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Rewriting the responsible parent.


In On Liberty, first published in 1859, John Stuart Mill argued that parents should be free to raise their children provided they recognised and accepted their moral obligation to educate them. For those who either failed or refused to fulfil this moral responsibility, Mill advocated state intervention. He said:
 It still remains unrecognised that to bring a child into existence
 without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food
 for its body, but instruction and training for its mind is a moral
 crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against society;
 and that if the parent does not fulfil this obligation, the State
 ought to see it fulfilled at the charge, as far as possible, of
 the parent. (2)

This moral argument helped promote increased State intervention in the education of children in the nineteenth century. In the 1870s, State intervention followed in the form of compulsory education in England 'as a means of combating working-class indolence, immorality, and radicalism' (3) which threatened the freedoms that constituted the existing social order. The move in the nineteenth century to make educating the child a legal requirement represented a discursive shift from the educational discourse of the eighteenth century. Exploring the significance of this shift allows observation of how the responsible parent is written and rewritten.

To observe this discursive activity in more detail, the article is organised into three discrete sections. The first is theoretical in nature. It briefly traces Foucault's thoughts on genealogy as a general approach to traditional historical analysis that sees ideas like 'freedom' and 'childhood' as a will to knowledge in power relations. (4) Within this genealogical framework, the article then turns to the history of writing the responsible parent in educational discourse not as relations of meaning but of power. The final part then questions how this truth was captured and used differently in the nineteenth century to rewrite the 'responsible parent'. The conclusion draws these different identities together in an effort to understand how the freedom/childhood double in educational discourse has been used to write and rewrite the responsible parent. To appreciate how this analysis unfolds, I start by outlining Foucault's approach to the problem of historical discourse.

Foucault and history

Although Foucault knew 'the secret of how to use history,' (5) he saw his research as 'philosophical fragments put to work in a historical field of problems'. (6) In this sense, he rejected a traditional approach to historical analysis in an effort to detach his enquiries from tired old teleologies and totalisations. 'We are doomed historically to history,' he said, 'to the patient construction of discourses about discourses, and to the task of hearing what has already been said'. (7) For Foucault, traditional explanations of 'spirit of the time, technological or social changes' (8) were repeatedly trotted out as the causes underpinning historical events. To avoid this traditional approach that saw the present resting upon past intentions, Foucault first worked at a level he described as archaeological.

Archaeology aims to overcome the reductionism of traditional historical explanation. (9) It is a comparative technique that has a diversifying rather than totalising effect. In this way, archaeology encourages the rethinking of discourse outside the progressive disciplinary order of thought regulated by traditional discourse. To the archaeologist, there is no single dominant discourse but, instead, different discourses that all function to produce the truth. While it may overcome reductionism, Foucault's critics still demanded to know what caused different discourses to be shaped in certain ways.

The question of causality was something Foucault felt he was unable to answer. He said, 'it seemed to me that it would not be prudent for the moment to force a solution I felt incapable, I admit, of offering ...'. (10) At this point in time Foucault could see no methodological means by which definitive claims of causality could be supported. (11) His critics, however, argued that an analysis of change minus an understanding of causality rendered the interpretative value of the exercise, beyond its own existence, meaningless. Although comparisons drawn by archaeology were effective in demonstrating the diversity of knowledge, its analysis said nothing about the causes for these discursive shifts. In a critical sense, this left truth unquestioned. In the end, Foucault recognised the need to pay 'more general attention to that which conditions, limits and institutionalises discursive formations (genealogy)'. (12)

In his major works Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (1977) and The History of Sexuality Vol. 1 (1978), Foucault moves from archaeology to genealogy. It is in these volumes that 'Foucault supplements the archaeological analysis of discourse with a complementary analysis (dubbed "genealogy") of the relations of discursive knowledge to the power structures of society'. (13) In his 1977 paper Nietzsche, Genealogy, History Foucault explains how this move inspired by Nietzsche allowed him to analyse how knowledge is constructed and put to use in the service of power relations. Hence, a genealogical study remains alert to the confrontations, conflicts and struggles that cause shifts in discursive constructions.

Genealogy does not understand discourse as just language but as a will to knowledge. It 'does not replace archaeology, which is still needed to uncover the discursive rules that constitute bodies of knowledge' (14) but takes on this method to uncover the 'non-discursive relations forming the conditions of possibility of discourse'. (15) This is a move that takes archaeology from the description of the structure of discourse to a criticism of its limits. In doing so, it opens up the analysis of discourse to a general history that calls the relations of force in its dispersion and emergence into question.

Foucault uses the term 'general history' to explain how the genealogist looks to the dispersion of discourse rather than pursuing the origin of things as the secret of a timeless identity in its purest form. Hence, the genealogist rejects the single origin as an 'already there' but as yet undisclosed truth. To the genealogist, history is littered with different beginnings as 'inventions of the ruling class,' (16) as acts of knowing embedded in a strategic struggle for power. As Foucault explains:
 A genealogy of values, morality, asceticism, and knowledge will
 never confuse itself with a quest of their "origins," will never
 neglect as inaccessible the vicissitudes of history. On the
 contrary, it will cultivate the details and accidents that
 accompany every beginning; it will be scrupulously attentive to
 their petty malice; it will await their emergence, once unmasked,
 as the face of the other. (17)

And so, the genealogist does not seek a single truth but works within a dispersed field of knowledge in which different thoughts arise not as a final word but as the emergence of a discursive break.

