Last month I attended the bi-annual meeting of the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth. After that, I was fully conferenced out and the thought of writing yet another report was too exhausting to contemplate. So, here at last are some of the highlights — but I’m going to be brief otherwise this will never get done!
My session on Children, School, and Health went well and was well-attended despite being the first panel slot on the first day. It was also nice to get my paper done and out of the way early. If you attended and liked (or disliked) what you heard, feel free to comment here.
Later that afternoon, Judith Warner gave the keynote address entitled “The Construction of the Medicated Child” based on her best-selling book, We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication. As in the book, she deflated the myth that children and adolescents are overdiagnosed and overmedicated for mental health problems. In reality, many children with mental health issues — especially those who lack health insurance — don’t get good care or worse, get no care at all. She also reiterated what many scholars in childhood studies have noted about earlier “panics” over issues affecting children (e.g. early motion pictures, television, comic books, and most recently, video games) — that children serve as lighting rods for adult anxieties and social problems that affect the larger culture.
Another important “take-away” came from the discussion following the panel on Childhood in the 1970s. Lori Rotskoff presented on her work on feminist childrearing in the 1970s and observed that even though feminists were challenging established sexist norms they were still children what was “right” — where is the children’s liberation within women’s liberation, she asked.
I spent most of the conference listening (and knitting) and didn’t take very extensive notes unfortunately. I also must confess that I skipped the last day so I could attend the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum and see a matinee of “The Normal Heart.” (which was great, but I didn’t like it as much as “Jerusalem” which I saw the night before).
Lesson here — don’t attend so many conferences in so short a span of time! What was I thinking?