In 1982's The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman argues that what we define as "childhood" is a modern phenomenon. He defines "childhood" as the period from around age 7 – when spoken language is usually mastered – to around age 17 – when written language is mastered. Not coincidentally, these ages correspond to the typical school years.
The word "child" original...
In 1982's The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman argues that what we define as "childhood" is a modern phenomenon. He defines "childhood" as the period from around age 7 – when spoken language is usually mastered – to around age 17 – when written language is mastered. Not coincidentally, these ages correspond to the typical school years.The word "child" originally meant "son or daughter"; only in modern times did it gain its second meaning - "a person between birth and full growth". Prior to modern times, children were considered "little" adults, rather than today's conception of them as "unformed" adults.In medieval times, children and adults "lived in the same social and intellectual world" . Children dressed the same as adults, shared the same labor and past times (gambling was considered a normal childhood pursuit), and with literacy confined to special classes (the monks, for example) had similar intellectual levels. Few children attended school. Children weren't shielded from the harsh realities and shameful secrets of the adult world. Adults didn't conceal their sexual drives, nor was there a high level of “civilized” mores defining certain behavior, body functions and characteristics as distasteful. "Without a well-developed idea of shame, childhood cannot exist". To Postman, the absence of literacy, education and shame explains the absence of the conception off childhood.Postman credits the invention of movable type printing to the idea of childhood. With literacy came adult "secrets,” information available only to adults who could read. And literacy required schools to teach people how to read. "Because school was designed for the preparation of a literate adult, the young became to be perceived not as miniature adults, but as ... unformed adults": (41). These two factors created a new social hierarchy - adults now had "unprecedented control over the symbolic environment of the young" (45). For Postman, 1850-1950 was the "high-water mark of childhood. Children's birthdays began to celebrated, and their welfare became viewed as something special that needed protection. Children gained specialized clothing and literature - different from adults. Childhood became viewed as an idyllic time of innocence.
It is obvious that for an idea like childhood to come into being, there must be a change in the adult world. And such a change must be not only of a magnitude but of a special nature. Specifically, it must generate a new definition of adulthood. During the Middle Ages there were several social changes, some important inventions, such as the mechanical clock, and many great events, including the Bl...
It is obvious that for an idea like childhood to come into being, there must be a change in the adult world. And such a change must be not only of a magnitude but of a special nature. Specifically, it must generate a new definition of adulthood. During the Middle Ages there were several social changes, some important inventions, such as the mechanical clock, and many great events, including the Black Death. But nothing occurred that required that adults should alter their conception of adulthood itself. In the middle of the fifteenth century, however, such an event did occur: the invention of the printing press with movable type...... The possibility of having one's words and work fixed forever created a new and pervasive idea of selfhood. ... With the printing press, forever may be addressed by the voice of an individual, not a social aggregate.No one knows who invented the stirrup, or the longbow, or the button, or even eyeglasses, because the question of personal accomplishment was very nearly irrelevant in the medieval world. Indeed, prior to the printing press the concept of a writer, in the modern sense, did not exist. What did exist is described in detail by Saint Bonaventura, who tells us that in the thirteenth century there were four ways of making books:A man might write the works of the others, adding and changing nothing, in which case he is simply called a "scribe."... Another writes the works of others with additions which are not his own; and he is called a "compiler."... Another writes both others' work and his own, but with others' work in principal place, adding his own for purposes of explanation; and he is called a "commentator."... Another writes both his own work and others' but with his own work in principal place adding others' for purposes of confirmation; and such a man should be called an "author."