The idea of 'emergence' for the genealogist is not the appearance of the next logical outcome in a chain of progressive events but the arrival of a new force. (18) It 'designates a place of confrontation, but not as a closed field offering the spectacle of a struggle among equals'. (19) Adversaries do not participate on equal terms or occupy the same space; there is no balanced exchange. Instead, knowledge is produced by one side as a weapon against others happy in their ignorance. '[T]ruth functions exclusively as a weapon that is used to win an exclusively partisan victory'. (20) The coupling of knowledge and power as a weapon offered a different analytical approach to power relations.

In 1976, Foucault set out to test the hypothesis that 'war' provided a better tool for analysing power then the 'economic schemata' of liberal and Marxist theory. In liberal hands, a 'right' becomes a commodity that can be given up, exchanged or surrendered in the process of constituting the legitimate/ illegitimate power of sovereignty. Rather than linking the notion of power to the economic process of exchange, the Marxist position connects power to the economic function of maintaining relations of production that reproduce class domination. Either way, thoughts of power are limited in both theories as a product of economic processes such as 'exchange' and 'production'. (21)

For Foucault, power was present in all situations of force and struggle. In this way, he re-theorises power beyond the economic to include non-discursive techniques such as torture or imprisonment that operate in relations of force according to the authority of discursive knowledge. Thus, power is knowledge and knowledge is power in the sense of force and truth always coming together in discourse. For example, the moral discourse referred to in the introduction to this article was not just a moment of change but knowledge authorising force in the form of State intervention. In this way, we can argue that writing and rewriting the responsible parent involves someone producing knowledge by telling stories and recounting episodes to authorise the use of certain techniques in particular ways in order to win a battle against an adversary. (22)

In analysing a struggle, genealogy does not give priority to the author of these stories but to the productive force of discourse as the coming together of these discursive and non-discursive strategies. As a method, this reflected Foucault's interest in how subjects like the responsible parent are produced as an effect of power relations. He said:
 I would like to say, first of all, what has been the goal of my
 work during the last twenty years. It has not been to analyse the
 phenomenon of power, nor to elaborate the foundations of such an
 analysis. My objective, instead, has been to create a history of
 the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are
 made subjects. (23)

Hence, the role of genealogy in this study of the responsible parent is not to see it as an autonomous sovereign subject but as a product of a particular object of control in discourse. In line with this aim what follows is not a history of immutable constancy but a history of oscillating struggles in haphazard conflicts that see the construction of different responsible parents as discursive instruments of control.

Writing the responsible parent: the corrupt society

Evident at the beginning of the eighteenth century were the different views of childhood and the advice that these concepts afforded autonomous parents as to their responsibility for educating the child. On the one hand, the views of the religious moralists saw childhood as a time of innate evil; while, on the other, the educational moralists argued that childhood was not a matter of depravity but a time of ignorance. The truth of childhood produced by religious and secular authorities at this time made it clear that an education was an essential strategy for not only freeing the child from the depravity and irrationality of childhood but also freeing civilised society from passions unconstrained and regulated by the development of piety and reason. This was education as a strategy for disciplining the child through either physical means (religious discourse--corporal punishment, close supervision and rote learning) or psychological means (secular discourse--repetitive practice, reasoning and experiences).

From either perspective, directing the autonomous parent to act in certain ways meant demonising human nature. Freeing the child from depravity or ignorance through the disciplinary regimes of particular educational strategies was not only connected to the evils and faults of childhood but also the shortcomings of parents. That is to say, parents were required to acknowledge their own depravity and ignorance and the need to work against their evil and irrational tendencies to spoil, overindulge, pamper, neglect or exploit their children. In relation to depravity, Gammage notes how religious authorities in the eighteenth century maintained that:
 The root and foundation of misconduct in children is human

 depravity; depravity in the parent and depravity in the child.
 This ought never to be overlooked, nor forgotten in any of our
 systems of education, but should be perpetually kept in view.
 Corrupt ourselves, we look with a more favourable eye upon the
 faults of our children, and feel reluctance in conveying a censure
 to them which will recoil upon ourselves. (24)

While religious discourse saw parents as depraved, secular discourse popularised in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) by John Locke insisted that parents take great care to watch over their own natural desires to act without reason. He said:
 Parents, being wisely ordain'd by Nature to love their children,
 are very apt, if Reason watch not that natural Affection very
 warily, are apt, I say, to let it run into fondness. They love
 their little ones, and 'tis their duty: But they often, with them,
 cherish their Faults too. (25)

By the mid-eighteenth century, however, both these views of childhood that wrote the responsible parent in terms of pious or rational behaviour gave way to a new invention--childhood innocence. This was evident in the romantic discourse of Rousseau who transcribed the 'other' that threatened the freedom/childhood double from the depraved or ignorant parent to the corrupt society from which the responsible parent protects the innocent and vulnerable child. This was a significant discursive shift that appropriated the existing truth of human nature as depraved and ignorant and applied it in a different way. In the hands of Rousseau, the truth of human nature was used to incite the autonomous parent to undertake responsibility for educating the child not by demonising the self but the adult world. According to Rousseau, evil now resided in the corruptive influence of a depraved and ignorant society which lurked menacingly around the natural and pure goodness of the innocent self.

