement of Corporal Punishment and Physical and Psychological Aggression towards Children: A study of 25 Low- and Middle-Income Countries,” Journal of Pediatrics v. 164 n. 5 (May 2014): 1208-1213.
[2] Joan E. Durrant, Linda Rose-Krasnor, and Anders G. Broberg, “Physical Punishment and Maternal Beliefs in Sweden and Canada,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies vol. 34 (2003): 585-604.
[3] Analyses of Swedish penal and disciplinary regimes are particularly relevant. See Jonas Qvarsebo, “Swedish Progressive School Politics and the Disciplinary Regime of the School, 1946-1962: a genealogical perspective,” Paedagogica Historica vol. 49, no 2 (April 2013): 217-235; Vanessa Baker, “Nordic Exceptionalism Revisited: Explaining the Paradox of a Janus-faced Penal Regime,” Theoretical Criminology vol. 17, no. 1 (February 2013): 5-25. A more complete critique of the progressive narrative of penal reform relative to childhood was delivered by Agamben in Homo Sacer, see pages 130-131.
[4] Murray Strauss and Julie H. Stewart, “Corporal Punishment by American Parents: National Data on Prevalence, Chronicity, Severity, and Duration, in Relation to Child and Family Characteristics,” Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review vol. 2, iss. 2 (June 1999): 55-70.
[5] See Anne McGillivray, “Children’s Rights, Paternal Power and Fiduciary Duty: From Roman Law to the Supreme Court of Canada” International Journal of Children’s Rights vol. 18 (2012): 21-54; “Child Corporal Punishment: Violence, Law and Rights” (with Joan Durrant) in Cruel but not Unusual: Violence in Canadian Families edited by Ramona Alaggia and Cathy Vine (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006): 177-200; “Childhood in the Shadow of Parens Patriae” Multiple Lenses, Multiple Images: Perspectives on the Child Across Time, Space and Disciplines edited by in Hillel Goelman, Sheila Marshall and Sally Ross (University of Toronto Press, 2004): 38-72. The outline given here is more sharply represented in Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law vs. Canada (Can. Sup. Ct, 2004); Katie Sykes, “Bambi Meets Godzilla: Children’s and Parents’ Rights in Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and Law v. CanadaMcGill Law Journal vol. 51 (2006): 131-165. The grounding British case was R v Hopley (1860) 2 F&F 202, several European Human Rights Commission rulings have narrowed what is permissible by parents under British law. See Rhona Smith, “To Smack or Not to Smack? A review of A v United Kingdom in an international and European context and its potential impact on physical parental chastisement,” Web Journal of Current Legal Issues 1999.   The most important American case is Ingraham v. Wright (U.S. Sup. Ct., 1977); Virginia Lee, “A Legal Analysis of Ingraham v. Wright” in Corporal Punishment in American Education: readings in history, practice, and alternatives edited by Irwin A. Hyman and James H. Wise (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1979): 173-195.
[6] There is strong evidence that statutes and policies that protect “mild” uses of corporal punishment from prosecution make it difficult to police more severe cases of abuse and humiliation. Whether these legal protections themselves cause measurable long-term damage to child and youth is a more difficult research question, but it seems likely to me that they do. See Bernadette J. Saunders and Chris Goddard, Physical Punishment in Childhood: the rights of the child (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); Deana Pollard Sacks, “State Actors Beating Children: A Call for Judicial Relief,” University of California Davis Law Review vol. 42 (2008-09): 1165-1229; Joan E. Durrant, “Trends in Youth Crime and Well-being Since the Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Sweden,” Youth & Society v. 31, no. 4 (June 2000): 437-455; Anne McGillivray, “‘He’ll learn it on his body’: Disciplining Childhood in Canadian Law,” International Journal of Children’s Rights vol. 5 (1998): 255-288.
[7] See examples from public and private schools Colorado and Georgia accessed online January 29, 2015. Appling County Middle School, Parent/Student Handbook of Information 2013/2014,; “Meeker School District No Re-1” (Colorado); Appling County Middle School, Parent/Student Handbook of Information 2013/2014,