..Saint Bonaventura not only does not speak of an original work in the modern sense but makes it clear that by writing, he is referring in great measure to the actual task of writing the words out, which is why the concept of individual, highly personal authorship could not exist within a scribal tradition. Each writer not only made mistakes in copying a text, but was free to add, subtract, clarify, update, or otherwise re-conceive the text as he thought necessary. Even such a cherished document as the Magna Charta, which was read twice a year in every shire in England, was by 1237 the subject of some controversy over which of several versions was authentic..... he and any other printers could not have known that they constituted an irresistible revolutionary force; that their infernal machines were, so to speak, the typescript on the wall, spelling out the end of the medieval world. ... "The invention of printing with movable type brought about the most radical transformation in the conditions of intellectual life in the history of Western civilization... Its effects were sooner or later felt in every department of human activity."... (Harold Innis) stressed that changes in communication technology invariably have three kinds of effects: They alter the structure of interests (the things thought about), the character of symbols (the things thought with), and the nature of community (the area in which thoughts develop). To put it as simply as one can, every machine is an idea, or a conglomerate of ideas. But they are not the sort of ideas that lead an inventor to conceive of a machine in the first place. We cannot know, for example, what was in Gutenberg's mind that led him to connect a winepress to book manufacturing, but it is safe conjecture that he had no intention of amplifying individualism or, for that matter, of undermining the authority of the Catholic Church. There is a sense in which all inventors are, to use Arthur Koestler's word, sleepwalkers. Or perhaps we might call them Frankensteins, and the entire process, the Frankenstein Syndrome: One creates a machine for a particular and limited purpose. But once the machine is built, we discover -- sometimes to our horror, usually to our discomfort, always to our surprise -- that it has ideas of its own; that it is quite capable not only of changing out habits but, as Innis tried to show, of changing our habits of mind.A machine may provide us with a new concept of time, as did the mechanical clock. Or of space and scale, as did the telescope. Or of knowledge, as did the alphabet. Or of the possibilities of improving human biology, as did eyeglasses. To say it in James Carey's bold way: We may find that the structure of our consciousness has been reshaped to parallel the structure of communication, that we have become what we have made.... In the early part of the eighth century the Anglo-Saxons had the stirrup available but no genius to see its possibilities. The Franks had both the stirrup and Charles Martel's genius, and as a consequence employed the stirrup to create a new means of war, not to mention an entirely new social and economic system, i.e., feudalism. The Chinese and Koreans (who invented movable metal type prior to Gutenberg) may or may not have had a genius available to see the possibilities of letterpress printing, but what they definitely did not have available were letters -- that is, an alphabetic system of writing. Thus, their "monster" returned to its slumber. Why the Aztecs, who invented the wheel, thought its possibilities were exhausted after attaching it to children's toys is still a mystery, but nonetheless another example of the non-inevitability of technology's infusing a culture with new ideas......... Within fifty years after the invention of the press more than eight million books had been printed. By 1480 there were presses in a hundred and ten towns in six different countries, fifty presses in Italy alone. By 1482, Venice was the world's printing capital....，，，，。。。But with the printed book another tradition began: the isolated reader and his private eye. Orality became muted, and the reader and his response became separated from a social context. The reader retired within his own mind, and from the sixteenth century to the present what most readers have required of others is their absence, or, if not that, their silence. In reading, both the writer and reader enter into a conspiracy of sorts against social presence and consciousness. Reading is, in a phrase, an antisocial act.Thus, at both ends of the process -- production and consumption -- print created a psychological environment within which the claims of individuality became irresistible. This is not to say that individualism was created by the printing press, only that individualism became a normal and acceptable psychological condition. ...Here it is worth recalling Harold Innis's principle that new communication technologies not only give us new things to think about but new things to think with. The form of the printed book created a new way of organising content, and in so doing, it promoted a new way of organising thought. The unyielding linearity of the printed book -- the sequential nature of its sentence-by-sentence presentation, its paragraphing, its alphabetised indices, its standardised spelling and grammar-- led to the habits of thinking that James Joyce mockingly called ABCED-mindedness, meaning a structure of consciousness that closely parallels the structure of typography. ...... "The medieval teacher of the Corpus Juris could not demonstrate to either his students or himself how each component of the law was related to the logic of the whole because very few teachers had ever seen the Corpus Juris as a whole. But beginning in 1553 a print-oriented generation of legal scholars undertook the task of editing the entire manuscript, including reorganising its parts, dividing it into coherent sections, and indexing citations. By so doing, they made the ancient compilation entirely accessible, stylistically intelligible, and internally consistent, which is to say, they reinvented the subject....At the same time, and inevitably, sixteenth-century editors of books became preoccupied with clarity and logic of organisation........ As calligraphy disappeared, so that there was a loss of idiosyncratic script, the impersonality and repeatability of typescript assumed a certain measure of authority......What is being said here is that typography was by no means a neutral conveyor of information. It led to a reorganisation of subjects, an emphasis on logic and clarity, an attitude toward the authority of information. It also led to new perceptions of literary form. Prose and poetry, for example, became distinguished from one another by the way in which words were distributed on the printed page. And, of course, the structure of the printed pages as well as the portability and repeatability of the printed book played a decisive role not only in the creation of the essay but also in the creation of what became known as the novel...........Through print, God became an Englishman, or a German, or a Frenchman, depending on the vernacular in which His words were revealed. The effect of this was to strengthen the cause of nationalism while weakening the sacred nature of scripture. The eventual replacement of love of God with love of Country, from the eighteenth century to the present, may well be one of the consequences of printing. For the past two centuries, for example, Christians have been inspired to make war almost exclusively in the interests of nationhood; God has been left to fend for Himself.The replacement of medieval, Aristotelian science by modern science may also be attributed in large measure to the press. Copernicus was born at the end of the fifteenth century, and Andreas Vesalius, Tycho Brahe, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Johannes Kepler, William Harvey, and Descartes were all born in the sixteenth; that is to say, the foundations of modern science were laid within one hundred years after the invention of the printing press. One may get a sense of how dramatic was the changeover from medieval thought to modern science by contemplating the year 1543. In that year both Copernicus's De Revolutionibus and Vesalius's De Fabrica appeared, the former reconstituting astronomy, the latter, anatomy. How did the new communication environment produce such an outpouring of scientific discovery and genius?In the first place, print not only created new methods and sources of data collection but vastly increased communication among scientists on a continent-wide basis. Second, the thrust toward standardisation resulted in uniform mathematical symbols, including the replacement of Roman with Arabic numerals. Thus, Galileo could refer to mathematics as the 'language of Nature." with assurance that other scientists could speak and understand that language. Moreover, standardisation largely eliminated ambiguity in texts and reduced error in diagrams, charts, tables, and maps. By making available repeatable visual aids, print made nature appear more uniform and therefore more accessible.Printing also led to the popularisation of scientific ideas through the use of vernaculars. Although some sixteenth-century scientists -- Harvey, for example -- insisted on writing in Latin, others, such as Bacon, eagerly employed the vernacular in an effort to convey the new spirit and methods of scientific philosophy. The day of of the alchemists' secrets ended. Science became public business.....In 1570, for example, the first English translation of Euclid became available.... During the course of the century an entirely new symbolic environment had been created. That environment filled the world with new information and abstract experience. It required new skills, attitudes, and, especially, a new kind of consciousness. Individuality, an enriched capacity for conceptual thought, intellectual vigour, a belief in the authority of the printed word, a passion for clarity, sequence, and reason -- all of this moved into the forefront, as the medieval oral environment receded.What had happened, simply, was that Literate Man had been created. And in his coming, he left behind the children. For in the medieval world neither the young more the old could read, and their business was in the here and now, in "the immediate and local,".... From print onward, adulthood had to be earned. It became a symbolic, not a biological, achievement. From print onward, the young would have to become adults, and they would have to do it by learning to read, by entering the world of typography. And in order to accomplish that they would require education. Therefore, European civilisation reinvented schools. And by so doing, it made childhood a necessity.
Like distinctive forms of dress, children's games, once so visible on the streets of our towns and cities, are also disappearing. Even the idea of a children's game seems to be slipping from our grasp. A children's game, as we used to think of it, requires no instructors or umpires or spectators; it uses whatever space and equipment are at hand; it is played for no other reason than pleasure. But ...