'When Rousseau wrote in the middle of the eighteenth century, he agreed with Locke in recommending education at home, but for precisely the opposite reason--that the child at home was protected from the adult world, and so preserved in his innocence'. (26) For Rousseau, this was education as nurturing made possible through the family structure as the nearest interrelationship one could get to nature within a social context.

In contrast to the religious moralists, Rousseau rewrote human nature as good. He argued that our natural human condition was good, not evil and, thus, something to be preserved, not destroyed. Based on this assumption, Rousseau's thoughts on education in Emile were to throw questions about the value of contemporary schooling into sharp relief. For example, the following quote from Boyd (1911) highlights how Rousseau's work is more than the discovery of the truth of childhood but as a real struggle with the existing educational techniques.
 Under the shelter of the theological exaggeration of human
 depravity, there had grown up and become firmly established a harsh
 repressive system of education which ignored childhood and did
 violence to all that was best in human nature; and there was no
 possibility of any better education until the fundamental
 conceptions of the method had been challenged and made suspect. It
 was the main merit of the Emile that by putting in the forefront
 the idea of natural goodness it made most effective protest against
 all the evils of the ordinary education which sprang out of
 contempt for human nature. (27)

From this position, Rousseau fabricated an even more intense moral sentiment towards the child than that found in Locke. Although Locke offered a different view of human nature to that of religious discourse, his ideas on education nevertheless advocated the destruction of what he considered the natural human condition, namely: ignorance; albeit in a gentler way than religious authorities at the time. Primarily, Locke's thoughts, like those of religious moralists such as John Wesley, linked education to a need to discipline the child; whereas, Rousseau placed the emphasis on an educational approach that would allow Emile the freedom to learn from nature by protecting his innocent curiosity from destruction by the demands of society.

Rousseau argued that human nature was fundamentally good, something that education should preserve, not destroy. In the opening line of Emile Rousseau said, 'God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil'. (28) Here, Rousseau demonises society rather than childhood as the problem. He saw a society in which the individual child's innocent self-love could be destroyed by a self-esteem derived from the comparisons and judgements of others. He said, 'that is how it comes that the kindly passions issue from self-love, while hate and anger spring from self-esteem. Great care and skill are required to prevent the human heart being depraved by the new needs of social life'. (29) Self-love is how we feel about ourselves naturally; coming to know ourselves and what we can do through nature or things; whereas self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves socially; coming to know ourselves and what we can do through society or people. To counter the possibility of corruption, Rousseau recommended techniques that would nurture this self-love by educating the child according to the laws of nature, namely: the natural family structure, natural experiences and a freedom of discovery that involved a 'new pastoral relationship between the teacher (30) and the pupil'. (31)

Although Rousseau believed that a child's father should also be his teacher, (32) he nevertheless questioned the father's sovereignty that had been evident in religious discourse and the work of Locke. Based on a view that, according to nature, childhood was a time in its own right with its own instincts and characteristics as opposed to a time dedicated to preparing moral adults, Rousseau was anti the predominant father/child relationship that linked education to the correction of the child, be it through harsh (physical) or gentle (psychological) treatment. He said, 'work and play are all the same to him. His games are his occupations: he is not aware of any difference. He goes into everything he does with a pleasing interest and freedom'. (33) Thus, the autonomous parent is ethically responsible for nurturing by protecting the child from both corruption and thoughts of error. 'Most people [Rousseau], he says, try to convince children of their errors. (34) Even the wise Locke would reason with them for this purpose'. (35) Instead, Rousseau believed that the traditional view of the father as the moral authority, as the centre of power for the education of children did not reflect what nature intended. For Rousseau, the natural environment of the child was the family comprising a father as teacher and mother as nurturer. Thus, he saw the rearing and educating of the child as a shared responsibility, one that not only included the mother's affection for her children but also a more pastoral role for the father. (36)

By deferring to the natural nurturing and protection of both mother and father together within the nuclear family and childhood as a time in its own right, Rousseau was appealing to nature's way of rearing its young. To do this, Rousseau stressed the importance of the nuclear family as the ideal natural environment for a child's education by pointing to the evils of such social conventions as swaddling clothes and wet nursing. He argued:
 These gentle mothers, having got rid of their babies, devote
 themselves gaily to the pleasures of the town. Do they know how
 their children are being treated in the villages? If the nurse is
 at all busy, the child is hung up on a nail like a bundle of
 clothes and is left crucified while the nurse goes leisurely about
 her business. Children have been found in this position purple in
 the face, their tightly bandaged chest forbade the circulation of
 the blood, and it went to the head; so the sufferer was considered
 very quiet because he had not strength to cry. How long a child
 might survive under such conditions I do not know, but it could
 not be long. That, I fancy, is one of the chief advantages of
 swaddling clothes. (37)

Here, Rousseau claims that turning the child over to the reckless abandon of the peasant nanny was irresponsible. The infant not only required the freedom to move but also the love and guidance of a mother and a father. In respect to the mother's role, he asked, 'does not the child need a mother's care as much as her milk? Other women, or even other animals, may give him the milk she denies him, but there is no substitute for a mother's love'. (38) By attacking the practices of swaddling clothes and wet nursing, Rousseau sought to reinvent the middle class home as a happy and affectionate relationship between mother, father and child. (39)

