How does the tabula rasa discourse shape adult perceptions of childhood?   In what ways does it differ from other discourses of childhood?

Discourse is a concept that is used extensively in the work of Social Constructionists when discussing childhood.   I intend to give an explanation of what a discourse is and how the tabula rasa discourse influences adult perceptions of childhood.   I will also discuss the Puritan and Romantic discourse and identify the differences between them and the tabula rasa discourse.

The term discourse refers to a set of linked ideas which are held together by a particular view of the world or philosophy.   Social constructionists highlight the importance of how cultural, historical and social differences can influence our thinking and behaviour, and this line of thought and behaviour forms a discourse.   Each gender has different discourses as do adults to children and the affluent to the poor, amongst many others.   Using morality as an example, a masculine perspective often places the highest value on ideas like justice, whereas the feminine perspective would most often place the highest value on caring for others.

The tabula rasa discourse is one that believes that the child is born as a blank slate and their knowledge is built from their experiences in the world around them.   Our modern theory is mostly attributed to philosopher John Locke’s (1632 – 1704) expression of the idea in the 17th century.   He thought that one’s sensory experiences formed the data and rules that needed to be processed for learning.   He believed that education would allow children to develop a rational and reasoning mind and that the adults and environment around, would shape them.   In today’s Western societies, parental attitudes are constantly changing because of pressures from out with the family unit, such as psychologists and philosophers, governments and globalisation.   The ways in which childhood is socially constructed affects the way in which we...