CORE QUESTION: Throughout history how do various countries’
legal, societal texts define childhood?
Many societies have gone beyond traditionally defining
who/what a child is in cultural or customary terms and
have codified these definitions. An investigation
to view how modern societies across the globe define,
and therefore treat, children will yield interesting sets
TIME REQUIRED: 40 minutes
SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: High school but can be modified
for younger students.
INTERDISCIPLINARY APPLICATIONS: Social Studies, English, World
Languages, World Literature
CORE CONTENT STANDARDS: 6.2 (11) Humanities,
6.3 (14) Human Rights, 6.5 (13 & 14) Cultures.
Identify how various legal or social texts from different
world cultures define childhood.
To compare and contrast the definitions among the texts.
To identify the sources the students most identify with.
Brainstorming - How would you define childhood?
Read passages from teacher selected texts (various ways to
group the selections).
Students will make notes on a
chart (Microsoft Word) organizing similarities
and differences between the texts.
MATERIALS: Selected texts and web sites.
Colon, P. A., and A. R. Colon, A History of Children:
A Socio-cultural Survey Across Millennia, Westport,
CT: Greenwood Publishing, 2001 Themes: offers a disscussion
on how there is an "unchanging, immutable nature of
childhood despite" a broad range of societal, economic
and political practices that shape children's lives. The
universal love for children remains although their lives
have been comprimised, shortened and plagued with child
labor, exploitation, slavery, neglect and death. Themes
that the Colons' book develops spans the roles of various
"laws, religions, pedagogues, medicine, advocates,
and the rogues of history—plagues, tyrants, wars, superstitions,
poverty, famines---on the lives of children."
James, Allison and Alan Prout, eds., Constructing and
Reconstructing childhood : New Directions in the Sociological
Study of Childhood, New York: Falmer Press, 1990.
Greenleaf, Barbara Kaye, Children Through the Ages: A
History of Childhood, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978.
Archard, David, Children: Rights and Childhood, New
York: Routledge, 1993.
The Untied Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(1989/1990). This is located on the UNICEF site,
which is a great place for further exploration of the
subject. Follow the navigation links on the left
side to go to specific parts of the Convention.
Australia---how it defines "child".
From the Australian Law Reform Commission. This
link will bring you to Paragraph 2.6 of the report.
Also scroll down to 2.25 for more legal aspects.
Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration
of Juvenile Justice ("The Beijing Rules"),
G.A. res. 40/33, annex, 40 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 53)
at 207, U.N. Doc. A/40/53 (1985). View
sections 1 through 4 to focus on how juveniles should
be handled in the justice system, and then view the
rest as to the rights afforded to them.
University's Legal Information Institute.
The menu offers many United States Federal laws, some
state laws, and some US Supreme Court Decisions on the
subject of children. Of particular interest is
the link that shows the laws dealing with a child
emancipation from their parents, what age,
what rights they have.... an unusual way to view the
topic (from when the child becomes and adult).
United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights. The sessions listed will
show you country reports on how these countries are
complying with the Convention. Click to specific countries
Students will first complete their comparison charts to be
evaluated. Students will work in groups of four to draft their
own document defining childhood and the rights that children