By rewriting the responsible parent in the form of the natural family structure, Rousseau struggled for an education of the child for the child, not for society. Learning would be natural; it would involve what the child wanted to know rather than what society wanted him to know; it would allow the child the freedom to decide rather than having experiences forced upon him. As Cunningham explains:
 By bringing up a child in the ways of nature; this means first of
 all, maternal breast-feeding and no swaddling, but more radically,
 it meant that a child should learn from things rather than from
 people; he should learn by experience that stones are hard and
 that fire burns, and not by being told these things. (40)

In this way, Rousseau not only demonised society as corrupt but also schooling as a disciplining or socialising process as a form of contamination. (41) By allowing this freedom to learn under the pastoral eye of the father within the natural family structure, Rousseau argued that the child would not only receive a higher quality education but was also better protected from corruption. According to Rousseau, the child needed a protected space in which to freely explore and interact with the natural environment if he was to 'learn to judge the worth of experiences as his own powers of reason developed'. (42) The freedom to decide when to learn or play allowed a child to acquire an understanding of his own needs and an appreciation of the rights of others. The dream of gaining this freedom for Rousseau, however, was not minus adult involvement. To balance freedom and protection, he gave expression to a new pastoral relationship in educating the child that required the parent to be conscious of providing experiences centred on the child's needs in such a way that he or she was unaware of any adult interference or manipulation. (43)

By looking to individual tutoring and allowing the child to explore the world and to discover for himself the lessons of nature, Rousseau argued that the primary focus of education should be the needs of the individual not the needs of society. 'The tutor's task was not so much to teach as to enable Nature to work her miracle for him,' says Gammage. 'Society, full of unnatural and harmful influences, must be kept from the child'. (44) Although the educational moralist supported society's demand for good citizens, Rousseau insisted that this could not be achieved by an educational practice that saw childhood as a time of preparation as opposed to a time in its own right. In his own words, Rousseau said:
 Everything should therefore be brought into harmony with these
 natural tendencies, and that might well be if our three modes of
 education merely differed from one another; but what can be done
 when they conflict, when instead of training man for himself you
 try to train him for others? Harmony becomes impossible. Forced to
 combat either nature or society, you must make your choice between
 the man and the citizen, you cannot train both. (45)

Whether through religious or secular discourse, the disciplining of the child or making of the citizen meant freeing the child from childhood by destroying human nature, by stamping out its innate evil or ignorance. According to Rousseau's logic, education could not have it both ways. That is to say, man cannot destroy what nature provided (childhood), on the one hand, and develop what nature has provided (childhood), on the other. Any attempt to satisfy both educational goals, that is, make the man (protectionism) and the citizen (developmentalism), would only produce a neurotic and confused population.
 Our inner conflicts are caused by these contradictions. Drawn this
 way by nature and that way by man, compelled to yield to both
 forces, we make a compromise and reach neither goal. We go through
 life, struggling and hesitating, and die before we have found
 peace, useless alike to ourselves and to others. (46)

To Rousseau, childhood was an important stage in human growth, one that must be experienced in full if we are to educate the individual child to be a self-realising moral agent. For him, this was the goal of education--a new sensibility that gave the innocent child the protected space, natural experiences and freedom, based on a particular pastoral relationship with the teacher, necessary to come to know the self. He said, 'consistency is plainly impossible when we seek to educate a man for others, instead of for himself'. (47) Thus, the romantic discourse of Rousseau rewrote the autonomous parent around an ethical responsibility to nurture the child from the 'other' as the corrupt society by providing a natural learning environment under the watchful yet distant eye of a caring tutor.

Rousseau's argument like the religious and educational discourses before him provided parents with an educational strategy for freeing the child that was connected to a particular understanding of childhood. This was an option for the bourgeoisie or elite classes who were not reliant upon the economic value of their children and who 'were accustomed to giving up their children for prolonged education'. (48) These were the self-governing parents that made themselves responsible, who felt morally obliged to strive for freedom by protecting their children from possible corruption. These were the middle and upper class parents who not only read the thoughts of Rousseau but were also accustomed to making this type of choice for their children. But, what about the others, the lower classes who were not conditioned to make such choices? How was the pauperised child who was an integral part of the working-class family's economic base to be protected?

To answer this question, I consider how Rousseau's autonomous parent who recognised the self as an ethical subject responsible for providing a free and natural educational environment that protected and nurtured the child was rewritten in the nineteenth century to make it politically useful in regulating the population around the discipline of a regular schooling program. The autonomous parent, constituted as ethically responsible for protecting and nurturing the child as prescribed by Rousseau, was set in contrast to a different 'other', 'the barbarous working-class', a family structure that was not protective and nurturing because it either failed or ignored the romantic view of the child as an innocent object vulnerable to corruption.

Writing the responsible parent: the barbarous working class

In the opening sentence of his pamphlet entitled The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes of Manchester in 1832, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877) said, 'self-knowledge, inculcated the maxim of the ancient philosopher, is a precept not less appropriate to societies than to individuals'. (49) By contemplating not just the individual human condition but also that of the total population, one could assess the health of society by identifying the living and working conditions that threatened to destroy the health of the existing social order. For example, he announced in specific terms:
 The physical and moral evils by which we are surrounded, may be
 more easily avoided when we are distinctly conscious of their
 existence; and the virtue and health of society may be preserved,
 with less difficulty, when we are acquainted with the sources of
 its errors and diseases.