[8] Milford Christian Academy Student Handbook – Jan. 7, 2014 (Milford, CT) at See the defense of moderate usage in two Australian Christian Academies: (1) and (2)
[9] School District of Clay County, Green Cove Springs, FL, “Code of Conduct,” (2013-2014): 11 accessed on 02/03/15 at .   See also Sandra Himmel, “Citrus County Schools, Code of Conduct, 2012-2013,” page 19, accessed at
[10] The School Board of Union County (Lake Butler, Florida), “Student Code of Conduct, Union County High School,” (2010): 18. Accessed at
[11] See page 47 of Pendleton Heights (Indiana) High School Student Handbook, 2014-15.
[12] Guy Gelner, Flogging Others: Corporal Punishment and Cultural Identity from Antiquity to the Present (Amsterdam University Press, 2014).
[13] Bernard Wishy, The Child and the Republic: the Dawn of the Modern American Child Nurture (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968); Lloyd deMause ed., The History of Childhood (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1974); Edward Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1975); Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London, UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977); Philip J. Greven, The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-Rearing, Religious Experience and the Self in America (New York, NY: Knopf, 1977); Elizabeth Pleck, Domestic Tyranny: the making of social policy against family violence from colonial times to the present (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987); Peter Stearns, “The Role of Fear in American Emotional Standards for Children, 1850-1950,” American Historical Review v. 96, no. 1 (1991): 63-94; Mary Ann Mason, From Father’s Property to Children’s Rights: the history of child custody in the United States (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1994); Jacqueline Reiner, From Virtue to Character: American Childhoods, 1775-1850 (New York, NY: Twayne Publishers, 1996); Joseph Illick, American Childhoods (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).
[14] Karin Calvert, Children in the House: the material culture of early childhood, 1600-1900 (Boston, MA: Northeastern University, 1992); Holly Brewer, By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
[15] Phillippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood: a social history of family life trans. by Robert Baldick (London, UK: Cape, 1962): 406.
[16] Joseph M. Hawes, The Children’s Rights Movement: a history of advocacy and protection (Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers, 1991); and, Children in Urban Society: Juvenile Delinquency in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1971).
[17] Anthony M. Platt, The Child Savers: the invention of delinquency (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969); Jacques Donzelot, The Policing of Families trans. by Robert Hurley (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1979); Viviana Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: the changing social value of children (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1985); Linda Gordon, Heroes of Their Own Lives: the politics and history of family violence, Boston 1880-1960 (New York, NY: Viking, 1988).
[18] This was an important phrase in the government of Canada’s defense of statutory protections for parents provided by section 43 of the criminal code, and it was reiterated by the majority ruling. See Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law vs. Canada (Can. Sup. Ct, 2004). And it is widely used it support similar policies and laws in the English-speaking world.
[19] Michael Donnelly, “Putting Corporal Punishment of Children in Historical Perspective,” in Corporal Punishment of Children in Theoretical Perspective edited by Michael Donnelly and Murray A. Straus (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2005):41-54.
