Monday, 28 January 2008

What makes a good childhood? The Children's Society has set up an inquiry into what makes a good childhood and is collecting 'cherished early memories' in order to build a picture of what a good childhood should look like. We are gathering hundreds and thousands of childhood memories... This will help us understand how to make childhood better today. The memories exercise is likely to capture lots of mini narratives of decline, but perhaps there'll be a useful research resource, and some interesting questions of how the material gets analysed. The inquiry seems like a useful idea, and it will do us good to examine what we mean by 'good' and 'better' and so on. If childhood was somehow 'better' in the recalled past, the value of the inquiry will be in the way it distils the truths and examines them in the wholly different social, economic and technological context. This is certainly the sense in which I think it's valuable to consider older people's descriptions of neighbourliness in their childhoods - not in terms of the accuracy of the reminiscence but in terms of the values (in this case collective values) described. And maybe we should have an equivalent exercise for old age, based on Age Concern's 'ageing well' campaign - instead of 'cherished early memories,' how about 'cherished late anticipations'? Or should there be a site where the recently bereaved put forward views on whether their older relative or friend had a 'good' old age, and what was good about it? Previously: Children's contentedness as a social indicator. Disrespecting childhoods.

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