To combat the physical and moral evils of the nineteenth century, medical science as well as philanthropists and reformers gathered information on immigrants and the working poor to point out how the rapid growth of industrialisation and urbanisation was breaking down the traditional mores that regulated the day-to-day lives of the working-class family.

In an effort to reform the poor, education of children could no longer remain just a matter of choice for middle-class families alone. Reformers looked to the possibility of developing a universal education system as a means of eradicating the wretched lives of the poor that threatened the existing social order by giving these children the understandings and skills necessary to self-govern within an emerging industrial and urbanised social structure. For example, Kay-Shuttleworth, in his description of the second period of public education said:
 But the critical events of this very hour are full of warning, that
 the ignorance--nay the barbarism--of large portions of our fellow-
 countrymen, can no longer be neglected, if we are not prepared to
 substitute a military tyranny or anarchy for the moral subjection
 which has hitherto been the only safeguard of England. The great
 Chartist petition, recently presented to Mr Attwood, affords ample
 evidence of the prevalence of the restless desire for organic
 changes, and for violent political measures, which pervades
 the manufacturing districts, and which everyday is increasing. At
 one period Luddism prevailed; at another, machine breaking; at
 successive periods the Trade Unions have endeavoured in strikes,
 by hired bands of ruffians, and by assassination, to sustain the
 rate of wages above that determined by the natural laws of trade;
 panics have been excited among the working classes, and severe runs
 upon the Savings' Banks effected from time to time. Now the sole
 effectual means of preventing the tremendous evils with which the
 anarchical spirit of the manufacturing population threatens the
 country is, by giving the working people a good secular education,
 to enable them to understand the true causes which determine their
 physical condition and regulate the distribution of wealth among
 the several classes of society. (51)

To put it bluntly, Kay-Shuttleworth demonised the working-class family as the 'other'. He believed that the innocent child had to be protected from the barbarism of the working-class parent in an effort to protect the existing social order from total destruction. This was the demonising of the working-class family as 'ignorant savages'; both the economic and intellectual inferiors of the bourgeoisie--a construction of 'them and us' that Marx and Engels theorised as lethal to state security. In response to this threat to freedom, the liberal state began to see its long-term security resting, in part, on universal schooling that would reform the poor and the culturally different, that is, make 'others' like 'us'--freedom as solidarity. (52) It was this call for social solidarity in the nineteenth century that coincided with a new romantic fervour that had sprung from Rousseau's knowledge of childhood as a time in its own right. This time, however, the line between good and evil was redrawn. No longer was the moral distinction connected to Rousseau's nature/society divide but to a growing gap that Kay-Shuttleworth saw between the beliefs and values of the bourgeoisie and those of the working-class.

This ethical shift saw romantic discourse on childhood take on other meanings in the nineteenth century. A more intense romantic sensibility of childhood emerged through the influence of poets like Wordsworth and authors like Dickens. As Cunningham explains, 'Dickens's childhood heroes did much to fix in the public mind the idea of a child as both pitiable (Oliver Twist) and 'fresh from God', as the embodiment of a force of innate goodness which could rescue embittered adults'. (53) The work of Wordsworth, for example, made children appear as little angels as opposed to little devils. (54)

In this way, romantic discourse in the nineteenth century took on a heightened concern to protect and preserve what was deemed 'normal'. This saw childhood as a time free of the social and economic pressures of the adult world, a time for play not work. Although it was a time for learning, childhood was also a time for games, laughter, fun and innocence. For example, Kate Wiggin in her book, Children's Rights: A Book of Nursery Logic (1892), portrays childhood as a 'precious memory' of a time when tired old adults were once full of the joy of living. (55) The dream of romantic discourse in the nineteenth century was to save those qualities that 'melted the heart and redeemed the most hardened adult sinner'. (56) 'Romanticism embedded ... a belief that childhood should be happy, and a hope that the qualities of childhood, if they could be preserved in adulthood, might help redeem the adult world'. (57) In an effort to save society from degradation, romantic discourse turned its attention to the depraved locations where such freedom in the form of innocence and goodness were lost--the streets, the factories and the homes of the pauperised child. On this basis, the original thoughts of Rousseau fuelled an evangelical movement in the nineteenth century to free the innocent child from the disadvantages of growing up in a working-class home.

In reforming the home, however, romanticism had little to say. Although it influenced the image of childhood, it was short on practical advice as to how children should be raised. Essentially, the romanticism of childhood in the nineteenth century was a fantasy that appealed to doting fathers who 'had little to do with the day-to-day business of child-rearing'. (58) This situation allowed women to gain power as the child experts - mothers. According to Kociumbas, 'the home had been elevated into a wholly feminine, quasi-sacred haven from the sordid, commercial workplace and street. More than a mere moral policeman, the mother was now the angel in the house, guarding its inmates whose purity made them all the more attractive to the predatory male'. (59)

Mothers became the experts on children and with this came the 'middle-class, philanthropic women, often of evangelical and temperance persuasion ... confident that they knew what was best for their own and other people's children'. (60) The romantic view of carefree and happy children also focussed the attention of middle-class women on the pauperised child as the one who had to go to work. 'Not content with realising the ideal spiritual innocence in their own homes, many urban middle-class women were concerned to evolve new ways of bestowing a proper home life on 'orphans' and children of the poor'. (61)

