18th Century Children

How were children regarded, treated and educated within the liberal ideas from the 17th-18th Century? Were these children well cared for and did they experience an easy life? Were families able to provide emotional support and was education a priority viewed in this earlier lifetime? Children were important to families, but not in the same way they are in today society.

In the past, children were classed or seen as small adults. Newborns were constrained to the practice of being swaddled which prevented not to have free movement for the majority of an infant’s life whereas Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau would disagree as he believed “infants were to be unswaddled and allowed freedom of movement, in terms of clothing and space, to explore their environment”. (May H, 2013, p. 37).

Meaning, when a child has freedom it creates independence and happiness which is an important part of a child’s development, but what was happening here in the 1700s infant’s bodies were wrapped in strips of cloth that restrained their arms and legs, then they were simple hung on a hook or up high for their safety but also allowing for mothers to be able to manage their household. In some cases it was known that the infant could experience their limbs being un-shaped or even fractured.

Mothers couldn’t devote their time to infants or their children, so they were sent to their wet nurses who, were also seen to nurse the infants. When the swaddled bands were removed they were to wear long gowns that would prevent them from crawling as it was not allowed and had been considered bestial because according to European history what they believed was the child was to stand upright like adults so they would be seen as the ones who, were expected to take on adult responsibilities. Therefore, a child’s social means was to provide economic value to their family and possibly to their community.

So in the late 1700s there were no laws in child labour and it was common to see factory owners exploiting these children as young as five years old because they were seen useful and their size allowed them to move in small spaces whereas adults couldn’t fit. However, to survive in the lowest level of poverty all family members needed to work and child labour become brutally disciplined where children were expected to work under the heavy machinery for stretched amount of hours to earn a dollar.

The working children had no time to play, they were forced to go without education, so as for these children there were no opportunities to expand, no freedom to explore, nor hope or confidence and not showing an enlightened outlook and for that reason something needed to change, their needed to be a time for new ideas. John Amos Comenius philosopher on education believed education was for everyone and that everyone deserved the opportunity to be educated that being male, female rich or poor. Children were to be provided with play rather than restrained to.

Liberal ideas from the 17th-18th century were seen to be extremely dangerous because there was an incredible amount of poverty in Europe that surrounded this era and that people were getting between the images of poverty versus wealth and to avoid revolution, education needed to be taught, but in an biblical means, so from evangelical churches perspective you had the wealthy subsiding the poor. Education was at the heart of political debate between the new and old political and religious guidelines. (May, 2013).

These new ideas were viewed from philosophical point of view, whom were enlightened thinkers and had the best interest of society in mind. Each philosopher had his or her own ideas that all centred around one main idea, equality and human freedom. Their intents were to change society, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, to advance knowledge and discover the rethinking of childhood because of what was being influenced upon them in the 1800s. With these new ideas they were emphasising autonomy, to believe what they wanted to believe, and as an individual who could make their own choices rather than others making it for them.

Children were to be given personal freedom and rights, be able to discover and express your own opinions. Equal opportunity for all, it shouldn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from as everyone should be given individual opportunity. Education was a tool to cater to all needs of children and allowing for them to create their imagination, knowledge and dreams. However, it also controlled people’s life which were very challenging because they were of religious and political rights to do with the Churches and the Monarch of France.

Some changes begun in the 18th century and we started to see a connection with New Zealand that explored the measures of enlightenment. Enlightenment was about discovery and notion of progress. Therefore, harvesting children’s interest, curiosity and the idea of reading because to be civilised and enlightened you had to be able to read and at this period of time most children couldn’t read and if a child was to take on society they needed to know and learn the new tools. Missionaries were the first Europeans to arrive in New Zealand, they were interested in education and were seen to adapt new education ideas.

Mission schools started to progress with children being schooled away from their families first, then having the Bible introduced as their tool of learning literacy followed by clothing and behaviour to create a civilised Christian Maori society. (May, 2005, p22. ). Missionary schools were funded through the government and because they were mainly from a British background they believed this would be an opportunity for assimilation of both races coming together and that Maori would learn the European culture.

Following on from the missionaries was the early settlers who were jammed with ideas, who expressed the value and nature of education, meaning how was education going to be taught and what, was going to be taught. Europeans were not only focused on New Zealand, they had bigger ideas to expand out, international colonisation, meaning to carry out their Eurocentric ideas upon indigenous people throughout the world.

Before 1877 not all children were educated and only some Maori, missionaries and settlers children had the opportunity. Therefore, before the 1877 New Zealand Act only half of New Zealand children went to school between the ages of five and fifteen. The passing of 1877 New Zealand Education Act, was created by using historical and ideological influences. That education was to be free, so making sure every child had free access to education, despite where they stand in society and their economic status.

That education was to be Secular, making sure education was non-bias and children from any race, religion were able to attend schooling and develop the opportunity to achieve. Compulsory allowed for fewer children growing on streets, less crimes committed, stopped parents from pulling their child out of school. Therefore, they could improve reading, writing and other skills and be given the chance to experience success. In other words, centralized, making equal opportunities for all children across the country.