Pedagogy, Child rearing: Letters to my art uncle

…..The first and foremost matter to be attended to is implanting in children a love of order; this is the first step we require in the way of virtue. In the first three years, however, this- like all things one undertakes with children- can come about only in a quite mechanical way. Everything must follow the rules of orderliness. Food and drink, clothing, sleep, and indeed the child’s entire little house hold must be orderly and must never be altered in the least to accommodate their wilfulness or whims so that they may learn in the earliest childhood to submit to the rules of orderliness. The order one insists upon has indisputable influence on their minds, and if children become accustomed to orderliness at a very early age, they will suppose there after that this is completely natural because they no longer realise that it has been artificially installed in them....

Art uncle: I really love the ‘hi-vis kids’ piece and text: you are raising issues we really need to talk about as a culture. And to notice. Nowhere to hide: indeed! What’s more, when they become late teens, these ‘hi-vis kids’ live in a blare of scrutiny that was once reserved to the 'famous'. Their lives are performed, and analysed, by their world in social media. This blare is vehiculated by FaceBook Corp and promoted as  some kind of 'open' culture, where people say what they think. However, in my experience, many of these late teens and young adults experience this as a culture of constant policing and of ineffable urgency. It holds them up to a horrible glare.  Yet, their relationship with social media is so pervasive and ingrained that they are not aware of the strain of this experience... do we really want ‘hi-vis’ everywhere? Does it really protect us in the end? What are the trade-offs?

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Art Nephew Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my work. 

Over the past year I have become fascinated, perplexed, enthralled, upset and troubled by what I witness on a daily basis working in a nursery school. To give you a little context, I began working in a nursery school that cares for children aged 8months to 4 years back in October last year, just as I was starting my MA at Wimbledon. I have always loved working with children and have worked as a nanny for many years. I enjoy being a nanny very much, it is a time that i treasure, I learn so much from being with children. There is an innate freedom in their expression and i enjoy being a part of that and enabling it to to take place.

However within a nursery setting this changes. It becomes something more caged, more controlled. Nurseries, for obvious reasons, have many policies and protections which are there to ensure the children's safety and well being. but this in turn scares me. The over policing of children runs in parallel to a society which is obsessed with "red tape" and policing. I have read some of the policies and they move me to tears. One reads things like "All practitioners must be able to identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation" and hangs ones head. I wonder if we realise that the radicalisation we speak of is actually coming from within.

 

These children have nowhere to hide. Everyday we make an individual diary for each child detailing their bowl movements, their eating, their behavior etc. We also take pictures of them daily (at least 3 per child) which are sent out to the parents to "give proof". It disturbs me greatly. The high vis kids text comes from seeing the children being taken outside, a process which is highly policed. They must wear high vis jackets, they must not pick up sticks, they may not climb....
 

I have begun to link this with another form of policing/controlled/manufactured human behavior that i have witnessed. Farming. When I go into a farm I have a similar feeling to that which i get in a nursery (particular the big factory farms which are now pretty much all farms), it is total control. Total. 
 

You raise an interesting point about platforms such as facebook. I see people posting pictures of their unborn children on a weekly basis, the scrutiny begins very early on. Watched since birth by a platform of people, tracking their moves, seeing their progress. And your right, the majority are not even aware that this is taking place. And the children growing up in this environment will be apart of it, no longer able to separate through choice. what does this say about us? are we now born artificial?
 

What I'm hoping to express in my current work is not a "doom and gloom" look at this strange thing society is creating, but to look at it as something poetical. To make us look twice and maybe to go home and dream about it. It is at once autobiographical and outward looking. 
 

I do hope you are well,

Ben