[20] This said, research inspired by the so-called ‘new’ paradigm’s stress upon the evidentiary value of children’s perspectives does not necessarily result in advocacy for any particular policy; it can also complicate our understanding of the question. See especially the thoughtful article by Jean-Paul Payet and Vije Franchi, “The Rights of the Child and ‘The Good of the Learners,’: a comparative ethnographical survey on the abolition of corporal punishment in South African Schools,” Childhood: a journal of global research v. 15, no. 2 (2008): 157-176.
[21] Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self, second edition (New York, NY: Free Association Books, 1999): 123.
[22] See CHC Ep14. The specific tensions between the social study of childhood and governmentality studies are summarized nicely by Marit Haldar and Eivind Engebretsen, “Governing the liberated child with self-managed family displays,” Childhood: a journal of global research v. 21, no. 4 (2013): 475-487.
[23] Bruce Curtis, “‘My Ladie Birchely must needes rule,’ Punishment and the Materialization of Moral Character from Mulcaster to Lancaster,” in Discipline, Moral Regulation, and Schooling: a Social History edited by Kate Rousmaniere, Kari Dehli, and Ning de Coninck-Smith (NY: Routledge, 1997). Also see by Bruce Curtis, chapter 8 of Building the Educational State: Canada West, 1836-1871 (London, ON: Althouse Press, 1988); Ruling by Schooling Quebec: Conquest to Liberal Governmentality – A Historical Sociology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012).
[24] Author Unk, “The Childrens Petition, or a modest remonstrance of the intolerable grievance our Youth lie under, in the accustomed severities of the school-discipline of the nation. Humbly presented to the Consideration of the Parliament,” (London, Richard Chiswel, 1669).
[25] This is the approach of C.B. Freeman, “The Children’s Petition of 1669 and Its Sequel,” British Journal of Educational Studies vol. 14, no. 2 (May 1966): 216-223. Following a 1975 lecture delivered by Keith Thomas, the documents focus on sodomy appears to have caused Hugh Cunningham to conclude that it was pornographic rather than a “genuine petition” to Parliament. Other studies (see note 29) have shown that this concern part of a wider discourse on pedagogy in the early modern period, and should not be dismissed. See Hugh Cunningham, The Invention of Childhood (London: BBC Books, 2006): 84.
[26] Mark H. Lawhorn, “Taking Pains for the Prince: Age, Patronage, and Penal Surrogacy in Samuel Rowley’s When You See Me, You Know Me,” in The Premodern Teenager: Youth and Society, 1150-1650 edited by Konrad Eisenbichler (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Rennaissance Studies, 2002): 131-150. (Jonson quoted on page 136)
[27] “Childrens Petition,” 4-6; 35-37. The petitioners do briefly refer to the Roman antithesis between corporal punishment and citizenship. But they do not develop this line of thought. “Childrens Petition,” 25, 27, 33. A good summary of the Greco-Roman sources of this idea is offered by G. Geltner, “History of Corporal Punishment,” in Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice edited by Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisband (New York, NY: Springer, 2014): 2106-2115.
[28] “Childrens Petition,” 22-23. The connection between pleasure, pain, pedagogy, and sex was part of a larger concern documented in Alan Stewart, Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997): 84-121; It is also suggested by the way the text uses Latin passages, especially the one taken from Juvenal, Satire II, lines 8-10. See “Children’s Petition,” 17-18, 20. The point was made infamous by Sade. John Phillips, The Marquis de Sade: a very short introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005): 1-2.
[29]“Childrens Petition,” 14-15.
[30] Unk, “Lex Forcia: Being a Sensible Address to the Parliament for an Act to Remedy the foul abuse of Children at Schools…” London: Eliz.. Whitelock, 1698): 30.
[31] “Childrens Petition,” 67.
[32] Nathan Ristuccia, “Ideology and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon Monastic Education American Benedictine Review v 61, no 4 (Dec 2010): 373-386.
[33] “Childrens Petition,” 58-60.
[34] “Childrens Petition,” 55.
[35] “Childrens Petition,” 50.
[36] “Childrens Petition,” 26.
[37] “Childrens Petition,” 34, 49, 61-63.
[38] “Lex Forcia,” 27-28.
[39] “Childrens Petition,” 61-63.
[40] Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 231.