Like distinctive forms of dress, children's games, once so visible on the streets of our towns and cities, are also disappearing. Even the idea of a children's game seems to be slipping from our grasp. A children's game, as we used to think of it, requires no instructors or umpires or spectators; it uses whatever space and equipment are at hand; it is played for no other reason than pleasure. But Little League baseball and Pee Wee football, for example, not only are supervised by adults but are modelled in every possible way on big league sports. Umpires are needed. Equipment is required. Adults cheer and jeer from the sidelines. It is not pleasure that players are seeking but reputation.。。。。。It is an extension of the idea that children require protection and nurturing, and schooling, and freedom from adult secrets, and then, after the Romans, all such ideas disappear.Every educated person knows about the invasions of the northern barbarians, the collpse of the Roman empire, the shrouding of classical culture, and Europe's descent into what is called the Dark and then the Middle Ages. ... The first is that literacy disappears. The second is that education disappears. The third is that shame disappears. And the fourth, as a consequence of the other three, is that childhood disappears...... What is so useful about Havelock's question is his distinction between "social literacy" and "craft literacy." By social literacy he means a condition where most people can do and do read. By craft literacy he means a condition where the art of reading is restricted to a few who form a "scribal" and, therefore, a privileged class. In other words, if we define a literate culture not on the basis of its having a writing system but on the basis of how many people can read it, and how easily , then the question of why literacy declined permits some plausible conjectures. (作者说了没有人清楚为什么到了暗世纪和中世纪literacy神秘地消失了，只能说有一些很可能成立的，基于不完全信息而来的推论，some plausible conjectures.）.. during the Dark and Middle Ages, the styles of writing the letters of the alphabet multiplied, the shapes becoming elaborated and disguised. The Europeans, it would appear, forgot that recognition, which was the Greek word for reading, must be swift and automatic if reading is to be a pervasive practice. The shapes of letters must be, so to speak, transparent, for among the marvelous features of alphabetic writing is that once the letters have been learned, one need not think about them. They disappear psychologically, and do not interpose themselves as an abject of thought between the reader and his recollection of spoken language. If calligraphy calls attention to itself, or is ambiguous, the essential idea of literacy is lost, or, to be more accurate, is lost to the majority of people...Still another explanation for the loss of literacy, by no means contradictory to the first, is that the sources of papyrus and parchment became scarce... We know that paper did not come to medieval Europe until the thirteenth century, at which time the Europeans began at once to manufacture it, not in the time-honored way-- by hand and foot -- but by water-powded mills. It is surely no accident that beginnings of the great medieval universities and a corresponding renewed interest in literacy coincide with the introduction and manufacture of paper...（不太清楚作者的意思。欧洲早期的造纸术不是从中国传入（经过巴格达）的吗？还是由埃及纸莎草而来？这段历史我不清楚。）We may also conjecture that the Roman Church was not insensible to the advantages of craft literacy as a means of keeping control over a large and diverse population; that is to say, of keeping control over the ideas, organization, and loyalties of a large and diverse population. Certainly it would have been in the interests of the Church to encourage a more restricted access to literacy, to have its clerics form a scribal class that alone would have access to the theological and intellectual secrets.But whatever the reasons, there can be no doubt that social literacy disappeared for close to a thousand years; and nothing can convey better the sense of what that means than the image of a medieval reader tortuously working on a text...What this meant is that all important social interactions were conducted through oral means, face-to-face. In the Middle Ages, .."The average layman acquired knowledge mainly by ear, through public sermons, mystery plays, and the recital of narrative poems, ballads, and tale." Thus, Europe returned to a "natural" condition of human communication, dominated by talk and reinforced by song. For almost all of our history, that is the way human beings have conducted their affairs and created culture. After all, as Havelock has reminded us, biologically we are all oralists. Our genes are programmed for spoken language. Literacy, on the other hand, is a product of cultural conditioning. To this, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the great advocate of the noble savage, would readily agree,..Rousseau is, I believe, correct, if one may take him to mean that reading is the end of permanent childhood and that it undermines both the psychology and sociology of oralism. Because reading makes it possible to enter a non-observed and abstract world of knowledge, it creates a split between those who cannot read and those who can. Reading is the scourge of childhood because, in a sense, it creates adulthood. Literature of all kinds-- including maps, charts, contracts, and deeds -- collects and keeps valuable secrets. Thus, in a literate world to be an adult implies having access to cultural secrets codified in unnatural symbols. In a literate world children must become adults..... And that is why, in all the sources, one finds that in the Middle Ages childhood ended at age seven. Why seven? Because that is the age at which children have command over speech.......The medieval way of learning is the way of oralist; it occurs essentially through apprenticeship and service -- what we would call "on-the-job-training."....................But I believe it would be a mistake to give too much importance to the high mortality rate of children as a way of explaining the absence of idea of childhood. Half the people who died in London between 1730 and 1779 were under five years of age, and yet, by then,England had already developed the idea of childhood. And that is because, as I shall try to show in the next chapter, a new communication environment began to take form in the sixteenth century as a result of printing and social literacy. The printing press created a new definition of adulthood based on reading competence, and, correspondingly, a new conception of childhood based on reading incompetence. ...... "Of all the characteristics in which the medieval age differs from the modern, none is so striking as the comparative absence of interest in children."And then, without anyone's suspecting it, a goldsmith from Mainz, Germany, with the aid of an old winepress, gave birth to childhood.
