Schooling the 'vulnerable' Child

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Kerry ROBINSON , Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Based on qualitative research with children (aged 4-11), parents, and educators, as well as historical socio-cultural discourses, this paper explores the relationship between ‘childhood innocence’, children’s highly regulated access to knowledge of sexuality and the constitution of children as ‘vulnerable’ subjects. Incorporating a post-developmentalist framework and drawing on Foucault’s concepts of governmentality and power/knowledge, this presentation highlights how censorship and moral panic, reinforced through discourses of childhood innocence, operate in communities, families, schooling, and within children’s peer groups, to define and regulate ‘normative’ childhoods and adulthoods. I argue that regulating children’s access to knowledge and knowledge production – associated with sexuality in particular – essentially in the name of protecting ‘childhood innocence’, operates to inscribe children as ‘vulnerable’ subjects.

            This discussion is framed within an examination of children’s sexual subjectivities – how children have been discursively constructed as sexual subjects, how children view and constitute themselves as sexual subjects and how children regulate the sexual subjectivities of their peers. Children actively engage in making meanings about sexuality and relationships from the limited information (often misinformation, stereotypes and myths) that they receive – bits and pieces of information of which they try to make sense. In order to help counteract children’s vulnerabilities and to build strong ethical and respectful relationships early in life, children’s access to knowledge, to open and frank conversations about sexual subjectivity, and the nurturing of children’s agency are critical.