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Guest Post: Saheed Aderinto on Education and Childhood Poverty in Colonial Nigeria

Saheed Aderinto teaches at Western Carolina University. He is the author of When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria (2015) and editor of Children and Childhood in Colonial Nigerian Histories (2015), among other books. His articles have appeared in leading Africanist and specialist journals including, the Canadian Journal of African Studies; Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute; Journal of the History of Sexuality; Journal of Social History; Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History; and Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, among others.

My article, titled “O! Sir I Do Not Know Either to Kill Myself or to Stay”: Childhood Emotion, Poverty, and Literary Culture in Nigeria, 1900-1960” uses letters composed by children of Lagos (Nigeria) in the 1940s to unlock the history of urban childhood poverty and emotion.[1] To the best of my knowledge, the letters is the largest and most comprehensive archival material on children’s history composed by children of colonial Nigeria. One theme I found really interesting as I researched my piece is the children’s emphasis on education as the solution to poverty and as a gateway to upward socio-economic mobility. The importance of education has featured prominently in academic and popular discourses of underdevelopment in twenty-first century Africa. It is intriguing to see that Lagos children of the 1940s realized the value of education to their personal, family, and community development. The children’s writings about the significance of education counters the assumption that it was mainly a prescription of adult, imposed on children. It is a truism that adults were mainly responsible for devising educational policy and curriculum; but how children of Lagos internalized it as a significant element of their socialization is fascinating.

Elementary school education was not only popular in urban Africa, it was also conceived by many (especially African educated elites and nationalists) as an enterprise in nation building. The exponential increase in school enrollment throughout the first half of the twentieth century was therefore tied to high demand for education. Yet, the available classroom space could not accommodate demand for the “white man’s knowledge.” Much of the decision to enroll children in school was made by parents and guardians. But, as some of the letters revealed, children did make personal decision to enroll in school in contravention of their parents’ wish for them to receive training in a vocational field or in agriculture. Hence, one sees a lot of children’s agency that contravenes the well-received notion that they were totally innate, especially in big issues such as education and intellectual empowerment.

The children’s letter tells the story of the contradiction inherent in the colonial education system. On one hand, education was viewed as a vehicle of civilization as professed by the colonialists, and as a prerequisite for sound nation building by the nationalists. Yet, access to education at all levels was a privilege. The restricted access to education was largely attributable to the unevenness of infrastructural development in colonial Africa and the government’s policy on public education. Most schools were located in the big urban centers, which had the facilities to support teaching and teachers. But more importantly, most colonial governments did not have free-education policy. Hence parents, guardians, and sometimes the entire community had to pay for children’s education. Some children, as young as ten, worked to pay their way through school—the letters revealed. When one reads about the numerous jobs children did to pay for their education, one is quickly alerted to the need to problematize such concept as “child labor” within the context of the difficult relationship between children’s economic activities in purely capitalist, unsafe, and exploitative environment, and what they did with resources accrued.

Moreover, the children’s letters render a window to viewing how location shaped childhood experience. It also introduces a scholar to childhood poverty, a less charted path in colonial African studies. Who was a poor child in colonial Africa? How did children define poverty? Lack of family ties, which manifested in vagrancy, homelessness, and lack of food, were elements of poverty peculiar to the city—a domain characterized by facelessness and lack of kinship system that sustained communal living in the villages. The children not only rendered the profile of a poor child similar to what obtained in most urban centers across the globe, they painted an idealistic image of a “normal” childhood experience. An ideal childhood to them was a childhood free from the dangers of the street, shielded from the agonies of hunger, and nurtured with “knowledge of book” in an environment controlled by respected teachers and adults. It was a childhood of responsibility, which allowed minors to share household chores and reciprocate the opportunity to have food, education, and shelter by performing tasks or being in charge of responsibilities, beneficial to their parents, mentors, and guardians. As I have shown in my book titled, Children and Childhood in Colonial Nigerian Histories, the notion of “modern” or “ideal” Nigerian childhood emerged alongside with other elements of colonial modernities of the first half of the twentieth century.[2] The proliferation of European-styled play-grounds, schools, and advice manuals on children were all informed by the assumption that African childhood must be modernized. It is one thing to make prescription about an ideal childhood, it is another for it to become institutionalized or accepted by children. Thus, the idea of modern childhood was a two-way traffic—both the adults and children appropriated it to suit their realities and aspirations.