Similarly, political reformers concentrated on paupers as the children most likely to succumb to 'the evils of the factory and the street'. (62) As Cleverley and Phillips explain, it was in the nineteenth century that social reformers like Corbett, Shaftesbury and Owen were raising awareness of the plight of the poor by pointing out 'the huge number of children marshalled for incessantly repetitive work under strict discipline by those with little to no regard for their well-being'. William Corbett, for example, reported in 1833 that Britain's wealth was 'dependent on the labour of 300,000 little girls in Lancashire' while Lord Shaftesbury used medical data to inform the British parliament of the exploitation of factory children. Also, Robert Owen, the noted industrialist, encouraged his colleagues to improve 'the lot of their "living machines,"' or 'the state would undertake the task for them'. (63)

With the reality of children in the factories and on the streets, philanthropists turned their minds to formulating 'rights which properly belonged to children'. (64) From the 1830s, the idea of children's rights in relation to '... its parents and employers began to be set out'. (65) It was in this period that public responsibility for children rapidly increased. (66) This was 'justified by a liberal rhetoric declaring the inalienable right of the young to throw off parental tyranny and discover for themselves the wisdom and truth of the printed word'. (67) In this way, the state as the proclaimer and enforcer of rights became the natural protector of the child, in particular protecting the pauperised child from economic exploitation and domestic neglect of the working-class parent.

The romantic discourse of the nineteenth century saw the freeing of children in terms of protecting them from exploitation and neglect. In part, this was done by assigning certain rights to the child. As Cunningham explains, 'child-saving aimed both to provide the child with what was thought of as a childhood and to ensure the future of society'. (68) Thus, the child as a good object had to have its redeeming qualities protected if one was to secure the existing freedom of society. Although the child had to be protected from corruption, it was recognised that this alone would not free society from the radicalism and fundamentalism that stems from barbarism and ignorance. From an evolutionary perspective, it was scientifically acknowledged that the child, although essentially good, was a primitive object that had to be developed through a proper education to ensure that freedom was not lost by civilised society being dragged back down the evolutionary tree to a savage Hobbesian (69) world of unconstrained self-interest. This led to a call for universal schooling as a means of reforming the barbarism of the new industrialised and urbanised poor.

Through the language of rights in the nineteenth century the state justified its intervention in what had been the private business of the family--educating the child. Ensuring the education of all children, particularly those of the poor was seen as a means of sterilising the 'great unwashed', that is, the urbanised poor and achieving a healthier national existence. For the poor, there was the need for an education that would not only protect freedom by making them governable but also transform them, making them like 'us' by destroying their ignorance and depravity in such a way as to eventually estrange them from their disadvantaged families. For example, Hunter quotes an early nineteenth century British factory inspector as saying:
 To put the necessity of properly educating the children of the
 working class on its lowest footing, it is loudly called for as a
 matter of police, to prevent a multitude of immoral and vicious
 beings, the offspring of ignorance, from growing up around us, to
 be a pest and a nuisance to society; it is necessary in order to
 render the great body of the working class governable by reason.

This was a sentiment equally reflected in the 1868 report by the Poor Law Inspector E. C. Tufnell who asserted that education was essential for removing the pauper child from the misery and vice of his or her family life. (71)

Some thirty years before Tufnell's report, Kay-Shuttleworth had demonstrated to his readers that the miserable conditions of the working-class in Manchester were a significant threat to the physical and moral well-being of children. From this perspective, the poor were cast as deviants who failed to comply with or conform to the norms of civilised society. If left untreated, Kay-Shuttleworth predicted that the deplorable physical and moral condition of working-class children in Manchester would spread throughout the population like a cancer causing the overall race to degenerate. This was a scientific concern derived from technical knowledge that worried about civilised society as a social organism with its own racial character being dragged back down the evolutionary tree to a less evolved, primitive or debilitated state of being. He said:
 In proof of this, it may suffice to present a picture of the
 natural progress of barbarous habits. Want of cleanliness, of
 forethought and economy, are found in almost invariably alliance
 with dissipation, reckless habits, and disease. The population
 gradually becomes physically less efficient as the producers of
 wealth--morally so from idleness--politically worthless as having
 few desires to satisfy, and noxious as dissipators of capital
 accumulated. Were such manners to prevail, the horrors of
 pauperism would accumulate. A debilitated race would be rapidly
 multiplied. (72)

As a form of social insurance against this threat to freedom, Kay-Shuttleworth argued that 'the education afforded to the poor must be substantial' because:
 The increase of intelligence and virtue amongst the mass of
 people will prove our surest safeguard, in the absence of which,
 the possessions of the higher orders might be, to an ignorant and
 brutal populace, like the fair plains of Italy to the destroying
 Vandal. The wealth and splendour, the refinement and luxury of the
 superior classes, might provoke the wild inroads of a marauding
 force, before whose desolating invasion every institution, which
 science has erected, or humanity devised, might fall, and beneath
 whose feet all the arts and ornaments of civilised life might be
 trampled. (73)

According to Kay-Shuttleworth, universal schooling offered a strategy capable of gradually reconnecting the health and moral standards of society with the private lives of the poor. In the absence of legislative authority, however, he believed that the current state of schooling as a random affair was incapable of dealing with the mounting problem of social fragmentation caused by the rapid industrialisation and expansion of the urban space. (74) He said, 'our present means of instruction are confined to Sunday Schools, and a few Lancasterian and National Schools, quite inadequate to the wants of the population'. (75) This was a political argument that believed education was one of a number of strategies aimed at securing social solidarity needed to go beyond the efforts of the individual philanthropist or the odd public grant. The existing system aimed at the working-class for the purpose of stamping out immorality and poverty was not up to the task. (76)

