Consuming Children: Education, Entertainment, Advertising

Consuming Children: Education, Entertainment, Advertising

Consuming Children: Education, Entertainment, Advertising

Consuming Children: Education, Entertainment, Advertising


"Consuming Children is an important, exciting, funny and tragic book, addressing key issues for education in the 21st century. It dramatically charts the corporatising of education and the corporatising of the child. It is a book that demands to be read by teachers and policymakers - before it is too late. Sparkling with sociological insight and imagination, it is as clear as it is important as it is disturbing." - Stephen J. Ball, Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education, Institute of Education, University of London

"Accessible, insightful and boldly argued,'Consuming Children' makes a refreshing contribution to current discussions of young people, schooling and the culture industry. Jane Kenway and Elizabeth Bullen draw on a strong base of research and scholarship to advance powerful critiques and interesting and workable pedagogical responses to corporate culturalism." - Colin Lankshear
National Autonomous University of Mexico

"'Consuming Children' offers a challenging perspective on one of the most pressing educational issues of our time - the changing relationships between childhood, schooling and consumer culture. Combining incisive commentary on established debates with new insights from empirical research, it should be read by all those concerned with the future of learning." - Professor David Buckingham
Institute of Education, University of London

• Who are today's young people and how are they constructed in media-consumer culture and in relation to adult cultures in particular?

• How are the issues of pleasure, power, agency to be understood in the corporatised global community?

• How are teachers to educate young people? What new practices are required?

Buy delight, kids rule, adults are dim and schools are dull. These are canons of children's consumer cultures. In the places where kids, commodities and images meet, education, entertainment and advertising merge. Kids consume this corporate abundance with appetite. But what happens now that schools are on the market? Is this a form of corporate gluttony? Are designer schools educationally 'grotesque'? Who is conspicuously consuming at the educational emporium? How are students packaged? Which students have badge appeal? Who rules? Are adults taking their revenge on children? Are kids hungry to learn or keen to transgress? Where is their delight?

Consuming Children argues that we are entering another stage in the construction of the young as the demarcations between education, entertainment and advertising collapse and as the lines between the
generations both blur and harden. Drawing from the voices of students and from contemporary cultural theory this book provokes us to ponder the role of the school in the 'age of desire'.


The young often worry and baffle their parents, their teachers and, of course, politicians and policy makers-indeed any group of people that is responsible for their care. In his book Generations (1997), the Australian social commentator Hugh Mackay observes that young people have become the ‘worry targets’ (p. 82) of the ‘baby boomer’ generation whose parenting is plagued by anxieties. Boomer parents express a range of concerns to do with their kids. They fear for their children's safety because children are home alone more, and because of the apparent rise of predators peddling drugs and inflicting abuse. And they worry that their children may not gain adequate paid employment. They struggle to be ‘responsible parents’ and feel that their children need more protection, help and hope than they are able to give. At the same time, they are taken aback and mystified by children's behaviour. Indeed, Mackay suggests that many are ‘appalled’ at their ‘assertiveness, materialism or sheer rudeness’ (p. 123) and ‘unnerved’ by their ‘swaggering overconfidence’ (pp. 124–5).

Teachers, usually also baby boomers, are likewise often bothered and frustrated by the children in their care. ‘It is so hard to be a teacher these days,’ says one teacher. ‘Kids are so different.’ They are often considered more troublesome than students of former decades. They are more easily bored, restless and hard to control. They are also less attentive and respectful, and far less interested in their schoolwork. Many seem to come grudgingly to school. They are apathetic and disengaged when in class, ‘turn on’ mainly with their peers and seem to get their pleasures, find their identities and, indeed, live the ‘important’ parts of their lives elsewhere-out of class, out of school. Further, they are seen to subscribe to the sort of materialistic and hedonistic values that schools claim neither to accept nor promote (Fitzclarence, under review).

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