Saturday, 18 June 2011

Should small children be made to work?

Shocking I know! But Meredith Small thinks so - and he's a professor of anthropology!

Look outside Western culture and watch children, even very small children, as they gather firewood, weed gardens, haul water, tend livestock, care for younger children and run errands. And no one complains because they are mostly outside and usually with other children.

By doing these chores, they also master life skills, like caring for a baby or how to herd goats, and with that comes proficiency and responsibility. 

It's an interesting point of view and Professor Small goes further and suggests that our approach to the development of children demonstrates a different - not necessarily better - cultural attitude to them:

In non-Western culture, parents expect children to learn about what it means to be an adult by doing adult work. When we were an agriculturally based nation, American children used to work just as hard and contribute in the same way. But now, Western children are trained intellectually, in school, where they are taught to think about things as the entree to adulthood, and few contribute anything to the household economy.

That cultural expectation is now creeping earlier and earlier as 3-year-olds go to preschool and 4–year-olds start kindergarten. Everyone sits quietly at their desks, thinking and thinking, just when they’d rather be out tending cows or weeding the garden.

An interesting view that is worth thinking about (while we tend the cows of course).



Cricslats99 said...

My 10 year old son works with me in my Deli on saturday mornings. I don't expect too much of him but he enjoys helping and I believe benefits from the experience.

John Loony said...

Why did you refer to Meredith Small as "he"? Ha ha LOL