In this essay

In this essay, I will explore the different discourses that have presented themselves through time, and how they affect modern day Britain. A discourse is a set of ideas that give us an insight into how people view the world. In terms of this essay, the discourses give us a representation of how we see childhood. There are three main discourses that I will be looking into and evaluating which one is most dominant in the UK today. These consist of Romanticism, Puritan and Tabula Rasa.
The ideal of Romanticism first came about in the 18th Century where set ideas within society were beginning to change, people were adapting to the growing world and opinions that were popular in the past were starting to lose their hold on people’s beliefs, these included, wealth, love, nature and children. Romanticism could be said to have started the new modern world, influencing industrialization and urbanization. One key thinker who heavily influenced this discourse is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was originally from Geneva, but travelled to France and inspired the leaders of the French Revolution. He published a book, called Emile, which began to change society’s perspectives on childhood. “In Emile Rousseau captured the imagination of Europe with his validation of Nature, which espoused the natural goodness of children and the corrupting effects of certain types of education.” (Hendrick, 2015, p. 31) Rousseau put forth an attack on the way that adults treated children and put an emphasis on the purity and innocence of young children. He placed importance on the freedom and creativity that children can have outside of their parent discipline. Before this time, children were viewed as having no innate goodness, they were born with ‘original sin’ and had to be baptised to become pure. This is seen in the puritan discourse.
The Puritan discourse is based quite closely to Christianity. Puritans are in the belief that we are all born with original sin, this baseline comes from the biblical text in Genesis, also known as The Fall. Since Adam and Eve ate the fruit that God had betrayed them to eat he cursed all future generations to be born with, and live with, sin. From this, the holy sacrament of baptism was formed to remove the original sin from our lives and give us a clean state. Thomas Hobbes’ (1588-1679) put forth that, because of such original sin, that adults should have full control of their children, and that discipline should be used, regardless of whether it causes the child pain or trauma, they must be punished for the mistake they make. Children are seen as wicked and have no control, and therefore need to be controlled by the adults, as stated by Woodhead, Martin; Montgomery, Heather(2003, p.22) “It assumes that children are inherently lacking in morality and hence children need to be civilized -need to be taught right from wrong and how to overcome their base, animal nature through adult intervention.” This shows that through this discourse, the importance of adult intervention to help the children steer away from their original sin.
The final discourse that I will be looking into is Tabula Rasa, which translates to blank slate. This discourse is in the belief that we are all born with a blank slate, children aren’t born inherently good or have original sin, they come into this world with no knowledge and only learn through what they are taught and what they experience. Through this, it means that the experiences that children go through influences their future life and affects how they will be as adults. This theory was heavily influenced by John Locke (1632-1704). Locke went against the norm that we are all born with some basic understanding and believed that we are not born with any human nature and that we decide, based on our life experiences, our own path. This is also known as empiricism.


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