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Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Philosophy and Childhood
Module Code EC403
School 77
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Jones Irwin
Semester 2: Jones Irwin
Autumn: Jones Irwin
Module TeachersJones Irwin
Geraldine French
NFQ level 8 Credit Rating 5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None
Repeat examination
Repeat assessment Repeat exam

This module will explore different conceptions of childhood. It will introduce students to childhood studies though the lens of philosophy and four dominant perspectives that continue to inform discourse and policy in relation to children’s lives. It will explore the following four ‘framings’ focusing primarily on identity and diversity in the modern period: 1) The deficit or ‘privative’ view of childhood, 2) the gifted or ‘privileged’ view of childhood, 3) the psychogenic or ‘therapeutic’ view of childhood and 4) the liberationist or ‘emancipatory’ view of childhood. As well as considering recent scholarship in the area, there will be a focus on how, historically, major thinkers have viewed the significance of the early years, including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Locke, Rousseau, and Freud. Central to the course is the critical issue of children’s agency today and what philosophy and childhood studies have to contribute to the debate.

Learning Outcomes

1. Identify significant factors that have effected change in western ways of relating to and treating children
2. Develop a critical outlook on ‘childhood', with particular reference to how various constructions of childhood express different philosophies of the human person.
3. Identify the tensions between the perspectives explored within research and policy documents and offer critique based on two or more of the perspectives discussed.
4. Recognise important ideas around identity and their context in relation to childhood studies
5. Interpret intellectual traditions of thinking about children as individuals and as members of a community, society, and citizenry
6. Examine the ways in which ideas around nature and culture continue to inform conceptions of childhood

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture24No Description
Assessment Feedback25No Description
Independent Study76No Description
Total Workload: 125

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

• The idea of a ‘perspective'. The point of studying philosophical history with regard to expanding our understanding of human possibilities and appreciating the ‘parochialism of the present'.

• Four differing perspectives on childhood: the ‘privative’, the ‘therapeutic’, the ‘privileged’, and the ‘emancipatory’.

• Philosophy as a form of reflection, with sources in childhood wonder and in early Greek thought. Socrates as exemplary figure of philosopher and teacher. Clarification of concepts and justification of opinions and beliefs. The importance of dialogue.

• Greek childhood especially in the classical period; Plato and Aristotle as defenders of a privative view of childhood.

• The influence of social movements including religion on childhood through the ages, for example Greek and Roman pantheism, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity

• Child abuse in the ancient world: conflicting views on prevalence of infanticide, exposure (abandonment), swaddling, wetnursing and various kinds of mistreatment of children. ‘Psychohistory' and the work of Lloyd de Mause.

• The Renaissance and its impact on childhood: the printing press and the growth of social literacy; newly invented privacy and interiority; childhood and the ‘civilizing process' (Norbert Elias).

• The Reformation: new emphasis on family life, importance of ‘indoctrinating' children in religious teachings; the affirmation of ordinary life.

• Roots of Modernity: the Enlightenment and the influence of modern science, and of new notions of individual autonomy, democracy and ‘progress', on ways of understanding and treating children. The evolution of the nation-state: emergence of national schooling systems as instruments of nation-building with strong cultural and, later, economic remits.

• Romanticism, the idea of ‘nature' and a new cherishing of childhood: Rousseau's Émile as manifesto of ‘child-centredness'.

• Contemporary issues with respect to children in ‘advanced' liberal democratic societies: Children’s Rights; tensions with respect to ‘protection' and ‘empowerment'. The National Children's Strategy: Our Children, Their Lives.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
Extended Essay / DissertationThis extended essay of 2000-2500 words will replace the end of term exam for EC403 due to possible complications regarding Covid 19 in the forthcoming academic year.70%Week 12
EssayEssay30%Sem 1 End
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • C. John Sommerville: 1990, The rise and fall of childhood, Reissue, Vintage Books, New York, 0679728295
  • Lloyd deMause, editor: 1974, The history of childhood, 1st, 10, Psychohistory Press, New York,, 0914434004
  • Neil Postman: 1994, The disappearance of childhood, 1st, 9, Vintage Books, New York, 0679751661
  • David Archard: 2004, Children, 2nd, 15, Routledge, London, 0415305845
  • Alison Gopnik: 2009, The Philosophical Baby, 1st, Bodley Head, 1847921078
  • Jesse Wolfe: 2011, Bloomsbury, Modernism, and the Reinvention of Intimacy, 1st, Cambridge University Press, 1107006041
  • Government of Ireland: 2000, Our Children, Their Lives, The National Children's Strategy, Government publications,
  • Kenneth Wain: 2014, Between Truth and Freedom: Rousseau and our contemporary political and educational culture (New Directions in the Philosophy of Education), Routledge, 0415704375
  • Philippe Aries; translated from the French by Robert Baldick: 1962, Centuries of childhood, 1st, Vintage Books, New York, 0394702867
  • Shulamith Shahar; transl. by Chaya Galai: 1992, Childhood in the Middle Ages, 1st, Routledge, London, 0415073294
  • by Norbert Elias; translated by Edmund Jephcott: 1978, The civilizing process, 1st, Pantheon Books, New York, 0394711335
  • C. John Sommerville: 1992, The discovery of childhood in Puritan England, 1st, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 082031353X
  • Robert Coles: 1990, The spiritual life of children, Reprint, 13, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 0395599237
  • George Boas: 1990, The cult of childhood, Spring Publications, Dallas, Tex., 0882142186
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau; introd., translation, and notes by Allan Bloom: 1979, Emile, 1st, 5, Basic Books, New York, 0465019315
  • Hugh Cunningham: 2005, Children and childhood in western society since 1500, Harlow, England ; Pearson Longman,, 0582784530
  • John, Hope Mason: 1979, The Indespensible Roussau, Quartet Books, New York,
Other Resources

39788, Publication, 0, Government of Ireland: Our Children, Their Lives (The National Children’s Strategy). Dublin: Government Publications, 2000, http://www.ncca.ie/en/Curriculum_and_Assessment/Early_Childhood_and_Primary_Education/Early_Childhood_Education/Framework_for_early_learning/,
Programme or List of Programmes
BECEBachelor of Early Childhood Education

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