[1] Saheed Aderinto, “O! Sir I Do Not Know Either to Kill Myself or to Stay”: Childhood Emotion, Poverty, and Literary Culture in Nigeria, 1900-1960,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 8, no.2 (2015).
[2] Saheed Aderinto, “Introduction: Colonialism and the Invention of Modern Nigerian Childhood” in Children and Childhood in Colonial Nigerian Histories, edited Saheed Aderinto, 1-18 (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Opportunity: Editor of Children, Youth and Environments

The current editors are soliciting candidates for editor (or co-editors) of the journal Children, Youth and Environments. The new editor will assume the position of editor-designate in the summer of 2015 and during the transition will begin working with the current editors Willem van Vliet, Louise Chawla and Fahriye Sancar to become familiar with journal operations and procedures. The editor-designate will assume lead responsibility for the journal beginning in the Spring of 2016, commencing with Volume 26.

The position of editor/co-editor is a volunteer position, with journal funds available to pay for a Managing Editor, copy editor, and other technical assistance. Requirements for editor/co-editor include having a Ph.D. in a field related to children’s environments, some editing and publishing experience, and familiarity with the Children, Youth and Environments journal. Please, direct questions about this position to the journal’s lead editor, Dr. Willem van Vliet (phone 303-492-5015; email:
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Guest Post: Mark E. Lincicome on Conversations with Nakano Akira

Mark E. Lincicome is an Associate Professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He specializes in early modern and modern Japanese history and culture, Japanese intellectual history, educational reform movements and the politics of education in modern Japan, and globalization in Asia.

My personal relationship with Nakano Akira, who is the subject of my essay, “In the Shadow of the Asia-Pacific War,” dates back some two decades. I first contacted him in the early 1990s seeking his advice and assistance as an expert on the so-called “Taisho liberal education” movement, which coincided with other “progressive” social and political movements in Japan between the two world wars. We soon became friends: my family and I hosted Professor Nakano and his wife at our house in Massachusetts for a week back in 1996, while I have visited their comfortable home in suburban Tokyo at least a half-dozen times since then, where I am always treated to a sumptuous sushi lunch after first sipping tea and talking with Professor Nakano about our respective research projects in their sitting room.
Photo 1
It is in the sitting room, on the top shelf of a bookcase in the corner (see photo #1, taken in October 2013), where Nakano displays a small, white plaster relief of famed Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi (see photo #2). As I explain in my essay, this piece, which Nakano’s father cast during the early years of the Taisho liberal education movement, is steeped in symbolism. For Nakano it serves, among other things, as a poignant reminder of a life-changing conversation he had with his father during his youth, as he despaired over the meaning of Japan’s recent defeat in the Asia-Pacific War.
Photo 2
From my vantage point, this plaster relief also symbolizes the subjectivity that casts its own indelible mark on the work of every historian, whether he or she acknowledges it—as Nakano does—or not. Nakano’s candid expressions of admiration for the progressive ideals espoused by Taisho-era educational reformers like his father, on one hand, and his frustration over their inconsistent defense of those ideals in the face of political and bureaucratic opposition, on the other, stem from the doubts and despair he experienced as a patriotic “military youth” who proudly entered the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy (see photo #3) in the spring of 1945, only to witness his country’s long “holy war” and its promise of “certain victory” conclude with “unconditional surrender” and foreign occupation six months later.
For reasons that I explain in the introduction, Part Two of my article features my translation of an essay that Nakano wrote and published in Japanese in 2000. I wish to thank James Marten and the editorial board of the Journal of History of Childhood and Youth for allowing me to include it. I hope that their decision will encourage other journals in related fields to follow suit.

Guest Post: Rachel Remmel on the Graded School in 19th Century Boston

In this blog post, Rachel Remmel places her forthcoming article, “The Spaces of the Schoolhouse and the City: Gender and Class in Boston Education, 1830-1832,” in its historical and historiographical contexts. Remmel is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. Her research focuses on school architecture and museum history, both institutions intended to transmit and shape values. Her book project is The Origins of the American School Building: Boston Public School Architecture, 1789–1860.

