An Ethnographic Study on Children’s Culture

An Ethnographic Study on Children’s Culture

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Children spend most of their time in institutions such as schools, learning, in order to provide themselves with the education they need to make their dreams come true. Children view these institutions as a space for sociability where they can form bonds with others, outside their families, as they create and spread their own distinctive culture (McDonnell 26). As a reading buddy at Brooksview Middle School, the knowledge I acquired while there was fascinating as it allowed me to reflect upon my own experiences and relate it to what we were learning in the course. Observing firsthand and note taking allows a researcher to examine the practices of children’s culture more efficiently and this is what I spent most of my Monday afternoon’s doing. Although these institutions are there to help children succeed, they also deny them access to their own culture which may prohibit them from becoming “fully human” (Friere 28).
Viewing childhood as a culture allows one to understand why children view culture so differently from adults (McDonnell 22). At institutions such as Brooksview, children are denied access on a number of things and are assumed to be incapable of making their own rational decisions. Due to the institution’s location, the teachers and principle are extremely strict with the children on how they should act, giving them standards which may deny children from accessing their own culture. This influences these children to act in certain ways, ways in which they believe the society wants them to act. This is shown one day when I attended an assembly regarding the failing rate of the grade sixes. Throughout the assembly, the principle was educating the children on how they should behave in school which led him to his point that the cause of the failing rate (60%) was because of the “coloured” kids (Appendix, Day 6). This is similar to the experiment that is being tested on Octavian in the novel Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation. Due to Brooksview’s location and Octavian’s skin colour, people will presume that black people will fail, especially in practices such as education. “… African is, by nature, (a) shiftless and (b) rebellious, requiring constant supervision to remain productive… You have done us a wonderful service, through your failure.” (Anderson 337). This possibly will affect a child’s approach within their society as it may alter their perspective on how they should act rather than how they want to act; changing for the sake of others.

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Dictating a child’s life denies them from accessing and directing a culture they wish to spread to following generations.
The process of learning is an ongoing cycle where institutions continue to maintain the quality of oppression, “the teacher teaches and the students are taught” (Freire 73). Throughout my experiences at Brooksview as a reading buddy, I was able to examine some ways in which children were denied access to their own culture from the information provided by my partner Kabeena. That month, Kabeena told me of a Spelling Bee competition her school was having, optional to those who wanted to participate (Appendix, Day 14). After returning for my fifteenth meeting she had brought it up again, this time saying that her teacher signed up the whole class for it whether they wanted to or not (Appendix, Day 15). Here the children at Brooksview are denied access to their own culture as they are prevented from speaking out and making their own decisions. This is similar to Allison James’ article, Giving Voice to Children’s Voices: Practices and Problems, Pitfalls and Potentials, where she states that children find their voices silenced and ignored and if they are even consulted, their voices and ideas may still be disregarded (James 261). If children are denied from accessing their own culture and freedom they will possibly respond attentively to the social controls that maintain and support oppression. Children in this situation play the role of the unintelligible student who must adapt to what their teacher expects of them (Freire 73). Students are alienated and are perceived to be ignorant and unaware as they are silenced from making rational decisions for themselves. We can see this occurs in Octavian Nothing as he is trying to share his own ideas and thoughts. “Put the mask back on him! I do no need to argue points with a specimen.” (Anderson 339). Here, the mask portrays the power institutions have on children as they are denying them the freedom to share their thoughts. The lack of action from children dehumanizes them as it determines that understanding of the teacher-student opposition. Institutions must remove that blockage they have set up, giving children the right to gain access to their own culture without doing it for them.

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