The UNCRC and 'dealing with' children

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


We seem to be inextricably attached to the notion of the child as a Rousseauian ideal: child as innocent, child as naïve, child as becoming. Jenks (1996) suggests that we address this notion of difference – difference to adult beings – by reflecting on what he calls the “savage” child, the “natural” child and the “social” child. Each perspective categorises child but maintains that notion of child as something other. Postman (1994) posits that the child in the Middle Ages existed in the same social and intellectual world as adults, that difference existed in terms of class rather than age; that it was the advent of print that created the child/adult distinction. He alerts us to the fact that television has blurred the distinction between child and adult, and in the fifteen years since he highlighted this feature, the growth and accessibility of the internet has likely further aided the return to some kind of mediaeval society in certain aspects of the child/adult divide.
Stables (2008) asserts that “…how we think about [children] does affect how we deal with them” (p.1). This thinking about children is important and we seem to be making strides in thinking about them in the sense of how we “deal with them”. Cassidy (2007) holds that children are always likely to be treated as a means to an end, as becomings and that behaving towards children, and engaging with them, as beings is a problem. The most recent United Nations’ report card on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was published in 2008 – and the UK has not performed well (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2008). The report suggests that we are still failing our children in many aspects of their lives. Might this failure be because we are spending a lot of time thinking about children rather than “dealing with them” in any positive sense? Reynaert, Bouverne-de-Bie and Vandevelde (2009) pose that we must shift our focus to “examining the contexts in which the UNCRC is applied” (p.529). Here, I would like to consider the recommendations from the report card and place these against the question of how we deal with children and whether a report that is more positive than ‘must do better’ is likely to take us beyond seeing the child as different, as other, as becoming.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2010
EventPhilosophy of Education Society of Great Britain - University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Mar 201028 Mar 2010


ConferencePhilosophy of Education Society of Great Britain
Abbreviated titlePESGB
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • concept of child
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
  • childrens rights
  • empowerment

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