This article represents part of my larger book project, which explores why, in 1847, Bostonians developed the graded school, which divides students by age and ability into small, individually taught classrooms. This model is so ubiquitous and familiar within the United States that it is difficult for many to envision that there were ever alternatives. Yet the graded school was not inevitable, and the first half of the nineteenth century was a time of widespread experimentation with school organization. In order to understand the success of the graded school, it is important to understand what problems Bostonians thought it solved and what drawbacks the alternatives presented. The failed reforms of 1830-1832 represent a clear snapshot of both the problems Bostonians perceived and the drawbacks of one alternative reorganization.

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Children in Film

CFP: Children in Film
SWPCA/ACA, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Feb 19-22, 2014
Deadline for Submissions: November 1, 2013

Proposals are now being accepted for the Children in Film Area of the 35th annual SWPCA/ACA conference February 19-22, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.( We welcome proposals that explore and interrogate the representations of children in Hollywood film, independent film, foreign film, and/or children’s film. Additional topics of interest concerning children in film or images of children in film may include, but are not limited to: coming-of-age; children of color; negotiations of racial/ethnic/cultural differences; negotiations by children of social, political, economic conditions; children’s relationships with adults, parents, siblings, or peers as represented in film; gender and children; sexuality and children; children of the Diaspora as portrayed in film; children and technology; the child body; ideology and the child; children’s education, and any other topic that explores the child image in film.

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Podcast: Writing the History of Childhood and Youth in Canada

Here is the audio recording of the HCYG roundtable at the University of Victoria in June 2013: Unraveling Common and Uncommon Threads: Writing the History of Childhood and Youth in Canada / Dénouer les dénominateurs communs et moins communs: Écrire l’histoire de l’enfance et de la jeunesse au Canada.

Listen Here

1. Cynthia Comacchio, Wilfrid Laurier “Chronology, Biology and History: Why Age Matters.” (0:00-12:19)

2. Mona Gleason, UBC: “Beyond the Fetish of ‘Voice’: Theoretical and Methodological Innovation in the History of Children in Canada.” (12:20-27:02)

3. Dominique Marshall, Carleton: “L’action politique des enfants canadiens: Dimensions transnationales, découvertes et suggestions.” (27:03-43:33).

4. Jonathan Anuik, Alberta: “The Futility of the Hypothetical in Canadian Childhood and Youth: Practical Considerations from Education.” (43:34-1:00)

Job: Research Position at University of Manchester

University of Manchester, Humanities Research Associate
Institution Type: College / University
Location: United Kingdom
Position: Research Professional
Closing date: 4 June 2013
Reference: HUM-02695
Faculty / organisational unit: Humanities
School / Directorate: Arts, Languages and Cultures
Division: History
Salary: 29,541-36,298
Employment type: Fixed term (start date 1st August 2013 for a period of 24 months)
Hours per week: 1 FTE
Location: Oxford Road, Manchester

This post is attached to the AHRC-funded research project, coordinated at The University of Manchester by Dr Peter Cave and Dr Aaron Moore.
This project investigates the experience of childhood, education, and youth in Japan between 1925 and 1945. It will record the memories of about 100 people who lived through this momentous period as children and adolescents, as well as examining surviving diaries of juveniles and other contemporary documents. These oral history and documentary records will be used to build up a picture of juvenile life and education in the period as experienced and remembered. The project examines: social and personal relationships of juveniles; the aims, content, and style of learning in schools; the development of consciousness (especially national consciousness) in juveniles; and the relationship of historical memory and consciousness to ideology and historical discourses.

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Negotiations of Gender in Early Childhood Settings

Call for papers Special issue: Negotiations of Gender in Early Childhood Settings

The International Journal of Early Childhood invites researchers with different theoretical and methodological perspectives to contribute to a special issue on children’s negotiations of gender and normality in early childhood education. This is in order to develop an international research-based conversation on this topic. We welcome researchers from different geographical areas to contribute to this special issue.

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