Friday, May 07, 2010

The loss of childhood

From Suzette Haden Elgin's Lonesome Node:

"A University of Michigan study found that from 1979 to 999, children on the whole lost 12 hours of free time a week, including eight hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities. . . .One consequence of these changes is the disappearance of what child-development experts call 'the culture of childhood'. This culture, which is to be found all over the world, was best documented in its English-language form by the British folklorists Peter and Iona Opie in the 1950s. They cataloged the songs, riddles, jibes and incantations ('step on a crack, break your mother's back') that were passed on by oral tradition. Games like marbles, hopscotch and hide and seek date back hundreds of years. The children of each generation adapted these games to their own circumstances. Yet this culture has disappeared almost overnight, and not just in America. For example, in the 1970s a Japanese photographer, Keiki Haginoya, undertook what was to be a lifelong project to compile a photo documentary of children's play on the streets of Tokyo. He gave up the project in 1996, noting that the spontaneous play and laughter that once filled the city's streets, alleys and vacant lots had utterly vanished."

There is no way for us to know what the effects on our society of a cultural change as extensive as this one might be. It's disconcerting. The article is at .

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