Faced with the spectre of increasing social decay, Kay-Shuttleworth concluded his report with a plea for government intervention. Writing in a modest third person, his last sentence pleaded:
 His object is simply to offer to the public an example of what he
 conceives to be too generally the state of the working classes,
 throughout the Kingdom, and to illustrate by specific instances,
 evils everywhere requiring the immediate interference of
 legislative authority. (77)

Kay-Shuttleworth saw compulsory schooling as a key strategy in this class war. While Rousseau bemoaned the irresponsibility of middle class parents who handed their children over to the disciplining of the school, Kay-Shuttleworth appropriated the freedom/childhood double as a means of promoting the responsibility of actively addressing the consequences of idleness, improvidence, and moral deviations that characterised the working classes through the daily rebuke of the school. (78) That is to say, the purpose in making schooling compulsory was not about teaching the three Rs but ensuring all children, particularly those of the barbarous working class, were trained in regular habits.


In the nineteenth century, the rationality of freedom in terms of protecting the child which in turn would protect the existing social order was used to rewrite the responsible parent. This was a move taken by Kay-Shuttleworth and others to refashion the romantic discourse of childhood to a different political end. That is to say, it was the desire to incite the autonomous parent to recognise the self as an ethical subject responsible for educating the child through a universal process of schooling as the single strategy that would guarantee innocent children were protected from the abuse and neglect resulting from their working-class background. By demonising the working-class as the 'other' who ignored their children's education and exposed them to the corruption of the streets and the factories, the autonomous parent was able to recognise the self as responsible. In this way, the responsible parent was rewritten as a moral subject who publicly demonstrated care and protection of the child through schooling thus sitting in contradistinction to 'others' who abandoned the child to the evils and hardships of the adult world in the form of the streets and factories.

In comparison, Rousseau, who rewrote the religious discourse of childhood in the eighteenth century, applied the same political strategy used to rewrite the responsible parent in the nineteenth century. This was the move by Rousseau to refashion the responsible parent in relation to educating the child from the corrective disciplinarian to the nurturer and protector of the child. To do this, Rousseau like religious discourse and Locke before him and Kay-Shuttleworth and others after him, proceeded to manufacture an 'other' as a threat to freedom. In Rousseau's case, however, this involved demonising the social world as a corruptive environment, a place in which the self is forced to relinquish the will to the desires of others in a way that not only individual freedom is lost but also an appreciation of the rights of others. By pointing to the threat that the social world made to freedom Rousseau aimed to incite the autonomous parent to recognise the self as an ethical subject responsible for educating the child according to the laws of nature. This was the writing of the responsible parent as one who educated the child in the care and safety of the home not the school.

The freedom/childhood double in terms of freeing the child from the depraved or ignorant self or freeing the innocent child from corruption whether in the form of society in general or a particular part of society such as the working-class has provided the power/knowledge to rewrite the responsible parent. Hence, the different truth of the freedom/childhood double as the cherished object of educational discourse has been far from constant. It is regularly appropriated and manipulated to rewrite what we understand as responsibility when it comes to educating our children, thus protecting the existing social order.

(1) Funding made available through the Whitfield Fellowship from the University of Western Australia supported the writing of this article.

(2) J.S. Mill, On Liberty, London, Penguin Books, 1974, p. 176

(3) T.R. Tholfsen, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth on Popular Education, New York, Teachers College Press, 1974, p. 2.

(4) P. Stokes. Philosophy: 100 essential thinkers, New York, Enchanted Lion Books, 2002, p.187.

(5) F. Ewald and A. Fontana, 'Foreword', in M. Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, England, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 2003, p. xii.

(6) M. Foucault, 'Questions of method', in J.D. Faubion (ed), Power: the essential works of Foucault 195 -1984, Volume 3, England, Penguin Books, 1994, p. 224.

(7) M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: an archaeology of medical perception, New York, Vintage Books, 1973, p. xvi.

(8) M. Foucault, The Order of Things: an archaeology of human sciences. New York, Routledge Classics, 1970, p. xiii.

(9) Foucault, Order of Things, pp. xii-xv.

(10) Foucault, Order of Things, p. xiii.

(11) Foucault, Order of Things, p. xiii.

(12) H.L. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, Michel Foucault: beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, London, Harvest Wheatsheaf, 1982, p.104.

(13) G. Gutting, Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Scientific Reason, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 260.

(14) Gutting, Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Scientific Reason, pp. 6-7.

(15) L. McNay, Foucaut: a critical introduction, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994, p.87.

(16) M. Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history', in P. Rabinow (ed), The Foucault Reader, England, Penguin Books, 1984, pp. 78-79.

(17) Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history', p. 80.

(18) Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history', p. 84.

(19) Foucault, 'Nietzsche, genealogy, history', p. 84.

(20) M. Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, England, Allen Lane Penguin Press, 2003, p. 57.

(21) Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, p. 14.

(22) Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, p.52.

(23) M. Foucault, 'The subject and power', in J.D. Faubion (ed.), Power, p. 326.