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.... Unlike infancy, childhood is a social artefact, not a biological category. Our genes contain no clear instructions about who is and who is not a child (我并不太同意这一点）。。。。The custom of celebrating a child's birthday did not exist in America throughout most of the eighteenth century, and, in fact, the precise marking of...
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.... Unlike infancy, childhood is a social artefact, not a biological category. Our genes contain no clear instructions about who is and who is not a child (我并不太同意这一点）。。。。The custom of celebrating a child's birthday did not exist in America throughout most of the eighteenth century, and, in fact, the precise marking of a child's age in any way is a relatively recent cultural habit, no more than two hundred years old.To take a more important example: As late as 1890, American high schools enrolled only seven percent of the fourteen-through seventeen-year-old population. Along with many much younger children, the other ninety-three percent worked at adult labour, some of them from sunup to sunset in all of our great cities.But we must not confuse, at the outset, social facts with social ideas. The idea of childhood is one of the great inventions of the Renaissance. Perhaps its most humane one. Along with science, the nation-state, and religious freedom, childhood as both a social structure and a psychological condition emerged around the sixteenth century and has been refined and nourished into our own times.........Part 2 puts us in modern times, and tries to show how the shift from Gutenberg's world to Samuel Morse's has made childhood as a social structure difficult to sustain and, in fact, irrelevant.
He notes other changes that have also occurred since 1950 that have added to children becoming more like adults. Divorce, economic realities and womenâ€™s liberation have led to less nurturing of children.
The evidence for the disappearance of childhood: the rise of crime perpetrated by and against children; the increase in sexual activity and drug/alcohol abuse in children; children and adults sh...(2回应)
He notes other changes that have also occurred since 1950 that have added to children becoming more like adults. Divorce, economic realities and women’s liberation have led to less nurturing of children.The evidence for the disappearance of childhood: the rise of crime perpetrated by and against children; the increase in sexual activity and drug/alcohol abuse in children; children and adults sharing musical tastes, language, literature, and movies (many big budget movies are comic books that would have been marketed solely to children years ago); the lack of differentiated clothing styles (little girls in high heels, grown men in sneakers). Even childhood games have been replaced by organized sports (Little League, Pee Wee, etc) which are more like adult sports. "Adulthood has lost much of its authority and aura, and the idea of deference to one who is older has become ridiculous" .He makes a point that civilized behavior acknowledges our animal urges (sex, violence, etc) but makes them secrets that are kept hidden from children. Since they are no longer secrets, our society may become more barbarian. A case in point is foul language, which is no longer kept hidden from children, and has become more predominant everywhere.While positing his theory, Postman offers no solution for society on the whole, as there is probably no turning back from our visual, electronic age. (And this book was written prior to widespread availability of the Internet. What can the individual do? “Resistance entails conceiving of parenting as an act of rebellion against American culture” .
In 1950 came television and the disappearance of child. Television is an egalitarian dispenser of information. No longer were there adult realities and secrets - these were dispensed in news, commercials, and programs to people of any age. Childhood's innocence was lost and the idea of shame became "diluted and demystified" . Television, which became the dominant source of information (o...
In 1950 came television and the disappearance of child. Television is an egalitarian dispenser of information. No longer were there adult realities and secrets - these were dispensed in news, commercials, and programs to people of any age. Childhood's innocence was lost and the idea of shame became "diluted and demystified" . Television, which became the dominant source of information (over books), requires no specialized learning, further diminishing the distinction between children and adults. And some television content adultifies and eroticses children, some infantizes adults. Television has created a three-stage life cycle: infancy, adult-child, and senility .