Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings

By Frances Chaput Waksler | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

Kids, Culture and Innocents

David A. Goode

Commentary

In this article Goode gives eloquent testimony to the existence of worlds inhabited by those children considered ‘damaged’—the blind, the deaf, the alingual, the severely retarded. The oft-made assumption that children labeled ‘severely handicapped’ do not experience the world—that there is ‘nothing going on’ within them—has blinded us to their experiences. Goode brings those experiences to light.

As Goode describes the knowledge he has gained from studying ‘damaged children’, he raises issues that expand understanding of matters considered earlier in this book. Recall, for example, in Chapter 1, the Bergers’ citation of Aries’ claim that ‘Childhood, as we understand and know it today, is a creation of the modern world…’ (p. 9). The Bergers could be said to be claiming that in past history it was routine for children to be denied childhood; it was not socially available, i.e. not a part of the culture of the times; but that nowadays, particularly in technologically complex societies, it is routine for childhood to be recognized as a distinct phase of life. Goode, however, demonstrates in this article that childhood is an experience still denied to some children. Such children may have no access at all to the channels of communication and thus the culture of children described by the Opies.

Just as some children are denied the experience of being a child, that experience can be available to some adults. In her role of least adult, Mandell in Chapter 4 could be said to have sought to ‘enter the world of childhood’. Using research strategies similar in spirit to those of Mandell, Goode has studied children who have been denied that opportunity and has both documented that denial and discovered and described the worlds such children do inhabit.

Goode’s discussion of the wild boy of Aveyron reintroduces the topic of

From Human Studies, 9 (1):83-106 (1986). Copyright © Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. Reprinted by permission of Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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