CHILDREN'S MINDS, MIDDLE-CLASS RABBITS, AND CLOCKWORK ORANGES

INTRODUCTION

 

 

I thought that selecting ten or a dozen articles from the bundle I had written would be easy. I'd pick the best ones, put them in some more or less coherent order, and ship the ms. off to the publisher. It hasn't proved so simple. My first assumption, that I had written about a hundred articles, while in some literal sense true, broke down as I realised that I had really written about five articles about twenty times each, or perhaps ten articles ten times each. Even if this exaggerates a bit, it was interesting to discover the frequency of overlapping themes and topics. Such overlapping has made it difficult simply to select what seem to me the most interesting essays. It has been necessary to look also for pieces that are distinct from each other and then do a fair amount of trimming of repetition. But even so, there remain some overlaps where I thought it better to leave in some repetition in order to preserve the coherence of a piece.

Normally in an Introduction the author lays out the book's contents and themes. But this has been done so ably in Elliot Eisner's Foreward that I am saved from doing what would undoubtedly have been a less concise and clear job.

I should perhaps give some account of the book's rather odd title. When I began to think of the collection I started a file of notes about what articles might be selected. I scribbled "Children's Minds, Middle-Class, Talking Rabbits, and Clockwork Oranges" on it, catching what at first blush seemed like the range of topics I would be dealing with. As time went by I found myself increasingly unable to think of it as anything else--though I excised the "Talking" descriptor from the rabbits. And as no-one (so far) in the process has suggested that this is really an impossible title, here it is.

The "Children's Minds" part is fairly straightforward, and represents some kind of homage to Margaret Donaldson's book of that title--a book I have long admired and which certainly influenced my thinking. Much of my work has been focused on children's thinking and how it is similar to and different from adults'. I want "children" here to refer also to adolescents--whose thinking I will also consider in what follows.

"Middle-Class Rabbits" refers to features of children's thinking that seem to me to have been too much neglected in much previous theorizing and research. I have been interested in the nature and character of children's fantasy and their imaginative lives. It is the energy and creativity focused on characters and conditions unlike anything in their everyday environments that seem among the most engaging features of their thinking, and the ones least easily dealt with by the dominant conceptions of children's minds and their development which have influenced curricula.

"Clockwork Oranges" borrows Anthony Burgess's book title and refers to the confusion that inevitably follows when we treat organic things as though they are mechanical. I think there has been a fair amount of this in educational research, and the final section tries to indicate a few areas where education has suffered from this defect.

 

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