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Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood.

Shirley R. Steinberg & Joe L. Kincheloe, Eds. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997. 270 pp. $69.00. Few adults would be surprised to learn how earnestly advertisers are pursuing children's discretionary income, and any parent who has sat down to watch children's TV programming on Saturday mornings knows the extent to which TV- and movie-related tie-ins have become part of children's culture. Kinderculture explores beyond that phenomenon, helping almost any reader understand the social dynamics that shape children and their culture. Most of the topics are also a part of adults' lives, so the book adds to our understanding of what influences our own development. This dual perspective effectively helps the reader comprehend how corporations actively construct their version of childhood and foist it upon the public.

Kinderculture is a journey beneath the surface consciousness of Disney movies, Bart Simpson, trading cards (everything from baseball players to mass murderers), Mortal Kombat, Goosebumps, Highlights for Children, professional wrestling, American Girl, Days of Our Lives, McDonald's, and, of course, Barbie. Some chapters provide detailed information about the historical development of certain products. Another chapter critically examines educational programming, including Sesame Street and Barney. This journey is a reasoned exploration of what messages children receive when they indiscriminately sample the offerings of corporations, which are certainly driven by vested interests.

The text of Kinderculture is very approachable. If this is your first investigation of the politics behind children's culture, the best way to start is by first reading the sections that have the most meaning for you and your children. The introduction is a more technical explanation of the commercially created cultural curriculum, and is more meaningful after reading these specific chapters.

Appropriate audiences include educators who want to develop authentic, relevant curricula, parents who want to better understand their children's often perplexing behavior and beliefs, and adults who want to understand how the cultural manipulation of their own childhood has affected their current habits. If you have ever stood in line to buy the latest fad item and wondered why you were there, Kinderculture will explain.

The authors' willingness to share their personal experiences concerning these topics is probably the most appealing part of the book. The tone that emerges suggests sincere concern, not mere academic discourse. The authors urge adults and children to learn to think critically, and to become aware of the hidden messages and covert attempts to manipulate their behavior and values.

By reading Kinderculture, one does not necessarily lose the joy of collecting cards, watching movies or reading Goosebumps. Instead, readers gain the satisfaction of learning to protect themselves and their children from controlling political and commercial interests.

Kinderculture helps professionals who work with children to see how movies, books, television, video games and toys can be "teaching machines" that produce culture. Professionals can incorporate this understanding into practice, to facilitate children's understanding of themselves and others. Kinderculture will broaden your view by exposing the extra dimension of corporate manipulation. Reviewed by Raymond A. Horn, Social Studies Teacher, Cocalico High School, Denver, PA
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Horn, Raymond A.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1998
Words:503
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