Order: A Product of Society

An important feature of society is the sense in which we search for ways to live together effectively. Morality thus offers a core purpose for any social group. It offers a means through which it is possible to make sense of actions by identifying what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, what actions are right and what actions are wrong. Morality, therefore, has an intrinsic place in providing a means through which social harmony can be established.1 Rules are created through which the ability of that group to live together is not just made possible, but improved. Indeed, if one looks at the development of societies, one can see the importance from the earliest time of rules through which to make sense of human behaviour (Douglas 1966). For example, Douglas’ work invites a consideration of the extent to which established and less-established social groupings all draw from the same processes, formalised in different ways, through which they seek to make sense of social action in the hope of creating and shaping an order that allows the society to operate effectively. Perceptions of belonging and the maintenance of peace, therefore, become woven into the fabric of society, whether within culture, through formal laws or in the institutionalised nature of the setting. It is, therefore, with reference to context, through this lens of social harmony, that we can consider an element of the way in which childhoods come to be constructed, as we respond to those notable features of control and constraint that pervade contemporary and historical practices towards children.

A sense of harmony as a focus for how we think about morality is present in the earliest writings. Plato took on the notion of justice as he reflected on the severity of the conflict that had consumed Athens and its neighbours. Within it, he sought to draw up a blueprint for moving forward and for re-engaging with one another. Fundamentally, it was a plan by which people could get along. This is reflected in Plato’s definition of the human quest for ‘good’ in Republic (1988). It is onto this that Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (1999) introduces the notion of eudaimonia (happiness). The concept of the happy individual is a further reflection on an ability to co-operate with one another, acknowledging that together we find a means through which to get along. Aristotle, in comparison to Plato, places the ability to reach a sense of goodness firmly in the hands of the individual. The search for a shared goodness as the product of moral inquiry is of course reflected in the work of later philosophers too. The utilitarians, such as Bentham (1879) and Mill (1910), offer a further sense of morality in terms of its ability to find a model that recognises the good of all.

What is ‘good’ is another question. Although many have set out to define and shape a sense of the common good as a means for reflecting on perceptions of happiness, it is clear that this is framed in very adultcentric terms (Bacon and Frankel 2013). The ongoing desire to find the ‘best’ way of living together, positioned alongside the notions of reason and virtue presented in Chaps. 5 and 6, starts to help us make more sense of adults’ need to keep control over children (James and James 2004). It presents a set of discourses in which children were seen as lacking the ability for moral thought but also (for those that had greater expcetations of a future capacity to reason) in need of training that would mould them to fulfil the ambitions that soicety had for them. In both these regards, children were cast as actors in a play for which they were unable to learn their lines or to form a sense of what the play was about. The only way for the children to play their parts was for them to submit to the ongoing supervision and direction of adults, without which chaos would ensue.

This analogy reflects children’s potential to destabilise the world of adults as a consequence of their lack of reason, which might or might not be being managed by a ‘curriculum of virtue’. This perhaps has been summed up in more recent history through the notion of panics (Pearson 1983). The theme of panic will be considered later, but it reflects a sense in which adults continue to pull the strings which, as a result, frames the context for children’s experiences, one in which a desire to achieve an adult understanding of the common good is of the highest importance. Notably, it is an understanding that is maintained through constructed images that reflect the dominance of the theme of the threat that children pose to social harmony.

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