|Annette Richardson (Ed.), Canadian Childhood in 1997.
Edmonton, Alberta, The Kanata Learning Company Ltd., 1997)
How have Canadian children fared during the twentieth century?
to address this question, Annette Richardson has assembled an unusual
intriguing collection of papers reflecting the insights of wide variety
of authors. Richardson began with papers originally developed in in
undergraduate and graduate courses in the Faculty of Education at the
of Alberta, and the organized a major conference in 1997. The result is
a substantial volume with 56 chapters grouped thematically into 10
history, family, intergenerational, community, education, health,
law, indigenous, sociology and media. The book offers two concluding
a well as Richardson’s own Foreword.
As would be expected, one of the delights of the book is its
uneven and eclectic character. By bringing together undergraduate and
with chapters by internationally-recognized scholars, the volume offers
a refreshing immediacy to both questions of research and policy.
Childhood in 1997 is not only multi-disciplinary but it also
both researchers and practitioners. The result is an often passionate
that is chock full of recommendations for the twenty-first century.
the authors are cautiously optimistic but also highly critical of
trends especially as the more collectivist policies of the welfare
are undermined by the individualistic tendencies of those calling for
cuts and a smaller pubic sector.
Historian Neil Sutherland frames his overview in terms of the Swedish
social activist Ellen Key’s hope that the twentieth century would be
“century of the child.” Sutherland suggests that this hope has indeed
realized at least in part but that there is still a long way to go
all children grow up “in an atmosphere of affection and moral and
security, ” the cornerstone of the 1959 United Nations Declaration of
right of the child. Sutherland’s assessment is generally supported by
other authors who attend to the considerable diversity of Canadian
and of the diverse constructions of childhood in light of gender, class
The longest section of the volume focuses on education and
discussion of both the formal and informal experience of schooling.
attention is paid to how different children interact with the
structures as well as with other children. Taken together, the chapters
on education emphasize the challenge of reconciling individual and
diversity with a standardized institution that is designed to deal with
only a certain degree of difference. Similarly, the volume’s
section on health stresses the contradiction between the homogenous
of children and the reality of their complex lives. By examining topics
such as obesity, abuse, and disease, the authors show the
of thinking about the child as opposed to “children.”
In addition to chapters on familiar issues, Canadian Childhood in
1997 also offers discussion of newer topics including considerable
attention to the question of computerization. For the most part, the
point to problems (such as excessive computer usage and hate websites),
and they attach the notion that technology will necessarily enhance the
experience of growing up. Other innovative chapters focus on topics
as masculinity, and the specific situation of aboriginal children.
chapters do not present the findings of major research projects but
they raise questions and point to the need for concerted study in
Overall, Annette Richardson’s volume achieves her goal of promoting
“a more proactive approach to the plight of children”(p.ix). By
together the contribution of established scholars, students, and
Richardson show the value on interconnecting history, policy, and the
lives of children. while agreeing the most children are better off at
end of the twentieth century than their counterparts were a hundred
ago, the authors of Canadian Childhood in 1997 also make
that the experience of growing up remains difficult and problematic,
the new challenges continue to undermine the stated right of all
to mature in a materially and morally secure environment.
Institute of Canadian Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
Paedagogica Historica.: International Journal of the History of
Reprinted by Permission of Paedagogica Historica.