(24) P. Gammage, Children and Schooling: issues in childhood socialisation, London, George Allen and Unwin, 1982, p. 17, emphasis added.

(25) J. Locke, 'Some thoughts concerning education', in J.W. Yolton and J.S. Yolton (eds.), John Locke: some thoughts concerning education, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1989, pp. 103, emphasis added.

(26) D. Wardle, The Rise of the Schooled Society: the history of formal schooling in England, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974, p. 3.

(27) W. Boyd, The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau, New York, Russell & Russell, 1911, p. 316, emphasis added.

(28) J. Rousseau, Emile, London, J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd, 1911, p. 5.

(29) J. Rousseau, 'Emile', in P. Nash, Models of Man: exploration in the western educational tradition, London, John Willey and Sons, Inc, 1968, p. 269.

(30) I would note here that in the opening pages of Emile Rousseau goes to lengths to explain the importance that both the mother and the father play in the education of the child. For the mother, he explains the importance of nursing the child and her primary interest in the child's physical and educational development. On this basis, he (1911, p. 5) advised educational moralists, 'Address your treatises in education to the women, for not only are they able to watch over it more closely than men, not only is their influence more predominant in education, its success concerns them more dearly'. To the father, he said that the primary duty was the teaching of his children. While he believed that the father was the son's natural teacher, he stressed that if, for other reasons, this was not possible then the father was responsible for ensuring the selection of a suitable tutor for the child. 'Poverty, pressure of business, mistaken social prejudices, none of these excuse a man from his duty, which is to support and educate his own children,' said Rousseau (1911, p. 17). 'If a man of natural feeling neglects these sacred duties he will repent it with bitter tears and will never be comforted'.

(31) N. Rose, Powers of Freedom: reframing political thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 77.

(32) Boyd, Educational Theory, p. 267.

(33) J. Rousseau, 'Emile', in Nash, Models of Man, p. 269.

(34) In Book II of Emile, 1911, pp. 53-54, Rousseau explains that reasoning with children, from his perspective, is a silly thing to do.

(35) Boyd, Educational Theory, p. 312.

(36) J. Rousseau, 'Emile', in H. Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, London, Longman, 1995, p. 66.

(37) Rousseau, Emile, 1911, pp. 11-12.

(38) Rousseau, Emile, 1911, p. 13.

(39) Rousseau, Emile, 1911, pp. 13-14.

(40) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 66.

(41) Rousseau, Emile', in Nash, Models of Man, p. 268.

(42) J. Cleverley and D. Phillips, Visions of Childhood: influential models from Locke to Spock, Sydney, Allen and Urwin, 1987, p. 35.

(43) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 67.

(44) Gammage, Children and Schooling, p. 19.

(45) Rousseau, Emile, 1911, p. 7.

(46) Rousseau, Emile, 1911, p. 9.

(47) Rousseau, 'Emile', in Nash, Models of Man, p. 265.

(48) J. Kociumbas, Australian Childhood: a history, Allen & Unwin, Australia, 1997, p. 119.

(49) J. Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education as Reviewed in 1832, 1839, 1846, 1862, England, The Harvester Press Ltd, 1973, p. 3.

(50) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, p. 2.

(51) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, pp. 228-231.

(52) J. Donzelot, 'The mobilisation of society', in G. Burchell, C. Gordon and P. Miller (eds.). The Foucault Effect: studies in governmentality, London, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991, p. 171.

(53) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 74.

(54) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 73.

(55) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 160.

(56) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, p. 91.

(57) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, pp. 77-78.

(58) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 76.

(59) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, p. 91.

(60) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, p. 92.

(61) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, pp. 103-104.

(62) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, p. 119.

(63) Cleverley and Phillips, Visions of Childhood, pp. 101-106.

(64) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 160.

(65) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 160.

(66) P. Robertson, 'Home as a nest: middle class childhood in nineteenth century Europe', in L. deMause (ed.), History of Childhood, London, Harper and Row, 1974, p. 426.

(67) Kociumbas, Australian Childhood, p. 119.

(68) Cunningham, Children and Childhood, p. 162.

(69) Hobbes (1588-1679), one of the original contract theorists, believed that the natural state of man was warlike. This was the notion of constant conflict and threat as individuals driven by their passions and natural freedom sought to secure their own preservation. For Hobbes the formation of the State comes about because people feared others would kill them, thus, they were prepared to give up their freedom in terms of obeying certain laws in return for the protection of the sovereign.

(70) I. Hunter, Rethinking the School: subjectivity, bureaucracy, criticism, NSW, Allen and Unwin, 1993, p. xi.

(71) E. Hopkins, Childhood Transformed: working-children in nineteenth century England, Manchester, UK, Manchester University Press, 1994, p. 178.

(72) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, p. 51, emphasis in original.

(73) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, pp. 62-63.

(74) N. Rose, Powers of Freedom: reframing political thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 78.

(75) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, p. 60.

(76) P. Aries, Centuries of Childhood, England, Penguin Books Ltd, 1962, p. 291.

(77) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, p. 75, emphasis in the original.

(78) Kay-Shuttleworth, Four Periods of Public Education, p. 64.

Wayne McGowan is a Whitfield Fellow at The University of Western Australia. His research interests include political philosophy, especially in education, and the changing subjectivities, technologies, and rationalities of power in the administration of education.

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Author:McGowan, Wayne S.
Publication:History of Education Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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